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Showing posts from 2012

Summer's Potential for Writing…

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It’s the end of another Australian school year, so I am aware of the level of exhaustion that abounds in schools, and the need to tie up a multitude of loose ends prior to school closing for the summer holidays. Teaching becomes a race to the finish line. The last week of school seems to take the longest time of all the many school weeks.
 I am also aware that on summer’s horizon teachers will have some free time to relax and regenerate their energy reserves.- A time for relaxation, holidays, family and recreation. For those of you who have intentions of adopting a new approach to aspects of your teaching in 2013, may I suggest that the summer holidays might present a great opportunity to embrace the inner writer and embrace your very own writer’s notebook. I know many of you read extensively when you are on vacation. Free of the pressure of the classroom, it is possible to indulge in more personal reading; becoming re-acquainted with favorite authors, or to read that book you received…

Developing Our Skills As Teachers of Writing

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The following notes are condensed from an address to Graduate teachers at Victoria University, December 3, 2012, prior to them taking up their first teaching appointments in schools in Melbourne’s Western Metropolitan Region in 2013.


When it comes to teaching writing it is important to be working along side young writers supporting them to:

•learn and grow
•follow our example as teachers who write
•learn from understandings shared about writing

In our classrooms we must encourage students to become involved in the things that writers in the wider world actually do. As teachers need to do to do them too. If we don’t do these things we’re asking students to undertake tasks and teaching them to do things we’ve never attempted ourselves. 
All writers need a place to keep ideas, thoughts, reactions, words, lists of names, places, anecdotes, …

Slice of Life Story- The Fortunate Traveler

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I recently returned from a month of travel to England, Scotland, Italy and Thailand. I say this not to gloat, but rather to share the fact that I consider myself most fortunate to be able to travel, to experience places and cultures. I am aware of the opportunity these experiences have to allow me to gradually chip away at my ignorance. Travel provides great insight if one is open to the learning such adventures present.
Each time I travel beyond the shores of my country, I take on the role of an ambassador, whether I want that mantle or not. As travelers we become living, breathing advertisements and this imposes a responsibility to act with sensitivity in respect to those whose country we visit.
Each time I travel, I think of my parents. My Mum only ventured outside her home state, once in her entire life, as far as I’m aware. She travelled to Canberra, Australia’s capital, with her mother- on a bus –to visit her aunt. Not exactly an exotic adventure. My Dad, returned from the war an…

Learning How to 'Zoom In' When Writing

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It is important for young writers to understand that not all parts of a story are equal. There are parts through which a writer moves quickly, and important parts where the writer slows down and lingers a while. This is where the writer might intensify the action or reveal the character’s reactions in greater detail. Young writers need to know that this is a deliberate strategy on the part of the author. The author consciously zooms in. The writer uses a magnifying glass to view a part of the story more closely; to focus on a moment and to slow down time. When an important part of the story is enlarged upon, it is a signal to the reader, that this part of the story is important.
The strategy of ‘zooming in’ goes by many names: ‘exploding a moment’ ‘magnifying a moment’, ‘hotspot’ ‘snapshot’, ‘adding detail’ or ‘slowing the action.’  What ever the name, the idea is the same. The author writes in a way that expands a significant part of the story with the intention of drawing the reader’…

Narrative Poetry Tells Its Own Story

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Last month I wrote about working with Grade three and four students atArdeerSouthPrimary School who began investigating narrative poetry. Our inquiry started with sharing poems by Michael Rosen (Chocolate Cake) and Steven Herrick (First Day At School). We looked closely at the text structures and features of this writing form. 
During our study we closely examined poetic elements such as line breaks and white space. We began by working In pairs reconstructing a Michael Rosen poem (from the book,Quick Let's Get Out of Here) which I had earlier deconstructed. The task was somewhat like unscrambling a jigsaw. 
This exercise drew attention to the decisions poets must make when presenting words across a page. Lots of talk, and collaboration ensued as these young poets magically restored the poem to a more familiar layout. Follow up discussion revealed that these writers were developing an awareness of the need for a difference in text layout to a traditional narrative.  
We discussed di…

Slice of Life Story -The Moving Man Cometh

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I have read that birth, marriage, divorce and commencing school are among our most stressful life events. Some people might add paper cuts and finding the fridge empty worthy of mention. I am not among them. Moving house is worthy of inclusion though. It ranks right up there. We are currently in the process of packing up our house in preparation for moving to a new house in November. We are moving a relatively short distance, but the distance matters little. It's all that moving implies that matters.  As the moving day approaches our life in this house is gradually being packed into boxes and cartons. The signs of our life here are being erased. 

We have started the packing routine early because we will actually be overseas for a month between now and our proposed move, so we needed to get the process underway. The trip was planned well before we had any thought of selling our house. We had no inkling of what the year held in store. The decision to sell arose over a coffee one Satu…

Writing In the Style of a Mentor Author With Our Youngest Writers

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When we focus our teaching on a trusted author’s writing style, we allow student writers to  understand how the writer has actually created the text. We provide them with privileged information. Information on the craft of writing we know will serve them well as they develop a sense of themselves as writers.
In recent weeks I have been working closely with Simone Rossini, and her Prep/Grade 1 class at ArdeerSouthPrimary School in Melbourne’s Western Region. Simone’s teaching focus has been to assist her student writers to become more familiar with the writing style of renowned author, Pamela Allen. The class has been deeply involved in an inquiry into the writing style of this particular author. A wide range of texts have been gathered for the study. Simone has directed her teaching energies to encourage her students to listen, read, think, notice,  discuss and document their increasing knowledge of this mentor author. In her teaching, Simone has used her questioning to 'nudge'…

Slice of Life Story -The Old Piano Roll Blues

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The sound of a piano being demolished is somewhat disturbing. A jarring medley of discordant sounds assaulting the senses. Chopin meets chopping!
 Yesterday, an article in the Sunday Age captured my interest. It concerned a man who has a somewhat unusual job. Paul Mc Donald, destroys pianos which have outlived their usefulness.  Paul’s action were described thus:
‘Paul Mc Donald tickles the ivories with his axe before plunging his blade into the keys, scattering shards of wood across the concrete. Sweat shines through his bushy beard from the effort of destroying an upright piano…’
Why all this violence towards pianos you ask? Well, this is an increasingly common scene as old and unloved pianos are dumped because people neither have the space or the inclination to keep them in tuneful condition.
Recyclable parts are removed before the man with the axe has a smashing good time. Some unworkable pianos find a new life as television props or are converted into fish tanks. The less fortunate …

Slice of Life Story -Raw Beauty on a Cheerless Day

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Last week I began working with students at ArdeerSouthPrimary School who have begun investigating narrative poetry. Our inquiry  began by sharing poems by Michael Rosen ( Chocolate Cake) and Steven Herrick (First Day At School). We looked closely at the text structures and features of this writing form. 
We began looking closely and poetic elements such as line breaks and white space. In pairs the children tried reconstructing another of Michael Rosen’s poems (from the book, Quick Let's Get Out of Here) I had earlier deconstructed. I told them it was a bit like unscrambling a jigsaw. 
This simple exercise drew attention to the decisions the poet must make when presenting the poem across the page. Lots of talk, and collaboration ensued as these young poets magically restored the poem to a more familiar layout. These switched on writers immediately saw the difference in construction to a traditional narrative layout. They noted the different line lengths and could see how this varie…