The Important Work of Growing Readers And Writers

Each and every time a teacher enters a classroom they must be conscious of bringing with them all the reading and writing they have ever done. They must bring with them all those 'unwitting collaborators' as Frank Smith so aptly called them.

Young learners should be encouraged to do the same thing. All that prior knowledge and experience has potential to inform the work currently under consideration.

For teachers this background knowledge represents a powerful armory. When we consciously consider this mountain of knowledge, we are never alone in our teaching. We are not isolated as educators. All those authors sit at our shoulder ready to support our valuable contributions to the reading and writing lives of students.

Quite understandably, I can't recall the titles of every single book I have read, but they remain a part of me. As my reading life continues to expand in various directions, the reading I am currently engaged in frequently allows me to connect to earlier texts. …

Slice of Life Story -Simple Pleasures

I wrote this poem almost 30 years ago. It celebrates simple pleasures. 

Simple Pleasures

The memories of this splendid Saturday
Etched indelibly on mind
With all the colours intact
Browsing through the bookshop
Walking and talking
The touch of your hand
A bicycle ride on a wintery afternoon
Simple pleasures 
We shared.
My feelings so close to the surface spill over
Warm and gentle
I don't feel vulnerable
I feel loved.
When your eyes fix upon me
They journey straight to my heart
I am carried to where you are
just as love will always do
Simple pleasures 
Have become my greatest delight
It is being here 
With you 
When you say simply
I love you.

It pleases me to report I have retained this vision of celebrating simple pleasures from that time forward. It is important to note those small yet significant moments that float across our days. Moments observed and shared. And so it happened, yet again... 

Yesterday, first thing in the morning my wife, Vicki  greeted me with some news she thought I would welcome…

Reviewing Student-Teacher Writing Conferences

Too often kids think a ‘writing conference’ is where the teacher ‘fixes’ your writing... 

The notion of a conference as a 'conversation between two writers' needs to be at the heart of a conference. 

If we want provide our writing lessons with authenticity then as teachers we must encourage students writers to request a conference when needed rather than foisting one upon them.

There's little to be gained interrupting the flow of a writer deep in the act of composing a piece, just to conduct a writing conference.

On the other hand, there's little point in making a writer wait when they desperately need your support to deal with a perceived roadblock in their writing. 

It therefore makes sense to set up a system where the needs of the writer are placed at the centre of the action. Better to implement a conferring system where the writer is encouraged to identify a need to confer and is able to initiate some discourse around their writing. 

The student writer is asked to write…

Further Jottings From A Writing Life

These random writing thoughts are gleaned from various sources connected to my writing life- my writer's notebooks, blogs, Twitter, Facebook. They represent some of my recent writing related activity in these places. Not all these observation as memorable, but they are mine. I collected them. I share them to demonstrate the broad and enduring influences upon those of us who choose to be, teachers who write: _______________________________________ I would hate to live a life so full of time pressures that I couldn't possibly expend the time to return a shopping trolley after visiting the supermarket.
You can choose to teach according to curriculum (or school based mandates), adopting a tick the box mentality, or you can teach according to what you know about the particular needs of learners. Without doubt, the difference is significant, the impact lingering! Blindly adhering to curriculum mandates does not make your pedagogy authentic. Let curriculum inform your work, but never le…

Revealing Author's Craft To Student Writers

When we read like writers we set about gathering information about writing that will form curriculum for our teaching. As teachers of writing, we must ask ourselves:
What do I see the writer doing here?
Why does the writer do this?
Have I seen this particular craft move in other writing
What can I call this craft move?
How could I try this in my own writing?
How could I help my student writers to try this in their writing?

The more we practice reading like writers, the easier it becomes to identify elements of writing craft present in the books with which we work. It is a skill that develops with practice. It takes time and regular practice. It requires us to engage in professional conversations with our colleagues regarding a text's potential.That is why such matters should be part of teacher planning sessions. Such texts should be our ticket in. Bring a trusted author with you...

In time it has the potential to change the way we read. When we learn to read like writers we are no longer …

Mentor Text Magic With Pookie Aleera

The effective use of mentor texts is something worth sharing. Exposing impressionable young writers to exemplars and allowing the words of a trusted author to influence the writing student writers produce, is important in our work as teachers of writing, and teachers of writers.

My friend and colleague, Leanne Hunter currently teaches Grade 3 at Toorak College, Mount Eliza in my home state of Victoria. Leanne choose to read a personal favourite of mine, 'Pookie Aleera Is Not My Boyfriend,'by Steven Herrick to her eager young learners. In this verse novel, Award-winning author Steven Herrick presents a heart-warming tale about friendship, grief and the importance of baked goods. In a country town, in a school just like the schools you know, the kids in Class 6A tell their stories.  – it's honest, quirky, funny and frequently heartfelt. It is written from many characters' points of view - the cool kid, the funny kid, the bullied kid, the teacher, the school cleaner and ev…

Writer's Notebook -Summer Scribes

At the conclusion of each school year, I write, urging teachers to quarantine a little time for writing over the summer holiday period. As we rapidly approach the end of the 2018 academic year, my message remains unerringly simple. 

If you are a teacher who writes, it is easier to present as a writer who teaches. 
     In these final weeks of the school year numerous teachers have informed me (without prompting) they will be embracing the challenge of keeping their own writer’s notebooks in 2019. Well, that notebook will benefit from some early feeding and the summer presents as a potential feast…

I am aware of the level of exhaustion that exists in schools at year’s end. The need to tie up a multitude of loose ends prior to school closing for the summer holidays is paramount.  The last week of school seems to take the longest time of all the many school weeks though. School becomes the epicentre of fatigue for both students and staff.
I am also aware that on summer’s horizon teachers wil…