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Helping Young Writers Discover The Words They Need To Begin

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The writer sits down to face the blank page, only to be greeted by the dazzling whiteness of the paper. The pen is tightly gripped as the writer stares at the empty page. There is hope that time will deliver the wondrous words desperately sought. The empty lines beckon. How to begin?
If you have experienced this feeling, you will have greater empathy for your students and those feelings that sometimes overwhelm them as beginning writers. They often have a broad idea regarding their writing, but have little idea where, or how, to begin. They want to produce something that effectively conveys a message, but remain unsure of how to begin the process.


'I know what I want to write about, but I don't know how to start.'
We need to recognize that it is at this point we can provide meaningful support to allay such writing anxieties.

Teaching students how to think of something to write, provides a way forward. This prewriting stage is the time for students to think and develop ideas- t…

Slice of Life Tuesday- Let's Stop Calling Them Reluctant Writers

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'On every page, confidence fights with self-doubt.'
David MorrellI continue to hear the term ‘reluctant writers’ when educators describe certain students. It’s a term that causes me a fair degree of discomfort. 

When teachers talk of young writers in this manner, they pull up some way short of the mark. The question needs to be asked, why is this student behaving in a way that has them shying away from writing?  Asking ‘why?’ is a key to finding out more about that particular young writer and hopefully what is inhibiting their full participation in writing- their connection to writing.

Invariably, what is impeding the writer from experiencing a stronger connection to the writing task is confidence- or rather a lack of it. And if we dig a little deeper it is frequently connected to a poor self-perception in relation to spelling. It may also be the challenge presented by the physical task of writing due to a lack of a fluent writing style. Sometimes it is related to matters of sigh…

The Quest For Independence Among Student Writers

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The Quest Continues


When I find myself working in a classroom where student writers are openly encouraged to think for themselves and to make their own writing decisions, it's hard not to smile. The writing of such students is invariably wide ranging and exciting. Their engagement is clearly heightened. The classroom seems to hum with possibility. There is demonstrable energy in the learning space.

As I move about I see student writers choosing not only their topics, but also the preferred genre for their writing. They appear more fully engaged in matching their words to the needs of their readers. They exhibit an authentic sense of purpose and genuine ownership of the writing tasks they have chosen. When you talk with them, they articulate the reasons guiding their actions. These writers are supported in informed decisions. This is most evident.

Each writer appears to know what they want to work on and how to approach their own particular writing challenge or project. Workshop time …

Slice of Life Tuesday- Time For Tea

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Sitting in the mid-morning light of day my thoughts land on the idea of enjoying a cup of tea. The sun is ever so slowly warming to its task. By mid-afternoon it may bring soothing warmth to my shoulders. Right now the air is still crisp after a rather cold night. Remnants of dew linger on the wooden deck and on the hydrangeas. This is the pattern of recent days. Cool nights followed by days of clear blue skies and a brief burst of mild sunshine. 







My choice of tea slides mostly between Earl Grey and Green tea. I take my tea with no sugar and no milk. I like to share a cup of tea with someone. I rarely drink tea alone. I was trained by my parents to view drinking tea as a social occasion. To sit and ruminate is a simple pleasure. Action plans are streamlined. Review and reflection frequently occurs. Often speculation drops into a conversation. Dreams and plans can find a spark at this time too. Matters may be resolved. Tea helps a conversation flow it seems. I also use tea drinking as a…

Slice of Life Tuesday -Inkblot Memories

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Memory of times gone by emerge from time to time prompted by words, images, thoughts and people. For my recent birthday I was given two pens, both of them special in their own way. One was a fountain pen, beautifully balanced with just the right feel in my hand. The other a finely shaped ball point pen, also possessed of subtle feel when held. I am enjoying having both of them to call upon when I write. 

Upon receiving these gifts, I found myself pondering my life journey from a handwriting perspective. Much has changed across the years. The tools we use for writing have evolved, expanded and improved.  I began to think back to my early handwriting experiences as a left hander in a predominantly right handed world. My response takes the form of a poem. A poem titled appropriately 'Inkblot,'



Inkblot

I was born into a world of blotting paper
Ink wells and fountain pens
A left handed writer
Living in a writing minefield

Ink wells and fountain pens
Held the magic indigo liquid
Providing sh…

Slice of Life Tuesday- The Gift of Giving Books

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I have always derived immense pleasure from giving books as gifts. It has evolved as a habit of a lifetime. Special occasions such as birthdays and Christmases set me to searching for books to match my target reader. 
Matching a particular book to a reader is a challenge, I enthusiastically accept. Establishing strong connections between the reader and the words I unearth, drives my search; brings me joy. For this reason, the time spent book browsing for suitable titles, never fails to deliver immense pleasure. This time in bookshops is time well spent. 
The outcome of all this exploring remains uncertain, but the act of giving possesses such untold potential for any one book I find to work its magic upon its reader.
The strike rate will never be perfect. I remain undeterred. Some books only reach a select number of hearts. Not all books possess the power to be transformative. That's okay. You give and you hope. You give with the highest hopes. You give- that's what matters.
I als…

Providing Plentiful Opportunities To Write

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Available research data shows children provided with opportunities to write every day begin to compose even when they are not actually writing. In other words, they begin to think about their writing beyond the confines of the classroom. 

There is  immense satisfaction gained from hearing students, who upon entering the classroom first thing in the morning announce ‘I know what I’m going to write about today’ They indicate clearly that they understand the power of writing. They think as writers do.

Unless students have this daily opportunity to write they will not develop the ability to think through their writing. They will not fully understand the process of writing. Donald Greaves suggested that young writers require a minimum of four days per week to write for their own purposes. This, he believed assisted the ‘learning to think’ process to develop.

It is therefore important to approach the teaching of writing from the position that students will be provided with daily opportunityies…