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Showing posts from July, 2014

Slice Of Life Tuesday-A Notable Week For Notebook Entries

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Some weeks  in my writing life result in a large number of notebook entries. Entries varied and holding great personal satisfaction for me as writer, as a collector.  This last week has provided quite a harvest of potential writing ideas.
I began the week writing about a brief encounter. I had been talking to teachers about assisting students to write about small moments and found myself thinking about a personal experience. An experience from my teenage years.
‘Sometimes you find yourself in the right place at the right time. I recall standing beside a creek not far from my childhood home. The forest around me was briefly quiet allowing the flow of the creek to be clearly heard. It flowed by, murmuring a soft flub-flub as it cornered the bank. Suddenly a mid –sized fish, a trout, I suspect, broke the surface of the stream, heaving its body upwards as if shot from a cannon. It disappeared with a watery slap of bubbles and foam. The surface of the water quickly regaining its former calm.…

Poetry Inspired By Mentor Poets- Structure & Patterns

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In my eternal quest for poetry mentor texts that will support the sometimes tentative writing efforts of emerging student poets (and their teachers), I came across this poem by John Rice. It was part of a collection ‘Poems to Perform: A Classic Collection Chosen by the Children's Laureate,’ Julia Donaldson.

The poem has a simple repetitive structure that provides a safe scaffold for the less experience poet. Students immediately note the please do -please do not pattern and the way the poet finishes with a line that breaks the pattern, yet neatly ties the poet’s thoughts together. It’s as if he has an afterthought. They also noted the element of humour the poet had injected into the poem. For young poets, the presence of humour heightens engagement.Instructions For Giants
Please do not step on swings parks, youth clubs, cinemas and discos Please flatten all schools Please do not eat children, pop stars, TV soap operas, kind grannies who give us 50cents Please feel free to gobble up denti…

Slice of Life Tuesday- Rendezvous With Ralph

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During our professional lives there are moments that are profound and memorable. Last week I had one such experience, when I finally got to spend time in the company of an educator  and writer I have greatly admired for more than a decade.
I attended the annual national conference of ALEA (Australian Literacy Educators Association) in Darwin as both a presenter and a willing participant.
In 2001 when I first traveled to the US to work as a Literacy Consultant, I became aware of the work being undertaken by Ralph Fletcher. I began to read Ralph’s published works starting with ‘Breathing In, Breathing Out- Keeping A Writer’s notebook.’  My personal library now brims with an extensive list of  Ralph Fletcher titles. There are enough to start the Fletcher Wing.
My own professional work has benefited enormously from Ralph’s extensive knowledge as a writer and an educator.  His words, his voice are indelibly etched in my conscious mind when I work with teachers and students.
So, it was with ob…

Boy Writers: Some Points To Ponder

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Before presenting my own workshop on 'Creating Voice and Choice Through The Writer's Notebook' I again had the pleasure of  sitting in on Ralph Fletcher's session on 'Boy Writers.' at ALEA Darwin today.

Ralph drew on the research that formed the basis of his book, Boy Writers.' During his presentation.

Some of the matters raised in this workshop included:

Writing for boys is frequently painful if it is writing to a prompt. They feel limited
and don't do as well as a consequence. They feel constrained. This only reinforces the importance of choice and ownership in writing.

Handwriting for boys is sometimes hard. Teachers need to go below the surface of their chicken scratch in order to discover the message and it's intent.
Boys like to have choices in writing topics and like to employ humour as a device in their writing. Many boy writers are attracted to an element of violence and action in their writing.

In the buffet of writing  presented to them, many bo…

Ralph Fletcher Shares His Writer's Notebook Experiences @ ALEA

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Today I attended a number of session at the ALEA Conference , but my absolute favourite was the one conducted by Ralph Fletcher,  where he outlined how he uses his writer's notebook.

After reading his words for more than a decade, it was wonderful to hear the author give voice to those words.

Among the many messages Ralph delivered the following are important to share.

Creative ideas are just like infants They are Fragile, weak and in need of support

Notebooks are a place to breathe in the world then breathe out and share your collected thoughts and ideas.

Write about what moves you
What you wonder about
What you notice 

Record it in your notebook. Ruminate on it, then do something with it.

Di snowball talks about the conversation that surrounds a book. We must have these influential conversations. They will influence our written words.

Find the mystery in ordinary things

Lists and artefacts are important to the notebook writer

A notebook has the capacity to capture a wide swathe of literacy.…

Report on ALEA Conference Darwin Day1

My first day at the ALEA (Australian Literacy Educators Association) Annual National Conference in Darwin and I am sharing some quotes from Ralph Fletcher'opening session on writing.

Some pearls to ponder:

'Boys will write well when they care about what they are writing.'

'Children's beginning writing, is not incorrect but is under construction.'

'it's sad that choice is being lost in writing classrooms.'

'Girls tend to write for teacher, boys write for other boys.'

'Richness of vocabulary allows a child to communicate a richness of thought.'

'There's always intelligence behind student's mistakes.'

I'll meet you back here tomorrow with more of my collectables from the conference.

Pondering The Point About Poetry In Schools

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As educators we need to draw attention to the shape and sound of poetry, encouraging children to be active listeners and observers.There is a continuing need to raise children's awareness that poetry exists all around them; - a living thing that can be found in the very words they speak, the games they play, the rhymes and chants they themselves create.
Whilst today's teachers are generally more at ease with the position of poetry in the curriculum and the desirability of exposing students to the reading and presentation of poetry, closer examination reveals that anxiety still exists when it comes to the writing of poetry.
This is not a new phenomenon. Many of us maintain hang- ups about writing poetry. The writing of poetry continues to be something that other people do -an elite form of communication. Students often receive such messages from their teachers. It has become part of the hidden curriculum.

As a consequence, teachers frequently provide a shallow offering of poetry t…

The Importance of Allowing Student Writers CHOICE

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I am re-posting this article on CHOICE (originally published February 6, 2012) with a few modifications.
 Next week I am presenting at the Australian Literacy Educator’s Conference inDarwinand I will be discussing the importance of CHOICE in the development of children’s writing.
It seems timely to revisit this topic. I have choice as a writer.I understand how important it is to offer student writers this same option. I still have uncomfortable memories of our entire Grade 5 class being forced to write 'Autobiography Of An Ant.' And that happened decades ago!
Our student writers deserve the same level of choice when it comes to their writing. They should know know what it feels like to think about their writing intentions and then feel empowered to act upon their options as writers. Choice empowers the writer.In the classroom it begins with allowing student writers to decide what kind of writer’s notebook they wish to write in and develops from there…
I have never woken up thinkin…

Assisting Young Writers In The Craft of Storytelling

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Before young writers can begin to develop a more distinctive  storyteller’s voice, we must assist them to understand that writing becomes more personal when the topic or focus of their writing is limited to a specific moment in time. The closer they can get to a small moment, the more the writing comes to life  for the reader. Then, if they can link more than one of these special moments along a timeline, a sense of storytelling emerges for the reader.
 If your students are writing focused and clear narratives but you are not gaining a sense of the storyteller’s voice in the words, this is where the teaching focus needs to be. 
The challenge is to raise the young writers sense of story. It is important for the developing writer to understand the role of the narrator. Are they aware of the narrator’s viewpoint in telling the story?  This is the story within the story. What mood is created by the words?  How is the plot unfolding? What is the author doing to draw in the reader? How is th…

Slice of Life Tuesday- An Ode To A Tie

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It is miserable outside today. Winter's grip has ensured a grey, bone biting day. I am preparing for a conference presentation in Darwin next week, so being indoors suits me.
As a break from my preparations, I found myself rummaging through my wardrobe and came across a collection of old ties. I rarely wear ties anymore, but there was a time when I wore a tie regularly during my days as a school administrator. They were always bright, some would say, garish. 


My aim  back then was to add some colour to the day. They became a talking point for staff and students. My ties were varied in colour and quality. Somewhat questionable strip of cloth, you might say. 
These days they just hang in my wardrobe as historical artifacts. The discovery of those ties has inspired me though. It has inspired me to write an ode to everyday things! 
The poet, Pablo Neruda devoted a whole volume of poems to simple objects. Ties certainly fall into this category. An ode to one of my ties seems therefore acce…