Showing posts from January, 2016

Assisting The Inexperienced Student Writer Make Best Use of Their Notebooks

As inexperienced writers, students frequently need extra guidance and support in the early stages of the year to develop that essential momentum and confidence necessary for successful writing. They are learning to trust a new teacher, new surroundings, and maybe new classmates. There is a lot to consider. It takes a little time to adapt to new routines and expectations when the new school is beginning. What does this teacher expect of me as a reader and writer?
How do we as teachers assist students to gain trust and develop momentum as writers?
You will have to gently lead them forward by revealing the hidden potential of this writer’s resource, showing them how it can play a vital role in their daily lives as writers.
Used appropriately, Writer’s notebooks allow developing writers to make stronger connections to the world surrounding them. The harvesting and documenting of their daily lives provides an easy, informal way to start thinking about new topics and ideas. They become increa…

Making The Write Start in 2016 Part 4 -Launching Possible Notebook Writing Ideas

After you have shared your own writer’s notebook students have an example to follow.  They may even use some of the ideas sighted in your notebook(s) to spark writing ideas of their own.  ‘What did you notice when you were looking at my notebook? 
Hopefully they notice that as a writer, you choose to write about a range of topics using a range of genres. Hopefully they notice you are a curious collector of potential ideas. Hopefully they notice a mix of fiction and non-fiction writing.

With your students, create an anchor chart/list of possible notebook inclusions such as:
Lingering questions and wonderings
Memoir pieces
Opinion pieces
Descriptions of place, people, events
Fiction/Fact/ Faction (a blend of fact & fiction) stories
Rants and raves
Lists ( It’s a good idea to show them how it’s done first and how it differs from a mundane shopping list) then compile a list of possible lists such –things that are slow, fast, scary, exciting, boring …

Making The Write Start In 2016 Part3 - Expectations For The Writer's Notebook

Because your students are largely inexperienced writers they will be looking for direction from the most proficient writer in the room- their teacher.
I present the following list of expectation as a starting point. As you grow to understand the needs of your young writers you may feel the need to modify some of these expectations. 
They should reflect the immediate needs of your growing community of writers. Here are possible inclusions to consider, but essentially, you should initiate a conversation with your students in an effort to establish some non-negotiables regarding the management and care of the notebooks.

We write in our notebooks at school.We write in our notebooks in places beyond our school.We can find suitable topics and ideas from our lives, our reading, and from our thinking.As writers we will make decisions about our writing on a daily basis.As writers we can try new writing strategies taught in our writing workshops in our notebooks.We respect every writer’s notebook.

Slice of Life Story- Musical Appreciation In A Notebook

I was recently given a special notebook as a gift. A notebook clearly designed to celebrate music in all its forms. The deliberate and intentional focus of this small notebook, challenged me to think about how I would respond as a writer. I began to think about my personal history with music and it was immediately apparent that music has been a constant in my life. Music has left its mark on me for as long as I can recall. 
Throughout this notebook pages are periodically marked with musical quotations. One in particular set me to thinking. The quotation, attributed to German writer and poet, Heinrich Heine simply states, ‘When words leave off, music begins.’

From personal experience this maxim has always been borne out. Words and music locked in an embrace. At times they have co-existed, working in splendid synchronicity and feeding off each other’s special energy. During my writing history I have written three musicals along with the lyrics for more than twenty songs. Words and music h…

Making The Write Start in 2016 Part 2 -First Notebook Entries

The first  notebook entry is most important…
It might be a letter to one’s self about what you intend to do as a writer. John, a fifth grader wrote the following poem as his initial entry.

It’s a Place
Why am I keeping this notebook?                                                                                                                          
Because it’s a place where I can keep track of my life                                                                                                                                                     It’s a place where I can observe closely and where I can store little pieces of strength                                                                                                                 It’s a place where I can keep the elements of my life                                                                                
(Lightning, fire, ice, time and space)��������������������������������������������������������������������������…

Making The Write Start in 2016 Part 1

The new school year is on the horizon in Australia.
I have prepared a series of posts to assist teachers to launch writing in their classrooms in the early days of the new school year. Hope you find it helpful in presenting your writing program in 2016.

I can say this with full confidence; every teacher possesses the potential to be the most influential writing mentor students will encounter in any school year. You don’t have to be a published writer to successfully mentor young writers, but you most certainly need to be a teacher who writes. You must be someone who makes time to write. Someone who keeps a writer’s notebook. You must be someone who understands the challenges and the joys of writing.

I frequently use the following analogy to explain this teaching challenge. ’You can sit safely in the boat and urge them to swim faster, or you can join them in the water and assist them to keep their heads above water and develop more confidence as a result of your support and presence.’


Slice of Life Story- Unexpected Treasure Find Inside Books

On numerous occasions of late, I have found myself taking down a book from the shelves within my bookish world and making quite unexpected discoveries involving hidden treasure. This is treasure within treasure. Treasure additional to the author’s message. Secreted within the pages of some of my books, I have chanced upon ephemeral items that delight and intrigue me. Cards, tickets and assorted pieces of paper have suddenly revealed themselves hiding among the pages. On each occasion, strong connections to my personal family history have immediately arisen. It feels like these tiny treasures have been patiently awaiting discovery. ‘At last, you here,’ they sigh. Questions have arisen. Who placed them here, between the pages, and why? Some of the answers are quite obvious, others somewhat less so.
While browsing through a rather chunky and ancient copy of ‘New Standard Cookery’(published 1933)    I chanced upon a plethora of cards, news cuttings, letters, tickets, additional recipes, la…

The Writer, As Observer of the World

Each morning, whenever possible, I walk in the fresh air, not too long after the sun has peeped above the far horizon. Being on holiday at present enables me to walk more frequently. I use the time to organize my thoughts, drink in a little of my surroundings, and collect possibilities. I take my phone for music. It is also there to enable me to collect photographic evidence. Surprises await the keen observer.
Since the age of about ten I have been enamored by photography. As a teacher and a writer, this love of the photographic image has been a most positive influence of my work, my life. It has aided my eye as a writer. It has piqued my curiosity. It has opened me up to possibility and enlivened my senses.  Small detail has become increasingly important. What takes place inside a camera can also take place inside your head. My eyes are alert to the magic that flashes before me.
As teachers of writing we need to be collectors. We must observe, collect and analyze. This documentation of…