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Showing posts from November, 2011

Creating Sparks In the Writing Classroom

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How do we spark and then maintain an interest in writing among our students? This is the challenge all teachers of writing face. Here are a few ideas to ignite the writing in your classroom.
I begin by sharing my own writing. This is where you establish credibility as a teacher of writing. My writer’s notebook with its range of text investigations lets students know that I am a writer-just like them!

I engage students in conversations around my writing life.- Sharing how I harvest ideas, how I notice things and how I solve problems in my writing. Such conversations create a powerful dialogue that aims to demystify writing, making it appear more accessible to the novice writer. I am sharing the powerful message that writing holds something worth pursuing.
I share examples of quality writing (fiction and non fiction) that have caught my eye. It is important for young writers to see what it means to read like a writer.
I celebrate the wonder of words used by authors in innovative and intere…

Action VERBS! Guest Blogger, Elaine Hirsch Returns

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Guest Blogger, Elaine Hirsch returns with a post about verbs and the potential they possess for injecting action and vitality into our writing. Our work with developing writers should place verbs in a prominent position. They are the muscles of our writing- the heavy lifters, and as Elaine writes, verbs ‘incite all your words to dance and sing together instead of just standing in incoherent, silent groups.’ More power to verbs!
I’m certain you’ll gain renewed appreciation for the great work action verbs perform when you read Elaine’s post:
Verbs describe some kind of action, but some verbs are more active than others. Your writing leaps from commonplace to persuasive and engaging just by changing the types of verbs you use. Whether you're writing fiction, a master's degree dissertation, or copy for advertisements, active verbs make readers want more. They switch on readers' imaginative vision and help them truly feel the meaning of your words.

“The verb is the heartthrob of…

Writing Lessons? Please Stop Says Jay Mathews

Confronting article written by Jay Mathews on his view of the teaching of writing in many U.S. schools.  Mathew's article first appeared in the Washington Post under the banner, Class Struggle. I thought it was worth sharing, as it provides another perspective on writing, particularly in the Secondary education setting in a comparative system. The column has stirred debate about the teaching of writing with the NWP (National Writing Project) urging educators to join in with their responses. Jay Mathews is an education columnist.

Originally Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 11/13/2011
Writing lessons? Please stop By With a few exceptions, our schools are bad at teaching writing. Students are not asked to do much of it, mostly because reading and correcting their work takes so much time. Instruction methods are often academic and lifeless.
English teachers rarely assign non-fiction reading and are even less apt to require non-fiction writing. Almost no high school students, excep…

Finding the Right Approach with Errors in Student Writing

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If parents don’t understand why you’re not marking up mistakes on a piece of writing or’ correcting’ writer’s notebook entries with relentless zeal, then consider this drastic action.
Take a child’s painting and cover it in transparent plastic or laminate. Then, start marking all over it, crossing things out, redrawing other parts, putting notes and comments on it. Parents will most likely find such action discomforting. They might even gasp in horror. Then ask, why should we do this to a student’s writing? Afterall, both are artistic creations –works of art.

Inexperienced writers make errors. So do experienced writers. Learning cannot take place without some level of error. One of the greatest issues a developing writer can face in the process of becoming a competent writer is to be inhibited from responding, for fear of being wrong.
When a young writer tackles an unfamiliar word in their writing and spells it correctly they confirm their existing beliefs concerning that word. If they …

Breathing Life into Sentences.

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The issue of sentence construction arises consistently when discussing the development of student writing. Sentences regularly appear in the work of young writers. Sentences that draw frowns on the faces of teachers. -Sentences that lack variety, spark, energy or complexity. The challenge is, how do we support young writers to more consciously construct sentence brimming with energy and intent?
Let's begin by drawing the young writer’s attention to the sentences constructed by mentor authors. Examining closely the work of other writers. Spotlight sentences that reveal possibilities for the developing writer. Encourage them to write in the style of the mentor. Doing this can lead to almost instant improvement in their work. It remains a powerful mechanism for change.
Consider the following actions to Soup Up Sentences:
Draw attention to the way other writers use strong verbs to create vivid images for the reader. Verbs are the muscles of the sentence. They need to know this. Precise, …

When Authors Write to Effect a Change

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Writers have a purpose when they write and so it is important to embed this understanding in the minds of young writers. A reader can be influenced by the words used by the writer. We want young authors to fully understand this purpose for writing. The writer evokes a response, or a change in attitude from the reader and is thus fulfilled,

What we are attempting to do here is to encourage the development of a persuasive tone into the writing without immediately descending into a pale imitation of a persuasive essay. To avoid this, we need to focus on the reasons for writing, rather than being mesmerized by the form.
It is therefore vital that we show students how to read like writers. Show them how the writer is using words to influence and inform the reader.

What craft is the writer using to achieve this? What do you notice about the writer’s voice?
What words are the most powerful?
What is the writer’s point of view here?

This requires us as teachers to seek out good quality texts that co…

Who Were Your Writing Champions in School?

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Who were your writing champions as you went through school? Who do you recall as a writing hero; a teacher who promoted writing through their own actions?

Sadly, it wasn’t until I reached my tertiary education that I actually encountered such a person. The late Tom McCabe encouraged me to become editor of the college newspaper. He talked about writing in a way that previous teachers had conspicuously failed to do. He ignited my passion for writing poetry. He talked with passion and authority about the joy of writing. He was a stand out champion for writing!

I certainly had teachers who stood out as beacons for literature and reading. People such as John Harris, my Grade 6 teacher, who read the poetry of Henry Lawson and A B Paterson with great enthusiasm. He also introduced us to the work of Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling. His reading was intoxicating. He had a way of taking the listener with him as he read. He made Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, come to life in my mind.

In high school…