Showing posts from 2011

Reflections on a Writing Year...

I read this morning that globally, 2011 was as stinky as a teenager’s bedroom, so maybe it’s just as well we are about to put a lid on it. It must be said though, it wasn’t all bad; it’s never is completely one way.
From the perspective of this little blog, it was quite a good year. I want to spend a little writing time reflecting on the fortunes of Living Life Twice…
I am pleased that this humble attempt to support my fellow teachers of writing has been so well received since its inception in 2008. The readership has grown steadily- this makes my heart sing.

I want to sincerely thank those of you who drop by regularly and take the time to leave a response. Your time investment is most appreciated. The feedback informs me, guides me and sustains me. Particular thanks to Linda at teacherdance, Deb Day, and Elsie who regularly drop by. Thank you also to those of you who have tweeted and emailed across the year.

Thank you to guest bloggers Elaine Hirsch and Lindsey Wright for their respect…

Slice of Life Story -The Sound of Whistling

I was sitting in my favourite coffee fix café, Via Boffe’ yesterday wandering through some recently written notebook entries, whilst slowly savouring a cappuccino. The café was packed and pulsing with caffeine desperadoes’ A waitress ask me, ‘How do you get inspiration when it’s crazy like this? I glibly replied, ‘I bring it with me.’ I should have more accurately admitted inspiration has its own magic and can take place at any time, anywhere. It’s a matter of whether one is ready to receive it…
I became aware of a sound, an altogether foreign sound in a café -a sound, not unpleasant, but a sound not to be denied. A high lilting sound that swirled through the tiny café like smoke wisps. -not Mini Ripperton high, but high nonetheless. Where was it coming from? I turned in an effort to find its source.
A bald headed man wearing a mostly white t shirt and fawn jeans sat at the front window seat; a place I frequenlty covet when I come to the café. He was whistling, quite loudly, yet pleas…

Summer and the Joyfully Literate Teacher…

The end of the Australian school year is rapidly approaching. At the conclusion of every school year the need to tie up a multitude of loose ends prior to the summer holidays is paramount. It is a demanding time
However, I am equally aware there is a period of time looming on summer’s horizon when tired educators will have time to relax and regenerate their energy reserves.- A time for relaxation, holidays, family and recreation.

May I suggest that summer holidays present a fantastic opportunity to embrace your inner writer and launch your very own writer’s notebook? If you have already made this decision - I applaud your actions. What a wonderful investment in your role as a teacher of writing!

Many teachers read extensively during vacation breaks. Free of the pressure of the classroom, it is possible to indulge in more personal reading; becoming re-acquainted with favourite authors; reading that book you received as a gift.

It seems to me that at this point it makes perfect sense to ad…

Creating Sparks In the Writing Classroom

How do we spark and then maintain an interest in writing among our students? This is the challenge all teachers of writing face. Here are a few ideas to ignite the writing in your classroom.
I begin by sharing my own writing. This is where you establish credibility as a teacher of writing. My writer’s notebook with its range of text investigations lets students know that I am a writer-just like them!

I engage students in conversations around my writing life.- Sharing how I harvest ideas, how I notice things and how I solve problems in my writing. Such conversations create a powerful dialogue that aims to demystify writing, making it appear more accessible to the novice writer. I am sharing the powerful message that writing holds something worth pursuing.
I share examples of quality writing (fiction and non fiction) that have caught my eye. It is important for young writers to see what it means to read like a writer.
I celebrate the wonder of words used by authors in innovative and intere…

Action VERBS! Guest Blogger, Elaine Hirsch Returns

Guest Blogger, Elaine Hirsch returns with a post about verbs and the potential they possess for injecting action and vitality into our writing. Our work with developing writers should place verbs in a prominent position. They are the muscles of our writing- the heavy lifters, and as Elaine writes, verbs ‘incite all your words to dance and sing together instead of just standing in incoherent, silent groups.’ More power to verbs!
I’m certain you’ll gain renewed appreciation for the great work action verbs perform when you read Elaine’s post:
Verbs describe some kind of action, but some verbs are more active than others. Your writing leaps from commonplace to persuasive and engaging just by changing the types of verbs you use. Whether you're writing fiction, a master's degree dissertation, or copy for advertisements, active verbs make readers want more. They switch on readers' imaginative vision and help them truly feel the meaning of your words.

“The verb is the heartthrob of…

Writing Lessons? Please Stop Says Jay Mathews

Confronting article written by Jay Mathews on his view of the teaching of writing in many U.S. schools.  Mathew's article first appeared in the Washington Post under the banner, Class Struggle. I thought it was worth sharing, as it provides another perspective on writing, particularly in the Secondary education setting in a comparative system. The column has stirred debate about the teaching of writing with the NWP (National Writing Project) urging educators to join in with their responses. Jay Mathews is an education columnist.

Originally Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 11/13/2011
Writing lessons? Please stop By With a few exceptions, our schools are bad at teaching writing. Students are not asked to do much of it, mostly because reading and correcting their work takes so much time. Instruction methods are often academic and lifeless.
English teachers rarely assign non-fiction reading and are even less apt to require non-fiction writing. Almost no high school students, excep…

Finding the Right Approach with Errors in Student Writing

If parents don’t understand why you’re not marking up mistakes on a piece of writing or’ correcting’ writer’s notebook entries with relentless zeal, then consider this drastic action.
Take a child’s painting and cover it in transparent plastic or laminate. Then, start marking all over it, crossing things out, redrawing other parts, putting notes and comments on it. Parents will most likely find such action discomforting. They might even gasp in horror. Then ask, why should we do this to a student’s writing? Afterall, both are artistic creations –works of art.

Inexperienced writers make errors. So do experienced writers. Learning cannot take place without some level of error. One of the greatest issues a developing writer can face in the process of becoming a competent writer is to be inhibited from responding, for fear of being wrong.
When a young writer tackles an unfamiliar word in their writing and spells it correctly they confirm their existing beliefs concerning that word. If they …

Breathing Life into Sentences.

The issue of sentence construction arises consistently when discussing the development of student writing. Sentences regularly appear in the work of young writers. Sentences that draw frowns on the faces of teachers. -Sentences that lack variety, spark, energy or complexity. The challenge is, how do we support young writers to more consciously construct sentence brimming with energy and intent?
Let's begin by drawing the young writer’s attention to the sentences constructed by mentor authors. Examining closely the work of other writers. Spotlight sentences that reveal possibilities for the developing writer. Encourage them to write in the style of the mentor. Doing this can lead to almost instant improvement in their work. It remains a powerful mechanism for change.
Consider the following actions to Soup Up Sentences:
Draw attention to the way other writers use strong verbs to create vivid images for the reader. Verbs are the muscles of the sentence. They need to know this. Precise, …

When Authors Write to Effect a Change

Writers have a purpose when they write and so it is important to embed this understanding in the minds of young writers. A reader can be influenced by the words used by the writer. We want young authors to fully understand this purpose for writing. The writer evokes a response, or a change in attitude from the reader and is thus fulfilled,

What we are attempting to do here is to encourage the development of a persuasive tone into the writing without immediately descending into a pale imitation of a persuasive essay. To avoid this, we need to focus on the reasons for writing, rather than being mesmerized by the form.
It is therefore vital that we show students how to read like writers. Show them how the writer is using words to influence and inform the reader.

What craft is the writer using to achieve this? What do you notice about the writer’s voice?
What words are the most powerful?
What is the writer’s point of view here?

This requires us as teachers to seek out good quality texts that co…

Who Were Your Writing Champions in School?

Who were your writing champions as you went through school? Who do you recall as a writing hero; a teacher who promoted writing through their own actions?

Sadly, it wasn’t until I reached my tertiary education that I actually encountered such a person. The late Tom McCabe encouraged me to become editor of the college newspaper. He talked about writing in a way that previous teachers had conspicuously failed to do. He ignited my passion for writing poetry. He talked with passion and authority about the joy of writing. He was a stand out champion for writing!

I certainly had teachers who stood out as beacons for literature and reading. People such as John Harris, my Grade 6 teacher, who read the poetry of Henry Lawson and A B Paterson with great enthusiasm. He also introduced us to the work of Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling. His reading was intoxicating. He had a way of taking the listener with him as he read. He made Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, come to life in my mind.

In high school…

LookBooks and The Writer- Guest Blogger, Elaine Hirsch

This latest post comes from Guest writer, Elaine Hirsch and revisits the concept of LookBooks, examining the potential of this resource, originally applied to the fashion industry, to further assist the writer within each of us...

Elaine is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult for her to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead. Elaine writes:
'In the fashion industry as well as others , people use lookbooksand mood boards to draw inspiration from and define their own particular styles. These creative tools are used to collect visuals of interest to designers, from photographs of models to swatches of fabric to sketches, layouts, and whatever else helps to inspire them and direct their creative impulses in a particular fashion, as well as quickly inform other people as to the specific “feel” of their pro…

Yielding To the Influence of Other Writers

Renowned Australian singer, songwriter, and story teller Paul Kelly was once asked where he found ideas, and he answered, ‘I steal them.’Kelly was being somewhat self effacing, but he was also close to a truth all writers know. They know what imitation looks like. Such influences are unavoidable.
At some stage in our writing journey we try on other voices, adopting, then adapting them. Such influences are important to our development as writers. We may find ourselves drawn to the rhythm, description or structure of the words. This influence on our ears and eyes is inevitable. The more we read as writers, the more we are exposed to the influence of our fellow writers.

I read somewhere- ‘Bad writers borrow, good writers steal.’ When you notice yourself influenced by the words of another writer you need to shape that influence to make it fit your writing intentions and your particular voice. I have previously mentioned how I have been informed by the writing of Jerry Spinelli and his infl…