Showing posts from September, 2008

A Moment For Memoir

BIG MISTAKE From a list of significant events in the process of growing up I now recall that I missed a few. I didn’t go to kindergarten and I didn’t join the cubs because the waiting list was so long. I would have been too old by the time my turn came round anyway. I never had my own paper round and I never got conscripted for national service. I did however have my first cigarette at the age of nine. Along with some other boys we went through a packet of cigarettes one Saturday morning whilst walking through the Elster Creek drain. It ran underground between East Bentleigh and Carnegie, making it an ideal place for clandestine pursuits. I returned home that afternoon to be greeted by my father who viewed me suspiciously before asking ‘Have you been smoking?’ -A fairly simple and straightforward question. To which I answered succinctly and without hesitation ‘No.’ My father followed up with ‘Well, what happened to your eyebrows, they’re all singed and burnt?’ to which I replied ‘I do

Effective Editing

We sometimes lament that our students are not great editors of their written pieces. Let's face it, we are generally speaking, the worst proofreaders of our own work. To compensate for this we need to approach editing in the same way as we approach any other aspect of writing. Editing needs to be taught just as we teach into drafting and revising. It also needs to be clearly separated from the act of revision to be most effective. 'I learned from Donald Graves (1984) and Nancie Atwell (1998) that writing is best taught as a process, and it is by writing that young adolescents develop as writers. I felt that I was doing a good job with teaching my students to use the craft of writing through drafting and revision. After all, my students wrote a lot and were learning ways to re-enter their writing and deal with sensory detail and leads. But where was the editing part of the process? Editing wasn’t fitting in the way I wanted and was often getting overlooked.' So said Jef

A Slice of Life Story - Italian Style

Asciano is a small town in the heart of the Tuscan region steeped in history dating back to the Etruscans. When we finally arrive there, having driven from Rome, one of the first things we spy is a ATM secreted in a medieval wall. What a contrast. We spend the next hour trying to find our accommodation. We do laps of the narrow streets and only arouse stares from bemused locals. We seek direction from a young man at the Carabinieri station. We struggle to communicate so I show him the address and he immediately gives me the directions in Italian. We smile at each other and part. I feel as useless as a fur lined teapot. We drive roughly in the direction he gestured and wind up driving back through the same streets as before. This time things are different though. We are now behind a funeral procession, which naturally has right of way. We don’t wish to offend the recently departed on our first day in town. A supervising Caribinieri officer takes pity on us and we again seek direction

How Does Your Classroom Environment Support Learning?

Every environment implies a set of values or beliefs about the people who design and use the space. For example tables arranged in rows rather than clustered in groups suggests the teacher believes children learn best in isolation from one another, and values individual work over group activities. Thoughtfully designed environments influence the inhabitants in subtle ways. An environment may bore, may over stimulate, calm or agitate those in it. Spending large amounts of time in an environment deemed unpleasant will eventually exact a toll. Classroom environments reflect the values and beliefs about children, families, the social construction of knowledge held by teachers.The layout of the physical space of the classroom needs to be welcoming, to foster encounters, communication, and relationships. The arrangement of furniture storage should encourage choices, problem solving, and discoveries in the process of learning. Creating Connections and a Sense of Belonging Children spend

Persuasion and the Writer's Notebook

This week I was planning with teachers as they made preparation for the next term’s work. Their major writing focus will be persuasive texts and the question arose as to how to make a strong connection with the writer’s notebook and the persuasive texts. This set me to thinking. I have harboured a concern that many teachers are not sure how to use the writer’s notebook across the genres. It seems okay when the focus is narratives or poetry, but they appear uncertain as to how to best use the notebook as a resource for developing ideas. It is important to see the notebook as launching pad for writing. So, how do we make the notebook our starting point? I started to think about the ways I could support the teachers with whom I was planning. What could I be doing as a writer to model for them and their students? It was then that an idea came calling! For the next three weeks I intend to link my reading of local, national and global issues such as global warming, drought, poverty, educa

A Slice of Life Story

True Dinks- this really happened...New York 2003 Bizarro World Visitor At the risk of sounding like I am beginning to lose my tenuous hold on reality, the longer I live in New York, the more I believe in the existence of conspiracy theories. I am increasingly of the opinion that some perverse being from a parallel wacky world keeps sending individuals through a time portal to manifest themselves in my everyday life. These individuals, whilst generally harmless have a definite leaning towards the fruitcake category. These half -baked fruitcakes crop up regularly in the course of my travels around this place. I am yet to work out why. Before you dismiss me, I invite you to recall Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘Bizarro world’ where everything was the opposite of what you knew. –And where was that centered? – New York of course! To support my theory I cite W.E. #327 (That’s Wacky Experience number 327) I had on the No 38 bus whilst traveling down DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene area o

Take Home Writing Kits!

Another Way To Improve Writing In Your Classroom –Mission Possible! The idea of developing a “Take Home Writing Kit” is a chance to enhance the home school connection, AND at the same time assist your students in their development as writers. As teachers we place tremendous emphasis on children reading at home to encourage their literacy development.Unfortunately, we have not been as passionate in our efforts to develop the home-school writing connection. Writing is frequently viewed as an individual activity where the parent plays the role of supervisor, rather than a support person. Through the idea of the “Take Home Writing Kit, we can assist students to develop a positive self image about themselves as writers as well as providing extra opportunities to practice the skills and strategies necessary to improve their writing. In this way we promote writing as an essential partner to reading in the home. To set up your writer’s kit you will need to acquire a small carry case, or

Rereading For Ideas

I know from experience that I am forever rereading writing pieces from my notebooks. It is amazing how often such rereading assists me to dig up a new idea to feed my writing addiction. Virginia Woolf defines rereading as a chance to find diamonds in the dust-heap. I am definitely covered in dust and constantly looking for precious gems. I am acutely aware that rereading is vitally important to me as a writer. Apart from the possibility of finding a new writing thread, I am also reliving the moment in time when I first captured a particular entry. On some occasions rereading connects me with previously over looked memories or ideas. So apart from reading to revise or proofread, I would also add rereading for the express purpose of excavating ideas. This rereading is akin to rummaging through a toy box as a child and discovering a lost treasure Ralph Fletcher in his great little book, ‘Breathing in Breathing Out’ talks about this very act of rereading: “Some writers claim they nev

Celebrating 26 Letters

It is National Literacy Week in Australia (September 1-7) –A time to celebrate all things literate! I'm going to start at the very beginning with my celebrations. I want to celebrate the basic building blocks of our literate society –the alphabet! In my reading about writing I often come across passages that make me sit up and really take notice. The writing of Carl Leggo had me reacting thus. Carl Leggo, is a poet and associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver where he has been teaching, reading, researching and writing for more than a decade. The following brief writing exercise that Carl devised for his students provided renewed awareness of the immense power contained within the alphabet. Invite your students to write down the 26 letters of the alphabet. Then ask them to circle their five favourite letters. Following this ask them to write five words that begin with each of the five favourite letters. Some students will gasp with horror because