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Showing posts from November, 2008

Using Random Phrases -Another Version of Lift A Line

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I cannot take credit for this idea. It comes from David Morley’s Writing Challenges. But I did see it as a variation on the lift a line strategy that many teachers use. So I have made use of this idea to generate additional writing ideas. I place a phrase into my writing, or I write off the phrase. In that way the lifted line becomes a spark for more writing

The idea is that you open a book randomly and place your finger anywhere on one of the pages, without looking. Then select a phrase or a sentence that appeals, or you wish you had written. The selected phrase needs to be near where you place your finger. Transfer the selected words to the top of a new page in your writer’s notebook. Repeat this process using the same book (different pages) or choose different books each time –it depends on your access to books.

Here are some lifted phrases I harvested in a short few minutes from my library of books.

‘The sacred moment was turning into an agony’ (Ash Road)
‘A booming voice grunted’ (Th…

The Writer As Observer

Writers need to have a keen sense of observation. They need to notice things. Teaching students to be keen observers is not only critical to their writing development, but has implications for developing their world knowledge. A large part of writing is related to close observation of the physical environment in which the writer operates.

If we want students to notice their world we must teach into it. After-all, they are a strongly visual generation. Let’s assist them to grow as discriminating viewers. Developing a writer’s keen eye for observation will serve them well. The more we notice, the more we chip away at our individual ignorance

Let’s get started:

Such observation works best if the observer is not pre-occupied with other matters. Sometimes it requires self talk to refocus the energies on the immediate surrounds. -to observe consciously. Learn to clear the mind first.

Ralph Fletcher encourages writers to push beyond the sight of things and look at other less glamorous senses suc…

Sentence Salvation

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Stop pulling your hair out about the state of student sentence structure. It can be improved by using a range of simple, yet effective strategies.

Many of the same techniques used to teach fluency in reading can be used in writing. We need to highlight to students the importance and power of fluency. By exposing them to writing samples that flow easily, they will be more able to recognise good sentence structure and apply this skill to their own writing.

By working with students and sharing exemplary literature samples we can highlight such important features as sentence beginnings, sentence length, sentence combining, and run on sentences.

Sentence Beginnings:

Sample Student Writing 1

I have a bike. It is red. I like to ride it. It is fun. My friend and I like to ride in the forest. It is really cool there. We have a good time. When it is time to go home I have to put my bike in the garage. That is where I keep it

*Circle the starting word in each sentence
Notice the following
The sentences …

Slice of Life Story -Climbing the Subway Stairs

During my almost six years living in New York, I regularly travelled on the subway system. The experiences provided a rich vein of stories and recollections. I recall among my many trips, one particular occasion at Essex Street subway interchange. I was walking up the stairs when a little girl and her mother approached from the opposite direction.

As they descended, I noticed that the girl had her eyes tightly closed. Her mother held the girl’s right hand for support as they managed the steps. At first it appeared the child was sleep walking. Then it occurred to me that she had closed her eyes to experience the sensation of walking down the stairs unsighted. She was experimenting. The fact that she had her mother’s support gave her the confidence to take a step into the unknown. At that moment she became a risk taker- attempting something new and different.

This brief scene reminded me of the responsibility a teacher faces each time he or she enters a classroom. Supporting students to t…

Reminders From Ralph Regarding the Writer's Notebook

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I am grateful to Stacey Shubitz of Two Writing Teachers who re-acquainted me with a great little book by Ralph Fletcher entitled, ‘A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You’ . Stacey was trying to inspire a reluctant writers in her classroom and wrote about some of the pearls of wisdom she excavated from Ralph’s little tome that she intended to share.
I knew I had a copy of the book, and so I began searching the overflowing shelves of my library. After a short search, I found this slim, but valuable paperback wedged between two weightier volumes on writing. I began to scan the pages…

It was great to reread Ralph Fletchers words. The messages resonated in my mind like familiar mantras. Like Stacey I now want to share some of the pearls I found. Hopefully, you may find they resonate with your students. Afterall it was young writers that Ralph was aiming at when he originally wrote this excellent book.

“Writers are like other people, except for at least one important difference. …

Teaching About the Vitality of Verbs

When you write you use words to create pictures or mind movies in the reader’s mind. Words that express action make a big difference in the kind of visualizing that occurs in the mind of the reader.

In the story “Fox “by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks there is a part where Fox is running away with Magpie on his back.

While Dog sleeps, Magpie and Fox streak past coolibah trees, rip through long grass, pelt over rocks. Fox runs so fast that his feet scarcely touch the ground and Magpie exults, “At last I am flying. Really flying!”

Verbs are without question, immensely valuable to the writer. When used effectively, they can make sentences vibrate with energy. They are the life support system of the sentence. Mark Tredinnick in his book , The Little Red Writing Book says this about verbs:

“They are where a sentence moves, where it gets up and runs or walks or means or changes or loves or hates or talks or recommends or concludes or speaks its mind. It is the breath of thought, it is the heart t…