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Writer’s Notebook- Establishing Student Ownership, Engagement and Agency

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  When writer’s notebooks are introduced into classrooms as part of a writing program it remains vitally important that the integrity of the notebook be preserved. How the notebook is perceived by both teachers and students becomes a critical consideration in establishing how it comes to be seen over time. It is not the role of the educator to tame the words that enter a young writer’s notebook. The notebook should at all times remain a slightly wild place for a writer to work with words. The young writer needs encouragement to roam the literary terrain in search of words and ideas, discoveries and the inspiration to write in that space. It is important to preserve a view of the notebook as a place to explore possibilities.   We must convince them through our own actions that the notebook they own is hungry to receive their words. Every effort must be made to avoid the writer’s notebook becoming something a teacher feels a need to claim or control. If young writers are to embrace

Writer's Notebook- I Got That Covered

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 I ‘ve Got That Covered      I’m currently on the lookout for a larger container in which to store my ever expanding collection of writer’s notebooks. Tomorrow I will begin the search in earnest by visiting some antique stores in the hope of finding a suitable container. I want something that has character. It must also be sturdy like a chest-a wooden chest perhaps.      I have notebooks stacked around my study at present and recently I have been pondering their characteristics -their design and size. My notebooks compiled across almost forty years are many and varied. Lined and unlined. Thick and thin. Large and small. A recent notebook was made from pulverized rock, not paper. It was appreciably heavier and the pages had a smoothness that reminded me of plastic surfaces. It provided a unique writing experience.        When it comes to covers on those notebooks the uniqueness of each notebook is immediately drawn into sharp focus. The acquisition of each new notebook presents an oppor

Rehearsing The Words I Write

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 I have been rehearsing this all day...      In fact, I have been rehearsing this for a few days. The events of Christmas no doubt have prompted my thoughts. I recalled a discussion I once had with a group of teachers during a workshop I was presenting. We were discussing the need for writers to rehearse their words before assigning them to the page and this prompted Dan, a young teacher to make a rather insightful comment without notice...        ‘I rehearse before I write on a greeting card.’      Everyone stopped to consider Dan’s words. He had reminded us of the conscious rehearsal frequently undertaken when we are faced with filling out cards on special occasions.      ‘I rehearse the words in my head to make sure they sound right.’ Dan further explained. Another teacher added, ‘ I actually practice what I want to write on the card, on another piece of paper, including, Dear Whoever.’      Someone else chimed in announcing she consciously purchases blank cards in order to avoid th

Promoting Student Ownership Of Writing Ideas

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  Promoting Student Ownership Of Writing Ideas  -Without Choice, You Won’t Get Voice   Upon discovering some young writers have endured a regular diet of teacher selected topics and genres, sentence starters, and story leads stretching across their short writing lives, it is hardly a surprise to hear they subsequently exhibit difficulty and anxiety when asked to self-select writing topics. It is little wonder they suffer a crisis of confidence when asked to rely on their own thinking and ideas.  They perceive the request as daunting because their independent thinking capabilities have been stifled and undernourished.  They have been denied important opportunities to develop motivation and initiative as writers. They remain inexperienced in the art of decision making and the critical thinking that surrounding choice and voice. Cognition will not take place where the young writer perceives the notion of topics resides solely with the teacher. They remain unaware that writers regularl

Encouraging the Rise of Reflective Young Writers

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Reflecting upon our writing lives, is a form of metacognition. We look back in order to discover. We may uncover truths. We may discover we are unconsciously skilled. We may also discover the need to redirect our energies, unpacking important details or revelations to guide our writing lives forward. Reflecting reveals  signposts essential to writing development. As teachers of writing, it is vital that we encourage the growth of these same understandings with student writers. We must assist them to develop a level of awareness surrounding their own learning. By teaching mindfully, the inexperienced writer is encouraged to learn how to think and operate independently. In this way, they can be assisted to be more aware of their thought processes. Attaining such a level of awareness will help them immeasurably as learners and in that process they become better writers. If we, as teachers encourage student writers to use reflection as a thinking tool, as well as a writing tool, we empower

Critical Conversations Regarding Writing Instruction

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The effective teaching of  writing requires schools to commit to engaging in regular critical conversations around the teaching taking place. The flushing out the important issues surrounding writing development must be seen as a driver of discussion. The refining and review of teaching practice is the sign of a healthy learning environment. The most effective ways of nurturing agency and engagement must be viewed as central to arriving at an agreed understanding of what must guide a school's writing curriculum.  Where schools demonstrate a desire to develop agreed understandings and consistent practice around pedagogical approaches, it proves to be a powerful guiding force in the realization of improved learning outcomes for young writers and increased satisfaction for those fostering the learning. We must remember, we cannot control learning, but we most certainly can create the environment, the conditions, where it is more likely to take place. A characteristic of such schools i

Helping Young Writers Grow A Knowledge Base

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  'I do believe strongly in being able to teach writing techniques, but it is not a substitute for the knowledge of self and place that the writer needs in order to have anything to write about.' Richard Powers, Poets & Writers Magazine, July/Aug 2000. I read this quote on Twitter recently and it set me thinking. It has implications for all writers regardless of their level of experience.  I began to think about our youngest, least experienced writers, who sometimes choose a writing topic without first considering the matters mentioned in the Richard Powers quote.  I recall a conversation I had with a young writer as I sat among a group of writers as we unpacked their preferred writing topics for the day. She informed me she wanted to write about pirates and i asked her to think about what she already knew about the topic of pirates. I encouraged her to discuss pirates with the other members of the group. During my roving conferencing I noted she was writing about her dog,

Sharing Our Learning Stories

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  Every learner- teacher or student needs to be conscious of their innate ability to learn and grow. The mindful awakening of awareness regarding the immediate world in which each learner operates unleashes the potential to develop further as learners, thinkers, readers and writers. The late Donald Graves wrote, 'The more I reveal a student's potential, the more I discover my own potential as a teacher.'  Graves believed such matter were inseparable. From this, the notion of  teachers sharing their individual learning stories within the classroom lays a sound foundation upon which both the teacher and the impressionable learner can raise expectations while sharing the learning journey. The sharing of learning stories provides the inexperienced learners with a model and a pathway to follow. When teachers are aware of what they have learned, the more likely they are to challenge and continue extending their personal knowledge. This frequently leads them to direct their energi

Teaching Young Writers To Think About Titles

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  A Good Title Is Vital I once taught a young writer, Paul, who presented a wonderful true story he had written concerning the time he and his younger brother had been wandering through a muddy construction site in the midst of winter. Their youthful curiosity brought them to the edge of a large muddy hole. While peering down Paul (the author) managed to slip and fall into the muddy depths. He soon realized he was stuck when it proved impossible to scale the slippery muddy sides of the hole. He tried repeatedly to escape, but continually failed to negotiate his way out of the hole.  He urged his younger brother to run for help. His brother managed to enlist the aid of a security guard at the nearby shopping mall. The guard brought a ladder and the situation was immediately eased for the boy trapped in the hole. The story was well written and the young author had built the tension using a strong sense of voice throughout the text. The only problem was, he could not settle on a suitabl