Choice, Voice and Publishing With Grade 2 Writers

I have recently been involved with four teachers from Cairnlea Park Primary School  in Melbourne's west and their Grade 2 authors. The primary focus of their work had been on writing and publishing narratives.

The work has required much persistence and patience from all concerned. This project began at the commencement of term 3 and culminated early term 4 with a publishing celebration.

The relative inexperience of these student writers proved to be no impediment to their zeal,  persistence and all round ‘stickability.’ While they faced a the multitude of writing challenges, they effectively stared down those challenges as they arose.

Why?

These young writers were afforded both voice and choice in their writing. They had a strong sense of ownership over the writing task –and the task they were given was authentic. They were working towards publishing their own books in their own way. It was a chance to make a host of important decisions along the way.

 They were supported by teachers who shared aspects of writing craft, alerting student writers to the work of favourite authors and encouraging these developing writers to ride on the wings of their heroes. Writing under the influence of writers they admired, students worked through the various processes of writing to arrive at a place where they had crafted unique compositions. They quite rightly felt ‘smart’ and feeling smart provides one with much energy. Energy necessary to keep striving.

The creative chaos of work in progress

They were alerted to the important text features and structures pertinent to narratives. They investigated aspects of character, setting, plot, tone. they understand the importance of identifying a problem to give their story an element of tension. They looked closely at ways other authors dealt with beginnings, middles and ends. They were exposed to examples of other student publications. This gave them ideas. It also gave them hope.  A number of these young writers included dedications, end papers, ‘about the author’ sections in their books. They incorporated a range of illustrating techniques and mediums to enhance their publications. They gathered examples to act as exemplars. They were clearly inspired to emulate such  words and deeds. They talked about their ‘readers’ as they worked, displaying an awareness of audience, essential to good writing. Full credit to their supportive teachers for laying such great foundations to build this writing upon.

Black line illustration as seen in the work of Terry Denton
My weekly visits provided insights and revelations uncovered as everyone journeyed through this valuable learning experience. For the teachers, it broke new ground. This was slowing down the speed of the teaching, allowing the learning to go much deeper. This was publishing as they had not previously taught it.

Student voice was foremost in this sustained teaching focus. It challenged the dominant images of students as compliant, passive recipients of what others define as education. These classes were abuzz with energy and action.
A student organizes (story-boarding) the pages of her book ready for assembling

Close up view of illustrations
When students are encouraged to speak out on their own behalf, and when what they say shapes learning action —student voice becomes a powerful force in an inquiry process. It invites teachers’ involvement as facilitating and enabling partners in learning. The practice of these teachers was enhanced because they were prepared to listen closely to what students were saying about their learning.These young writers now understand exactly what is required to publish a piece of writing.
 
This young authors included numerous 'flaps' to reveal extra
 information about characters in her illustrations

Opportunities to make decisions, to learn from your mistakes and reflect on your new knowledge, have made this a rich learning experience. Grade 2 writers, independent and self directed. Provided with choice, the voices of these writers have emerged.
The attention grabbing cover of 'Pizza Man.'



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