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Showing posts from February, 2017

When Writing Lacks Direction

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It always concerns me when a student approaches the task of writing lacking any sense of freedom to explore and manipulate ideas. They are clearly hesitant when it comes to making decisions. A distinct lack of confidence is evident. They ask questions such as:

How much should I write?
Should I use paragraphs?
What should I write about?

-And yet, in other classrooms I gain a sense that the writers are reflective and self directed. They think, they solve problems, they articulate their writing intentions, they take risks and display a strong sense of ownership for the development of the text. The question arises, -What is the root cause of this difference in attitude?

The answer appears to lie in the classroom climate that exists. Frequently, when we dig a little deeper, it becomes apparent that a number of emotional blocks exist. -Blocks inhibiting thinking and prohibiting the growth of independence.

I invite teachers to ponder the following questions:

Are my students afraid to take risks, ma…

Getting The Most From Mentor Texts

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The Effective Use of Mentor Texts

It all starts with selecting and sharing powerful texts and simply letting kids enjoy them. Spread the joy of reading great words and what possibilities they spark in the mind of the reader. Reading a text for enjoyment before you move to examining craft increases the likelihood of the text impacting on a student’s writing. 

When the student knows the text, it allows them to release their cognitive energy more specifically to that aspect of the text under examination.

Think of mentor texts as a term that essentially means –models, exemplars or examples. ‘Mentor texts’ is not something we do within a writing program for its own sake. It is not an entity in itself. It is an integral part of learning how to become a better writer. It requires the ability to read like a writer in order to be able to see the potential in a text to provide a model worth following or adopting.
We are looking for writing we want our students to emulate. Our lens must be purpose a…

Spotlighting Punctuation- Helping Young Writers To Better Understand Its Purpose

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Teachers often lament that many children do not remember to “put in” the punctuation when they write. Sometimes we see punctuation accuracy as the difference between “good” writing and, well, “bad” writing. And, as teachers, we wrestle with ways to improve precision in punctuation use. We know the importance of using written conventions accurately, but our students often don’t understand our concern. 



Perhaps we need to change the way we teach punctuation by leaning toward inquiry and conveying meaning. For example, we might show children how punctuation works, rather than giving them punctuation rules. We might teach children to value punctuation marks as much as letters and words for conveying meaning. We might invite children to see that punctuation is not something writers add on to writing, but is something writers use to help them compose and to help their readers understand what they want to say.


Here are some ways teachers might help their students become aware of punctuation th…

Tuesday Slice Of Life Story - Fake News,It's Just Not True

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I found myself in a reflective mood this morning, as I sipped a morning coffee and thought about fake news and its intrusion into our lives in recent times. Hateful and spurious claims appear across all forms of media these days and it becomes increasingly difficult to sort fact from fiction. The speed with which the news cycle moves makes fact checking all the more critical, all the more under pressure.


Facebook regularly throws up deliberately distorted reports and memes. We are bombarded by fakery.  The need for critical literacy becomes more important by the day. The ability to question is ever more needed in the face of such blatant chicanery. Fake news, as we know, can spread around the world in a matter of seconds...

Then I began to think about when I was a child and fake news was a fairly benign phenomenon. It did not possess the tremendous reach it now demonstrates. It existed within families, and in neighbourhoods, and owed its allegiance to urban myths, family secrets, here-s…

Tuesday Slice of Life Story- The Moon and Me

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The moon has been a recurring theme in my writing. As a boy I pondered much thought regarding its magnificence. I would lie in my bed staring out the window imagining i could see a face on that distant orb. I witnessed Neil Armstrong's first tentative steps upon its surface while viewing a somewhat grainy black and white television set during my first year of teaching. I have stood under its full beaming reflection in the middle of Australia's heartland and marveled at the light it provided in that vast open space. I can still hear my father crooning the words, 'Blue moon, I saw you standing alone...' The moon even features in the title of my latest book of poetry. The moon has featured in many phases of my life.






Last night, the moon once again made itself known to me and today these words emerged in my notebook before landing here.






The Moon And Me

The moon seems bright
In the sky tonight.
It glows like a child's smile.
I witnessed its great majesty close to midnight
when…

Supporting Student Writers To Grow Notebook Ideas

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Student writers, frequently need extra guidance and support in the early stages of the new school year. 

To develop that essential momentum and confidence necessary for successful writing, your input is of critical importance. 

They present as inexperienced writers. They are learning to trust a new teacher, new surroundings, and maybe new classmates.

It takes a time to adapt to new routines and expectations. One of the things they want to know is-What does this teacher expect of me as a reader and writer? 

How do we as teachers assist students to gain trust and develop momentum as writers?

Used appropriately, Writer’s notebooks allow developing writers to make stronger connections to the world surrounding them.

The harvesting and documenting of their writing lives provides an easy, informal way to start thinking about new topics and ideas. 

The young writer become increasingly more observant and this leads to increased engagement. With time and practice, the notebook becomes a purposeful col…

Writing And The Art of Observation

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    The Writer As Observer
Learning to be observant is a valuable life skill.
So keeping a writer’s notebook requires all writers to develop keen observational abilities. In this way the writer begins to more notice things in the world around them more acutely. The writer begins to collect sensory observations to inform their writing efforts.
To help student writers to develop greater awareness of how writers capture sensory observations you could:·
   Share some text examples where the writer includes sensory details. Details that enable the reader to visualize the scene.·   Share an example from your own notebook where you have focused on what’s around you. Consider your 5 senses. Your writing is a snapshot of the world around you.
'I notice as a father walks in the damp sand close to the shoreline. His young son follows closely behind. He stretches to place his feet within his father’s substantial footprints. This scene is a strong metaphor for father and son relationships. It also …

Gathering Entries In A New Writer's Notebook

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The first entry in a new writer's notebook is most important…
It sets a tone and can be viewed at a statement of intent. It might aim to say this notebook is my special place to gather special thoughts and ideas. 
This opening entry might be in the form of a letter to one’s self about what you intend to do as a writer in the days and weeks ahead. John, a fifth grade writer wrote the following poem as his initial entry.

It’s a Place
Why am I keeping this notebook?                                                                                                                          
Because it’s a place where I can keep track of my life                                                                                                                                                    It’s a place where I can observe closely and where I can store little pieces of strength                                                                                                                It’s a p…