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Showing posts from May, 2009

Slice of Life Story - Indulging In Simple Pleasures

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Today was an office day. A day to prepare for tomorrow’s school based work day. Four demonstrations lessons for Years 7-9 teachers in both reading and writing workshop needed organizing. My mind was abuzz with possibility. I began the essential planning. I am ever mindful that my lessons need to set students up to be successful. The quality of my modelling is therefore critical.

It is easy to get stuck at the computer. The office becomes a bit like a cave from which you rarely emerge if you’re not mindful. There is so much here in this room to hold my attention. Surrounded by books and artefacts I am content in this place. The clock claws away at your time each day, so it is important to reserve some part of each day for simple pleasures -a change of activity.
Around mid day I took a break. Boo needed a walk and I needed to get some fresh air. We stepped out into a crisp Autumn day –plenty of blue sky and tepid sunlight. With the little black dog as my close companion we walked into to…

Memoir Piece - The Iceman Cometh

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When I was a boy growing up in inner suburban Melbourne we had a regular visitor to our house. He was called the ice man. At that time our family didn't have a refrigerator, which were relatively expensive -a luxury item back then. We owned a humble ice chest. The ice man would arrive with a large block of ice carried high on his shoulder. It was brought into the kitchen wrapped in hessian and placed into the upper section of the ice chest. Sometimes he had to chip at it to make it fit into the space. Pieces of ice would go flying in all directions and eager children were always close at hand to collect the icy shards. Summertime was the time to keep watch, for it was peak season for when the ice man cometh.

When the ice melted the water collected in a metal tray which then had to be emptied with much care. Eventually we were able to afford a modern Kelvinator refrigerator. It was a modern miracle for a boy of eight years.

This marvellous invention held much more than the old ice ch…

Let's Get Real With Fiction Writing!

Realistic fiction is a genre that doesn’t get the attention in writing programs it deserves. It’s there under our noses, yet we are frequently drawn towards other genres.

Interestingly, much of the fiction that students have read to them or they select for themselves, incorporates this genre. So they are quite familiar with its structure and features.

Realistic fiction involves stories that are true to life. Students quickly realize that you don’t have things such as talking animals and cars that fly in realistic fiction. If students are taught to ask the question, ‘Could this actually happen? It will keep them away from potential pitfalls as they develop a text.

It’s perfectly legitimate to use a real event as a starting point for a realistic fiction writing piece. I have put together some possible ways to use a real event as a launching pad for a fictional piece.

Ask students to:

Make a list of at least five real life events (funny, exciting, weird, scary) that have directly affected yo…

Memoir Piece - Men of Rhubarb

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Rhubarb is an ancient plant that has been grown from a time dating back to 2000BC. The early Chinese believed it had medicinal value. Its use as a food source is relatively recent by comparison. It is a member of the sorrel family making it more closely related to the herbs in the garden than the fruits and vegetables.

The growing of rhubarb has been a given in my family for several generations. My grandfather and father before me each grew this flavoursome plant. My father taught me how to harvest the stalks and warned me never to eat the leaves, which are toxic. Even as a boy, I found it ironic that a plant that so tantalized my taste buds, (despite its tartness) also had the capacity to make me extremely ill.

I clearly recall my Dad enjoying rhubarb as a dessert with freshly made custard. I quickly followed his lead. It made for a great contrast in colour, texture and flavour- and what a taste treat! Because rhubarb has such a strongly tart flavour, it requires some tempering. I like…

Teach Writers To Gather Snippets!

During my time working in New York, the New York City Board of Education had mandated at least ninety minutes of writing and reading must be part of every school day. During that same time I looked in too many writing folders and notebooks to see that this was not necessarily always happening. Unfortunately writing had been relegated to second place behind reading -and sadly it was a long way behind!

However, in classrooms where brave and progressive teachers dwelt, there were signs of genuine progress towards the accepted standards. In these classes student were being encouraged to write for their own purposes across a range of genres. They were being alerted to the craft of writing. Their teachers enlisting the support of numerous writers to teach their students to write with greater confidence and clarity. Students were consistently alerted to the importance of becoming observers; to eavesdrop on the world around them.

This eaves dropping is a life source to any writer. Ah yes, a …

Trusting Young Writers To Think of Ideas

In my role as an Education Consultant one of my obligations is alerting teachers in schools to the importance of writing as a tool of communication.

I need to constantly stress the importance of children having the opportunity to write independently, on a daily basis. I encourage teachers to trust that their students can and will be able to think of things to write about, especially if they know their teachers support their efforts -and encourage them to be risk takers with the words they wish to use.

It is a fact that a significant number of these teachers are non writers themselves and this feeds their reluctance to trust. They experience great difficulty ‘giving over’ the control of writing in their classrooms. They frequently tell the children what to write and it amounts to little more than respond to the book type exercises –literature responses! The writing program in many classrooms has been reduced to students writing to a ‘prompt’ -A prompt owned and provided by the teacher.

I …