Showing posts from 2014

Let's Show Kids HOW Writing Works...

Education consultant Dr Peter Knapp  was quoted recently in an article by Janine Ferrari in The Australian, November 29th as saying, ‘Kids come out of primary school without mastering the technical aspects of writing and yet secondary schools aren't equipped to teach writing or, in many cases, prepared to teach it.’
Let's examine that a little...
There appears to be a persistent belief that Primary Schools are expected to teach students to read and write, and Secondary School can then focus on reading and writing to learn. This falsehood has been around since my teacher training days –more than four decades ago!
It denies the developmental nature of learning. It fails to recognize the influence of immigration on the school system, and it certainly shows a disregard for students as learners.
We learn at different rates. We don’t all learn to tie our shoe laces on a predetermined day. Why would we assume that all learners reach the same developmental point at the conclusion of Gra…

A Plan For Student Writing - Don’t Over-Plan!

Over the years I have frequently reminded young writers that it helps if you know in your head where and when your story will end before you commence writing. You can stop off anywhere along the way, but at least know where you’re heading. It’s easier to map out the plot if you have a sense of direction for your writing. It represents the most basic form of planning.
Planning begins with  the rehearsal of broad ideas. Rolling words and phrases around in your head, telling your story to yourself and others assists in the formation of solid ideas. It crystallizes thought. Writers are storytellers and often tell their stories many times before they write. Young writers need to know this important fact. Talk is a powerful ally of the writer. Classrooms that foster quality conversations around writing intentions greatly assist the inexperienced writers to identify and enact writing intentions.
Planning should provide support to students with their writing.  A brief outline may help students …

Choice, Voice and Publishing With Grade 2 Writers

I have recently been involved with four teachers from CairnleaParkPrimary School  in Melbourne's west and their Grade 2 authors. The primary focus of their work had been on writing and publishing narratives.
The work has required much persistence and patience from all concerned. This project began at the commencement of term 3 and culminated early term 4 with a publishing celebration.
The relative inexperience of these student writers proved to be no impediment to their zeal,  persistence and all round ‘stickability.’ While they faced a the multitude of writing challenges, they effectively stared down those challenges as they arose.
These young writers were afforded both voice and choice in their writing. They had a strong sense of ownership over the writing task –and the task they were given was authentic. They were working towards publishing their own books in their own way. It was a chance to make a host of important decisions along the way.
 They were supported by teachers…

Poetry From The Search Zone- Searching For Hen's Teeth, The BOOK!

It's Arrived!

My latest book has just been released, and naturally I'm excited to share this anthology of poetry with you. It contains a wide assortment of poems, written across the years and includes a range of poetic forms. My target audience is kids from eight to eighty.

As the preview says:

'A collection of adventurous verse for young poetry lovers, these humorous and engaging poems exult everything from rats to rainbows. A giggle and hoot reading experience. Permission is hereby granted to smile and smirk through this extensive anthology of poems. Things never get better until they get verse!'

Searching For Hen's Teeth-poetry from the search zone is available through local bookshops, or on line through a range of outlets including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Booktopia, Angus and Robertson, Fishpond and Book Depository.

It is available as a paperback or an ebook, depending on your preference.

I'm hoping it quickly finds its way to the top of the poetry 'pecki…

Fostering A Love of Writing at Home

Last week I was asked to talk to parents at a local school about writing. I made the following points in my presentation. Writing (and Reading) is not just for School! It needs to easily move in and out the classroom. As teachers we want to pull down the classroom walls and spread the learning surrounding writing as far as possible.I urged parents to support these efforts and suggested some actions to aid writing development. Creating a bridge between school and home for young learners is always a great building project in which to be actively involved.                                                                                                                                                                          Set Up A Place at HOME It doesn’t have to be a desk, but it must be comfortable.Provide a basket of engaging booksProvide writing materials-notebook, assorted paper, scissors, glue, magazines Not too many items and rotate them occasionallyNotice reading and writing in th…

Approaching Poetry

When we introduce poetry into our classrooms we need to present it as a celebration of language. We must let our students feel it has the potential to be a great thing for them to enjoy. Poetry is indeed special. Wallace Stevens, the American poet referred to poetry as ‘Simply one of the best things in life.’
Poetry invites the reader, or the receiver to share some of the imagination and wonder of the writer.
For a young child, appreciation of poetry grows with exposure and a growing sense of familiarity with the form. There may not be immediate acceptance. An understanding of poetry develops when the child is invited to listen carefully to the language and to notice the patterns and structures used. Once an understanding is established, the inexperienced poet will more readily engage with poetry and begin to experiment with poetry in all its forms. 
Drawing attention to patterns and structures, rhythms and rhymes means a greater likelihood young poets will embrace them and begin to use …

Searching For Hen's Teeth

Coming Soon!

My next book is a poetry collection for kids. I look forward to  sharing it with you soon. Stay tuned.

September 2014

The Importance of Modelling Topic Selection To Inexperienced Writers

I occasionally find myself talking to a teacher at pains to tell me how their students are struggling to think of suitable topics for their writing. ‘They never seem to come up with much, so that’s why I have to give them sentence starters and topics.’  ‘Why can’t they think of  writing ideas?’ they ask.
I always find myself wondering if those teachers have ever reflected on this same question?

Demonstrating and modelling how we connect to the world around us is a vital consideration for our students. As teachers, we need to demonstrate how we harvest ideas, how we excavate memories and how we ruminate and wonder.
Listing, brainstorming, discussing, questioning, wondering, sketching, mapping, musing, note making all form part of that critical pre-writing part of the process young writers need to see.
If we teach in a manner that fails to account for such things,  writing ideas will continue to struggle for recognition with our student writers.
Nothing influences a child’s attitude to wri…

Notebook Action- Clip, Copy, Collect

My writer’s notebookis a place where I frequently clip and copy artifacts to stimulate my collection of writing ideas. It is a collection zone. I am constantly recording passages and extracts from my reading. These are words I wish I had written. These are words that make my heart sing. They are words that stretch across the emotional spectrum. Loving, tender, insightful, biting and honest words speak to me.I add my responses to these words. They evoke reaction. My eyes, my ears, and my heart are engaged in this ongoing search.

I copy down poetic lines. I paste images from newspapers, magazines and my own photographic experiences. These images inspire more ideas. I combine images and words. I eagerly embrace the rich possibilities that present when text and image connect.

I clip powerful descriptive passages into my notebook. I want these words to soak into me. I am inspired to greater effort by the words of fellow writers. If I tap into the style of writers I admire, I begin  to write u…

Slice of Life Tuesday -Remember When ONE Ruled?

Remember when? We hear it frequently. The nostalgic question. It brings on instant reflection. Well, today I began thinking about the number one. My thoughts quickly became a little nostalgic upon spotting the three mobile phones that are part of home communication system. They were all resting silently on the kitchen bench-top. 

I found myself thinking about those long ago times when homes had just one phone and it was either attached to a wall, or positioned in a fixed location somewhere in the house. This set me to thinking about how other aspects of our lives have expanded from one.

There was a time when homes generally had one bathroom, and one toilet. There was one television and one radio that the entire family shared. One refrigerator was ample for a family's needs. The family had one car, with a one car garage to put it in.  In many households, one person worked in paid employment outside the home. People worked at one job for most of their life. You wore just one watch. Th…

Slice Of Life Tuesday-A Notable Week For Notebook Entries

Some weeks  in my writing life result in a large number of notebook entries. Entries varied and holding great personal satisfaction for me as writer, as a collector.  This last week has provided quite a harvest of potential writing ideas.
I began the week writing about a brief encounter. I had been talking to teachers about assisting students to write about small moments and found myself thinking about a personal experience. An experience from my teenage years.
‘Sometimes you find yourself in the right place at the right time. I recall standing beside a creek not far from my childhood home. The forest around me was briefly quiet allowing the flow of the creek to be clearly heard. It flowed by, murmuring a soft flub-flub as it cornered the bank. Suddenly a mid –sized fish, a trout, I suspect, broke the surface of the stream, heaving its body upwards as if shot from a cannon. It disappeared with a watery slap of bubbles and foam. The surface of the water quickly regaining its former calm.…

Poetry Inspired By Mentor Poets- Structure & Patterns

In my eternal quest for poetry mentor texts that will support the sometimes tentative writing efforts of emerging student poets (and their teachers), I came across this poem by John Rice. It was part of a collection ‘Poems to Perform: A Classic Collection Chosen by the Children's Laureate,’ Julia Donaldson.

The poem has a simple repetitive structure that provides a safe scaffold for the less experience poet. Students immediately note the please do -please do not pattern and the way the poet finishes with a line that breaks the pattern, yet neatly ties the poet’s thoughts together. It’s as if he has an afterthought. They also noted the element of humour the poet had injected into the poem. For young poets, the presence of humour heightens engagement.Instructions For Giants
Please do not step on swings parks, youth clubs, cinemas and discos Please flatten all schools Please do not eat children, pop stars, TV soap operas, kind grannies who give us 50cents Please feel free to gobble up denti…