Showing posts from April, 2009

Assisting Writers To Enact Their Writing Plan

Assisting young writers to stay 'on track' is a major goal for all of us who teach writing. Alerting developing writers to the way in which planning provides a ‘roadmap’ for the writing to follow, is part of the essential scaffolding they need to be successful.

This need for planning is equally true for the writing students undertake when participating in the test writing genre section of such high stakes tests such as NAPLAN (National Assessment Project for Literacy and Numeracy). Under such test situations crucial time elapses while the writer considers what shape the writing will take. This of course assumes that they actually devote time to planning their response.

As concerned educators, we invest teaching time alerting students to the value of planning a writing piece. We naturally assume (and hope) that they will execute that plan.

A closer examination of what actually happens to the writer under pressure is that often a disconnect takes place between that planning and w…

Memoir Piece - Getting The Cuts In Primary School

Corporal punishment was permitted in schools during my primary school days and as you got older, the likelihood of being a recipient of this terrible action became more concerning. The thought of ‘getting the cuts’ (up to six lashes across an outstretched palm of the hand with a leather strap or cane) was a major concern throughout any school day. Pulling your hand away only spurred your tormentor onto greater effort. Sometimes they added an extra lash. It was all quite brutal. It was only applied to boys however and at my school only designated teachers were able to use the strap or cane to inflict such pain. Usually the headmaster plus designated senior teachers were the selected pain delivery agents. Interestingly, parents never seemed to object to this action. “You probably deserved it!”, “I hope you learned a lesson from that!” or “Serves you right!” were the usual responses.

Corporal punishment was viewed by adults as character building. It was in reality a barbaric control measu…

Metaphors and Similes

These wonderful literary elements are everywhere! We owe it to our students to alert them to the power of these features to enhance their writing. It needs to be noted though that while they can add real power to writing if used effectively, - they can also read as 'tres ordinaire' if allowed to descend into cliché!

Some writers actually collect metaphors and similes using the examples as a way of refining and expanding their relationship with words.

New Zealand writer, Terence Hodgson in his book, Eyes Like Butterflies presents a treasury of similes and metaphors taken from modern English literature. The images collected in his book are arranged by theme and subject. It provides a source of reference and inspiration for writers to add to their word knowledge. Here are a couple of examples:

“A smile like a torch with a weak battery” - Hugo Charteris, The Indian Summer of Gabriel Murray

His hair was that special mad yellow, like an omelette” – Martin Amis, Money.

The following exerc…

Memoir Piece - The Value of Rehearsal

This was going to be the shining moment of my Grade six year. I had been given the opportunity to sing at the youth club Christmas break up run by local church. The idea was that I had to choose a suitable song and practice it for the big night. I chose the sheet music and duly practiced the chosen song. My parents approved of my choice so that sealed matters.

To accompany me on piano was a church elder named George. George was a tall, gentle octogenarian with a mop of snow white hair. His voice was soothing in the same way that aloe-vera is soothing to sunburn. Before he spoke a smile would invade his face. Any public appearance meant that you would see him wearing the same, tired, blue suit. It was his church uniform, his strolling down the street uniform, his shopping at the supermarket uniform. It had been pressed and ironed so many times that it shone when the light caught it in certain directions. But the pleats in his pants were straight and beautifully formed. For a man who had…

Inspiring Curiosity and Wonder In Young Writers

If we want our students to exhibit curiosity and wonder then like all things related to learning, we need to model those very same things ourselves. If students appear desensitized to their immediate surroundings and seemingly locked in a drone like state that screen overdose brings, then we are charged with added responsibility to re-programme that essential sense of wonder.

It is a waste of much needed energy blaming the state of things. This amounts to kid blaming. Negativity breeds more of the same. We can’t complain about reluctant readers and writers if we are not leading the way with our actions. Continually lamenting the shortcomings of students is tiresome and certainly a waste of energy, if we are not shining a light ourselves. Every day, in every classroom there are moments worthy of celebration and delight. We just need to be looking for them.

Teaching is a performance art as much as anything else and performing with a sense of wonder and amazement becomes part of the deal. …