Showing posts from September, 2013

What Do Your Students Understand About Writing?

Recently I wrote about the research of Donald Graves in relation to entrenching dependency among student writers. Today I want to highlight another aspect of the work Don Graves conducted in the 70’s.
Graves asked a group of seven year olds, ‘What do you think a good writer needs to do in order to write well?’He documented their general responses thus:
To be neat Space letters
Spell good
Know words
Have a good title
Have a good ending
Write a lot The responses indicated the child writers’ perceptions of what constituted ‘good’ writing. Their responses no doubt grew from the predominant focus of teacher feedback in their writing lessons. It is obvious that teachers placed less store in attention to matters of content and intention. The eradication of mistakes and cleaning up the surface features of the writing were treated with greater importance than the improvement of expression of ideas and communication. The false notion that writing more is something t…

Spring Into Verse Day 30 -My Last Deirdre Poem

I conclude my ‘Spring Into Verse Challenge’ with an autobiographical poem. -An example of narrative poetry. I had lots of fun with line breaks, white space and repetition in this poem based on a life shaping event. Ah, life's lessons are great fodder for the poet.

The Last Dierdre
She was my shining lightMy immediate hopeMy heart leaping inspirationYet, something didn't look quite right with this girl.I think it was her chocolate brown desert bootsThe ones she wore with blue school tunic which retreated from her kneecaps.The gum she chewed and twisted round her fingerPassion beat fashion ......easilyI dismissed this miscalculationIn the interest of flirtation- For my heart's sake
I liked her smileI liked her walk, So confident. So easy.The way her friends followed her Back and forth Back and forth . Across the asphalt.She was Aphrodite in D.B's .- She was Mother Duck.Her name was DierdreNot Diana, Delores.....DesireeNames from my fantasy fileThis girl didn't look like…

Spring Into Verse Day 29 - Black Stone Poem

As a boy, I was always collecting things. One person's trash is another's treasure. I kept my treasures in tins, jars and boxes and periodically took them out to gaze upon them.  Some of them had functional application, but mostly they were questionable acquisitions. Elastic bands, bits of string, marbles, nuts, bolts, cards, stickers, nondescript objects and the like. A kid thing perhaps...
Black StoneIt was a smooth black stoneAnd I found it at Eildon
It felt cool and slippery in my handI held it upGazing at it for a timeBefore placing it in my  pocketAnd smiling to myselfAt my find  My new treasureInstant pleasure
At home I kept it in a wooden boxAnd took it outFrom time to timeJust to look at itAnd feel its wonderful smoothness
Over the years that stone shrank in my handBut continued to be thereIn my moments of deep thoughtIts coolness a marvelMy smooth black stoneEventually disappeared Without a traceBut I remember that stoneOld treasureInstant pleasure
Alan j Wright

Spring Into Verse Day 28 - What Lurks In Sandra's Lunch Poem

Our sense of smell is a wondrous thing. It can alert us to a sublime perfumed delight as well as those acute odors that are best avoided. Today, it is smells that inspires my poetry. I intend to raise a stink...

Just what lurks in Sandra's lunch?Munch and crunch!Munch and crunch!Just what lurks in Sandra's lunch,Do you want to know?I think I have certain hunchJust what lurks in Sandra's lunchI think I have a certain hunchDo you want to know?Well, yesterday was curried eggCurried eggCurried eggYesterday was curried eggThe day before salamiThe things you find in Sandra's lunchAre enough to drive you barmy !One day, her lunch I tell you trueWas something green and runny too....Something green and runnyNow that isn't very funny!But of all the sights and smells that lurk in Sandra's putrid lunchWhat she's brought to school today... Now that really packs a punchI can tell I can smellA smell to make me screamGuess what I think I know I smell
Yes, -…

Using Quality Narrative Non Fiction Texts To Teach Writing

In the world of books for children, educators are showing a growing desire to acquire non fiction texts that are both informative and engaging. They are seeking out books that possess a strong voice and arouse curiosity in the mind of the young reader. I too, seek out such books. It remains an ongoing quest.
Experience tells me that most of the titles, I have acquired that meet this criteria have come from my work with fellow educators. Book shops rarely carry such texts. They generally push an over supply of fiction, ranging from good quality to highly questionable and a small sample of non fiction titles. The non fiction titles on offer tend to fit a more traditional style of presentation. Unfortunately, many of these titles tend to be, dare I say it, uninspiring. At other times the titles on offer present a broad focus on science and nature topics, possibly in the hope that some of the facts they throw at the reader will rub off.
These are not the books I’m looking for unfortunatel…

Spring Into Verse Day 27 -Risky Words Are Important to the Poet

I was digging out more Donald Graves gold yesterday as I continued reading, 'Children Want To Write, Ed Penny Kittle &Thomas Newkirk.' Don wrote that:
 'Writing develops courage. Writers leave the anonymity shelter and offer to scrutiny their interior language, feelings and thought.'He likened the writer to a person with their skin off. I am continually imploring writers of all ages to be brave and meet the challenge head on...

This morning I came across this poem, that connects to the theme of becoming brave and fearless writers. I share it today in the spirit of removing the cloak of anonymity and displaying a measure of courage.

Risky Words

I sit at my desk some morningsConfronted by slips of paperScribbled listsAnd a head full of loosely connected thoughtsFragments of a dream perhaps I link them tenuously in my morning mindSorting themBefore writing…
I must remain courageousI must a risk taker beAnd write to the edges of thought and ideaRemembering alwaysThe best wr…

Spring Into Verse Day 26 -An IDIOM laced POEM

Today's poem features the prolific use of idiom. A bit of fun, A touch of nonsense and a dash of idiocy. The weather outside is wild and windy in my part of the world today. In my head, it's even wilder. Let's go have some word fun...
CAT’S GOT MY TONGUE- That IDIOM Cat!Woke up yesterday feeling under the weatherAnd noticed that the cat had my tongueWe didn’t see eye to eye on that at all                            I chased the cat all over the houseBut the way I was feeling I couldn’t catch a coldI didn’t want to fly off the handleAnd end up on a slow boat to ChinaSo I decided to lay down the law to that crazy catBut because it had my tongue I had to hold my horsesBy now I was on pins and needlesAnd slowly going bananasBut because I wasn’t born yesterdayI was determined not to put my head in the sandSo instead I put my nose to the grindstoneIt was just what the doctor orderedI began to feel like a million dollarsI cornered that cat in the kitchenThat tongue stealing tabbyW…

The Problems Associated With Entrenching Dependency Among Student Writers

As far back as 1976 the legendary Donald Graves was writing and railing against what he called the ‘Writing Welfare System’ that makes student writers dependent on their teachers. Graves strongly opposed teaching of writing where the teacher controlled all phases of the process and consequently controlled the writer’s voice. It concerned him that student writers felt an implied pressure to make their voices the same as their teachers. All authority for the writing rested with the teacher. In such circumstances Graves observed, the student writer relies entirely on the teacher’s decisions regarding:

The need to write When to write What to writeTo whom they should writeHow to write How the writing should be judged Graves noted that teachers were seldom aware when they were encouraging thinking that closely matched their own. They were unwittingly extinguishing divergent thinking and originality.
In such circumstances the student writer has no reason to initiate rehearsal around the writin…

Spring Into Verse -Day 25 - Parent Tape Poem

Today I find myself returning to a list poem. When writing this poem I recall asking student writers about some of the recurring messages they received from adults. Their feedback helped me develop, 'Parent Tapes.' Most of us can instantly recall those messages that were on high rotation in our heads. In my case, some of them remain...
'Put things back where you found them.'

Parent TapesI can hear them everywhere I goIn my headLying in bedAt the parkAt night, in the darkVisiting friendsMaking amends…
Parent tapesLooping around in my brainOn high rotationLoud and clearClear and loudMessages from MumDitties from DadI hear themOver and over
Stand up straightDon’t be lateWait your turnDon’t speak with your mouth fullBe kind to animalsShow respectFinish what you start                                                         Don’t take naps on the road                                           Speak when spoken to                                                  Say yes please an…

Spring Into Verse -Day 24 A Poem of Visions Splendid

Today's poem was inspired by observation of another person.It's important to choose a subject you know well. In this case my best friend, my dear wife, Vicki. 
Sit still for a moment and observe carefully and a picture will emerge. A picture capable of translation into words... 

Visions Splendid
I have watched youWalking the shorelineThe water calm at your feetYour favorite hat of the momentSilhouetted by a descending sun.
And I have watched youReading on a couch Curled up and content in another world
I have watched youGardening among your favorite roses Nurturing and encouraging new life
I have heard you singingOnly because you want to and to hell with original lyricsAny time, any place.
And I have seenSparkling eyes that greet small discoveriesWith an enthusiasm that inspires greater deeds
I have watched you skip along the street Because the sky is blueOr the warm sun has touched your face
I have seen these things and moreSplendid visions
Sightings of a rare spirit 
Alan j WrightFrom t…

Spring Into Verse Day 23 - Free Verse Moment

There is no set formula for writing free verse poems. What you say and how you say it may fall easily into place one day, but the next time it may prove to be a challenge. Today's poem came to me walking on Union Street in Brooklyn during our first year living and working in New York City. I tried to capture the moment, the scene.

Walking on Union StreetIt's a wet, wild, windswept dayThe sidewalk- Shiny and slippery
The last of the golden fall leavesLie plastered to the sidewalk
A squelchy carpetFor me to trudge overIn my sturdy leather boots
Amid the leaves I spot chicken bones And a dead umbrella.

Alan j Wright

Spring Into Verse Day 22 - A Poem For Storm Watchers & Spring Rain

Spring brings with it a certain volatility when it comes to the weather. This spring has been quite diverse in its appearance thus far. Four season in one day is an appropriate label for what we are currently experiencing.  The weather is something we are all good at talking about, while our impact is negligible. Today's poem seems fitting given that the last few days have delivered steady spring rain and today the sun is shining and our collective hearts are singing in praise of a sunny Sunday. 

Watching The Storm
I watch the storm clouds gatherAs I sit here in my roomThe sky is full of waterbagsAnd dark and inky gloomI see a zap of lightningScratch the distant skyAnd heavy droopy water dropletsBegin to change the dryAnd now the storm is overheadThe thunder makes me shiverBut the flowers whisper- thankyouFor the rain the clouds deliver.

Alan j Wright

Spring Into Verse Day 21 - The URGE to WRITE Poem

This poem began with the words, 'I write' and grew from a question I was once asked as to  my personal motivation to write. I have also tried this approach with the words, 'I Remember.' It is a way to reveal much of what you know about yourself and the repetition helps maintain the writing focus. 

I WRITEI write in the early morning lightI write at night when the house falls quietI write when the urge is too great to ignoreI write when I have the need to understandI write to record the events of my fortunate lifeI write because I am curiousI write poetry to capture rainbows in a jarI write wearing my favourite jeans because I want to feel comfortable and relaxedI write to entertain myselfI write to sort out my confusionI write when I am angry or annoyedI write because it fulfills a need within me to communicate my ideas. I write using my computerI write scribbled thoughts and ideas on scraps of paper.I write with gel black pens I write to explain myself I write in a var…