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Understanding Young Writers With Output Issues

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Sadly, a small, yet persistent group of kid blamers,  exist in our schools... They rationalize the events in their classrooms by informing everyone certain of their students are lazy, unmotivated, disengaged. While that may be the individual's perception, the critical question that begs answering is, ‘Why?’ If a student appears reluctant to write, to read, to participate in general classroom activities - that needs to be explored. It may be an issue external to the classroom, It may also be an issue related to the classroom or teaching style. Either way, to simply blame the student falls well short of professional responsibility. This issue of output failure is explored in 'The Myth of Laziness' by Mel Levine. Levine argues the desire to be productive is universal, but that drive can be frustrated by dysfunction that inhibits optimal output or productivity. Levine explains that difficulties associated with writing are far and away the most telling sign of output failure dur

Teaching Writing Craft- Being Explicit

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T eaching the craft of writing requires teachers to be explicit in their work with students. This explicitness occurs when we provide a progressive, sequential program of instruction, when we are clear about what it is we want children to learn, and when we provide a meaningful, focused instruction. Instruction informed by formative assessment of student writing.  When consideration is given to focused learning, student writers need to be provided with opportunities to make sense of the learning. This is achieved by creating purposeful connections between lesson purposes, lesson tasks, texts, and lesson reviews or conclusions. If these aspects of lessons align, the chances of success increase noticeably. When introducing a new craft strategy: Explain to students the purpose of the instruction and why you have chosen to involve them in such instruction; Explain the strategy explicitly, specifically saying what it is, and how and when it should be used; Model the strategy in authentic wr

Storytelling As A Precursor To Writing

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  I am constantly pondering the art of storytelling... One of the continuing 'narratives' of my work in schools has been to promote the idea of writers as storytellers. I have always been a person who enjoys sharing stories and jokes, whether from first-hand experience, or relating stories gifted across a lifetime. These stories have greatly informed my writing. I always encourage developing writers to tell their stories, too. It is a rehearsal tool for the inexperienced writer. Telling their stories before they write not only eliminates the notion of cold starts, it frequently results in a much enhanced end product. The story is well established in the inexperienced writer's mind before it emerges on the page. Often, a writer's story may be told many times before it emerges as written words. I often tell my stories numerous times before I commit them to the pages of my notebook.  It is in the telling of the story the words are refined, sharpened. Ultimately, it is the

Talk And The Developing Writer

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            Talk And The Developing Writer. Talk is an integral part of learning, and no less so within the writing workshop. The legendary writing researcher, writer and educator, Donald Graves, regularly encouraged young writers to think aloud and articulate their writing intentions. He wanted young writers to give voice to the intended direction of their, soon to emerge, writing. It is said, the more we articulate our intentions, the more likely we are to actually pursue them. So, providing opportunities for inexperienced writers to engage in this kind of targeted talk needs to be embraced within the working structures of the writing workshop. Graves further prompted young writers to explain their individual writing processes - the journey and its associated actions that brought about the writing piece. Increasingly, the importance of sharing process is being recognized as a critical component within the writing workshop. Young writers need mindful mini lessons that teach

Using Close Observation of Writers To Inform Teaching Practice

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  Here are some matters that have arisen from my ongoing work with the presentation of 'The Young Writer's Program.'  This initiative is a joint collaboration between PETAA (Primary English Teacher's Association of Australia) and the Victorian State Government.  The program aims to support young writers (Primary and Secondary) who have demonstrated aptitude and/or interest in writing. The program also aims to assist teachers to more adequately engage writers in the classroom writing program.  The matters identified might form the focus of further conversations or investigation within a school writing program. They may inform planning.  Hopefully, they will shine a light on writing actions that might serve to push writing development to the next exciting level.  I present these observations in no particular order. They are laid out for your consideration. I have been documenting my observations across several presentations of this excellent program.  If they hold relevan

Making The Most of Mentor Texts

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  Making The Most of Mentor Texts Mindfully and strategically used, mentor texts, present as a powerful tool when alerting the inexperienced writer to a multitude of techniques writers employ to make their writing both effective and memorable. When choosing suitable texts, select examples that you also enjoy reading. It will help heighten the sharing of literary treasure. Choose exemplars possessing specific techniques  and craft moves you would like your students to embrace as writers. Alerting young writers to the power mentor texts possess to inform and enhance their writing, forms an important part of the cognitive apprenticeship we wish them to experience. Consider the following steps when choosing suitable mentor texts Begin by reading aloud the chosen book, for pleasure. This provides young learners with a sense of the text’s totality. The whole story is revealed.  • Reread the book with a specific focus on some different writing techniques used by the author. Invite students

Launching A New Writer's Notebook.

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  This week, I changed over my writer's notebook. Once more with feeling fellow writers... Mixed emotions swirl around me when commencing a new writer's notebook. The prospect of filling the fresh pages brings with it anticipation, presenting as a prospect to be enthusiastically embraced. Honestly, after almost forty years of notebooks, my delight remains undiminished. To see newly generated words spread out across previously unmarked pages, delivers a buzz. The very act of capturing the raw stuff of my writing life, delivers order and a sense of accomplishment to my active mind. The harvesting of words and ideas adds to the energy for writing in this new place. I am akin to the farmer ploughing a new field.  I make a conscious decision to choose a notebook with different dimensions and qualities to its predecessor. Some writers select the same notebook each time a replacement is required. I embrace the notion of change along with the unique shape and form of the potential repl

Assisting Young Writers To Be More Specific

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Going From General To Specific. Young writers benefit greatly when shown how to sharpen their writing by moving from the general to the specific. When they are armed with this important knowledge about writing, it improves the quality of the images that emerge in the mind of the reader. When we know the exact name of something, it brings that item, that thing,  closer to us. It provides us as readers with greater clarity. The fog of uncertainty is blown away. As readers, we are more alert.  ' The bird flew down ' conveys less information than writing, ' The eagle swooped. ' Judy Blume in her book ‘Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing’ uses specific details to describe the materials her characters used to make their school project. 'We keep our equipment under my bed in a shoebox. We have a set of Magic Markers, Elmer’s glue, Scotch tape, a really sharp pair of scissors and a container of silver sparkle.' Notice how the initial sentence is quite general, However, the

Teaching Grammar Within The Writing Workshop

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In 2005, Professor Richard Andrews of York University conducted the largest systematic review of existing studies on the teaching of grammar and found there was no evidence that teaching grammar as a formal stand-alone exercise helped 5-16 year old write more fluently, or accurately. A most powerful and informative finding.  By way of contrast, contextualising the teaching of grammar assists students to understand the role grammar plays in the development of an effective writer. It teaches students to produce writing that is ‘reader friendly.’  What it doesn’t do is divorce grammar from the actual act of producing writing. However, what also needs to be present in our curriculum planning is the awareness of the need to teach students to be meta-cognitive with respect to the writing they produce. Grammar alone just won’t cut through.  We know that explicit teaching of grammatical rules is not necessarily matched by an ability to make corrections. There is no simple relationship between

Some Writing Conversations To Launch the School Year

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  In the early weeks of a new school year, we would hopefully expect to hear conversations around writing raising matters with student writers, similar in intent to the types of matters listed below. Conversations that prompt thought and produce action. Are you writing about things that matter to you -matters you care most about, matters close to your heart? If your students are writing merely to please a teacher or impress their peers, then this conversation is quite important. We should never embark upon writing we don’t care about. It should matter to the writer. It might actually be a piece they need to write quite urgently because they never want to forget that particular moment/ feeling/ event/ experience. Is there something you are hoping to see improve around your writing this year? How do you intend to achieve this change? Do you know why you are writing about a particular topic/issue/idea? In other words, have you thought about why it is important for you to write about this