Showing posts from 2010

Writing Irresistible LEADS with Grade One Students

I have been reading Australian author, Kate Grenville’s book, ‘The Writing Book – A Practical Guide For Fiction Writers.’ Grenville writes about leads and reminds us that the beginning of a piece of writing needs to be irresistible . Further to this she reminds the reader that it doesn’t matter where you begin a piece of writing- just begin! Grenville quotes Ezra Pound who said, ‘It doesn’t matter which leg of the table you make first as long as it stands up in the end.’ The writer’s aim is to glue the reader to the page. Grenville also makes the observation that sometimes you need to write the whole story before returning to the start in order to write a great beginning or ‘lead’ for it. Recently I have been working with groups of Grade 1 writers alerting them to the various ways in which writers ‘lead’ the reader deeper into their stories. Initially we looked at their own writing samples and I asked students, what did they notice about the words being used in their story leads? Th

Providing Time For Respectfully Publishing Student Writing

PUBLISHING STUDENT WRITING A young teacher approached me during a break in my presentation about Writer's Notebooks yesterday to ask, What about publishing? She was projecting ahead and it set me to thinking more deeply about this important issue. Young writers need to experience every phase of the writing process and yet it is publishing that frequently gets squeezed or curtailed. Either that, or it gets the 'fast food' treatment and every child's published work looks alarmingly the same. Publishing and the student writer are short changed. With so much emphasis on gathering entries in the Writer’s Notebook there is a further danger it will begin to establish itself as the primary focus for writing both in the minds of teachers and students.  It would therefore be easy to lose sight of the purpose of the Writer’s Notebook. The Notebook’s primary function is to provide a place for writing to begin . The notebook is to the writer, what the sket

Remembering Donald Graves

Donald Graves, an educator who had a tremendous impact on the teaching of writing, passed away last week. Donald Graves had a great impact on the teaching of Writing in Australia as well as the US. From a personal perspective, Donald Graves greatly influenced my teaching of writing. His impact in my classroom was profound.  His books continue to hold a special place in my library. His legacy continues to influence many of things we hold to be true about how to effectively teach writing. Donald Graves was a beacon among writing educators. Vale Donald. 'When children feel in control of their writing their dedication is such that they violate the child labour laws. We could never assign what they choose to do.' Donald Graves Stenhouse Publishing Editorial Director Philippa Stratton offers this reflection: The National Council of Teachers of English will hold a spec

Making Books With Our Youngest Writers

I read this wonderful piece on Two Writing Teachers and thought it was well worth sharing.  It's about the importance of making things from our writing. Authentic purposes for our writing. Such a natural progression! Showing kids the connection between writing we do and the reading matter it creates... Katie Wood Ray deals with this very same issue in her wonderful book 'About The Authors.' They speak of kindergarten classes in the artice, which we would equate with prep/reception classes in Australia. Follow the link to discover more:

Nudging Writers To Make A Choice

The Stenhouse Blog: Quick Tip Tuesday: Nudging kids to make a choice  'Nonfiction reading, research, and reporting is hard work. For students to maximize their inquiry experience, they should choose a topic they care about, know something about, and wonder about,' writes Stephanie Harvey in her book Nonfiction Matters: Reading, Writing, and Reseach in Grades 3-8. But some students find it difficult to pick a topic or they think that their hobbies and interests are not suitable for school. In this Quick Tip, we get a quick glimpse into a conversation between a student, Thomas, and his teacher, Mary, as they talk about Thomas’ interest in football and how that will make a great topic for his research paper. Some students struggle with topic selection. On the eve of the topic deadline, Thomas had not come up with a single idea for research. His mother rang Mary first thing in the morning and described a family in turmoil. Thomas had been up all night fraught with anxiety ov

The Power of Memoir: Kimberly Hill Campbell, Stenhouse Blog

Everyone has a story to tell. In this installment of  Stenhouse Publishers, Questions & Authors series, Kimberly Hill Campbell shares some great memoirs , followed by some ideas that support writing a memoir. Kimberly’s recent book Less Is More: Teaching Literature with Short Texts, Grades 6-12, explores a variety of short texts to engage a wide range of young writers. Enjoy! The Power of Memoir This fall I was asked by one of the graduate students in my language arts methods class to explain the difference between personal narrative and memoir. And I immediately thought of the personal narratives so many of my high school students had written. Stories of experiences that were often rich in detail but missing what I so appreciate about memoir: the why of the personal story. Personal narrative is the starting point for memoir, but it is in the selection of what to include and what it all means, that we move from narrative to memoir. As William Zinsser, author of Inventing the

Choice in Sharing by Ruth Ayres

This post comes from Ruth Ayres, Two Writing Teachers. Ruth writes about how she wants to manage share time at the conclusion of her writing workshops. Share time is such a valuable sharing opportunity. Ruth's observations and ideas are well worth considering... Posted on Wednesday August 25, 2010 by Ruth  Ayres, Two Writing Teachers Robert B. Parker. There is no one right way. Each of us finds a way that works for him. But there is a wrong way. The wrong way is to finish your writing day with no more words on paper than when you began. Writers write. Every August, I think about what area in regards to teaching writing that I want to pay particular attention to. This year my focus is CHOICE. Something that has caught my attention the past two weeks has been giving kids more say in the sharing time of writing workshop. This has been a time when I’ve often been specific in my directions for sharing time. I’ve said things like: Share the lead of your story with the class.

Writing and Wondering

I have been buying magnifying glasses lately. I want my grandchildren to have one each so that they can discover and celebrate natural wonder. I recall how much fun I had as a small boy with my own magnifying glass. –Seeing snails and slugs up close, or watching ants and noticing their fine feelers, or exploring nature’s wonders in the fine lines and patterns on leaves. There was for me, a fascination observing the world through this magic portal; this round window. I want the natural curiosity my grandchildren possess further stimulated by the experience of seeing small wonders up close and personal. I hope such a simple gift as a magnifying glass stimulates their imagination and creativity. I hope they respond with wonderment and awe. A magnifying glass is not a piece of cutting edge techno wizardry, but it is a powerful tool for determining answers to questions that spring from every day experiences. Seymour Simon said ‘ I’m more interested in arousing enthusiasm in kids than in t

Writing Ideas: Photograph Your Small Treasures

Invite your students to gather some small artefacts from around the house. Have them arrange the gathered items in a pleasing design, then when satisfied that the items are clearly presented- take a photograph. These simple items form a pictorial topic list that writers may delve into. Each one has its own unique story just waiting to emerge. If your students don't have access to a camera have them bring the selected items to school and do the snapping there! This is a wonderful stimulus for promoting talking and thinking about wriitng intentions. try it yourself first and share your discoveries with your students. Show them the writing that springs forth. The photo above repesents my quick household gatherings. The writing that follows sprung from scanning and thinking about the assorted items. Sea Glass The beach is not a place to labour Too warm and damp And soft Never a place to conjure flights of fancy It rises against one’s mind Washing away thoughts of tidy resolution

Effective Writing Instruction -Do You See What I See?

When one steps into a Writing classroom it is implicit that the following components be present in the structure of the writing workshop: Instructional Groupings Whole Group • Teacher demonstrates a writing strategy or skill using either a mentor text and/or their own writing. • Anchor charts are created (with student input) as resources to support writing development. • Students engage in meaningful conversations around their writing, using think/pair/ share, turn and talk, peer conferences etc. • Adequate time is provided for writing rehearsal and review and reflection. • Explicit links are constantly made between reading and writing. • Writing tasks undertaken are purposeful and authentic. Independent Work • Students actively engage in writing tasks or confer with peers or the teacher. • Students may read and/or research as they explore aspects of a particular genre or craft strategy as part of the inquiry of text structures and features during the ini

Melbourne Writers Festival Schools Program

Just sharing the news regarding the upcoming Melbourne Writers Festival Schools Program. Think about those young writers who have exhibited special talent and interest and let them know about this opportunity. Go to:

NEWS: Top Ten Writing Blogs for Teachers Announcement

I am pleased and somewhat pleasantly surprised to learn that Living Life Twice , this humble little effort to raise the profile of writing has been named number three in a list of the Top Ten Blogs for Writing Teachers. The list was compiled by Maria Magher for  On Line Degree Course Site. The list contains some useful support information you may wish to access. It is included in the Top Ten List of Blogs for writing teachers. I invite you to check it out at

The Chance to Rant About An Issue

Stacey Shubitz, from Two Writing Teachers , posted this and given the fact that next year's NAPLAN focus for writing is persuasive text, this idea has some relevance... Stacey Writes: My afternoon session, “Writing from the Heart: Finding Your True Voice,” at the TCRWP Writing Institute was taught by James Howe (aka: Jim). During the course of the week Jim provided us with a variety of writing exercises, which lasted from 5 – 20 minutes, to help us write from the heart. One of the many exercises he gave us was: Use a news story you’ve connected with emotionally to see where it takes you. I didn’t bring a newspaper with me that day, but I did bring my iTouch, which has The New York Times App on it. I went to my saved articles and found one that resonated with me several months earlier. I found myself writing non-stop about Samuel G. Freedman’s “A Jewish Ritual Collides with Mother Nature,” which is an article that elicited a strong reaction from me when I read it months ear

Charting Our Progress -Using Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are important tools for students to use during Writers' Workshop and aid them in remembering procedures, craft strategies,ideas and expectations. When teachers co create such charts with their students, the students frequently develop a sense of ownership because the recorded information reflects their ideas, their language. Once constructed, charts can be copied in a smaller format for students to place inside their writer’s notebook or writing folder as a further point of reference. Charts should be added to over time. This reinforces the fact that knowledge grows across time and space as we investigate and discover. Anchor charts should be removed when no longer needed. They could stored as flip charts. Anchor charts need to be posted in the classroom where they are easily accessible to students in order to serve as a resource for their writing. Teachers who develop anchor charts with their students and refer back to said charts frequently throughout writer's

A Place For Teachers To Begin Writing

Childhood is a rich source of writing inspiration for all writers. For those teachers unaccustomed to writing for and with their students, it is a great place to commence. As a starting point for writing I encourage inexperienced adult writers to recall aspects of childhood as an ideal place to dive into some writing. The range of experience is enormous –ranging from disappointment to triumph! The full gamut of human emotions condensed into those special years. Starting in this place will assist you to connect strongly with the lives of the students you teach. It will enable you, the teacher writer to convey the importance of capturing those small yet significant moments in our lives, at the same time employing your senses to enliven the writing. Should you choose to take up this challenge try to avoid the overlay of adult perspective in the early throes of your memoir piece. Considering the age of the audience, it might be more valuable to write from the inner child persona an

Lack of Attention- Too Much Screen Time!

While this article is not specifically about writing, it most certainly has implications for teaching writing, In fact it has implications for any learning situation. Therefore, I post it as a matter of general interest. Too Much Screen Time Can Threaten Attention Span By Kathleen Doheny MONDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) Too much time spent watching television and playing video games can double the risk of attention problems in children and young adults, new research finds. The study is the latest of many to point out the ill effects of excessive screen time, whether at the computer or the television. Researcher Edward Swing, a graduate student at Iowa State University, compared participants who watched TV or played video games less than two hours a day -- the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics for children aged 2 and older -- to those who watched more. "Those who exceeded the AAP recommendation were about 1.6 times to 2.2 times more likely to have gr

Writing Announcement Guest Blog at Two Writing Teachers

It gives me great pleasure to announce that this Friday USA Eastern Time I am the guest writer on the Two Writing Teachers site! This is a great site for teachers of writing and one that I support. So naturally, I’m quite honored to have been invited to submit as part of their summer series of guest bloggers. If you are at a loose end, or in social limbo at this time (Saturday, Australian time), I invite you to drop by and check it out. My topic of choice is how writers rehearse before they write- Think, before ink! I can’t guarantee that you will be as excited as I am, but it might deliver you to a new and different place on the information highway! Happy Times Reading And Writing Alan

The Potential of Digital Storytelling

Some of my recent conversations with teachers regarding publishing have raised the possibility of incorporating digital storytelling into the publishing frame... Somewhat fortuitously, Stenhouse Publishers announce the imminent release of Lisa Miller's book 'Make Me a Story- Teaching Writing Through Digital Storytelling'! So I present the following as something to consider. The writing process and digital storytelling go together naturally. Just as writing can be a process of discovery, so can digital storytelling, where images, words, and music all work together to create meaning. In her new book, Make Me a Story, Lisa Miller describes the power of digital storytelling as a tool for teaching writing and engaging elementary students. She walks teachers step-by-step through the elements of a digital story project, from prewriting and research through putting the story together in the computer using photos, drawings, paintings, video, narration, and music. Readers will also

Understanding Writers With Output Issues

Kid blamers exist in most schools. They rationalize the events in their classrooms by informing everyone that certain 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 during childhood and teenage years. Output failure re