Showing posts from October, 2016

The Influence of other Authors on our Teaching of Writing

Writing Under The Influence

As teachers of writing we frequently gravitate to the words of authors we admire. We then take their observations about the writing process and apply them to our own writing efforts. However, when we find ourselves reading published works- novels, picture books, news articles, or poems the process that has delivered them is largely hidden.
We begin to speculate about what has taken place in order for these profound words to appear before our eyes. We begin to search for answers. We want to empower ourselves in order to be able to empower our student writers. We begin to grow our own understandings in order to develop strategies we can teach our students. This is an exciting development in our teaching.
When we move in this space, our teaching is full of possibility. The writing moves of writers we hold in high regard begin to inform our teaching.  We start to consider the impact a particular writing move might make for the development of our students, as write…

Learning To Read Like Writers

Reading Like Writers

To think how a teacher of writing would read, we must start by thinking how a writer would read. We also need to teach our students to read in this way, but only after we have helped them become ‘someone who writes.’
I believe the following strategy I first saw used by Katie Wood Ray provides an excellent framework for identifying writing craft in a text:

1. Notice something about the craft of the text 2. Talk about it and make a theory about why a writer might use this craft 3. Give the craft a name 4. Think of other texts you know. Have you seen this craft before? 5. Try and envision using this crafting in your own writing

Source: Katie Wood Ray
General Observations About Texts

What’s the text about?How does this help us think about topic selection?What is the author’s approach to writing?Is there more than one form operating within the text?Who is narrating the piece?Does the text teach us about character development?What viewpoint is t…

Assisting Young Writers To Develop A Sense of Setting

A Sense of Place


The inexperienced writer often pays scant attention to this important element of their writing. As a consequence, their readers are provided with an incomplete vision of where the actual story is being played out. It is important to draw attention to the way experienced writers use words to create strong visual images to deliver a strong sense of setting.

The setting or place, creates the world in which the characters live and struggle. In this world, the plot unfolds. Something will happen!
Setting and Your SENSES When you think of a setting, describing it using your senses provides the writer with so much fertile thought for building a backdrop.

•             Touch •             Smell •             Sight •             Sound •             Taste The setting can be used in many ways in a piece of writing. A brief description of a place is an excellent way to set the scene at the beginning of a piece of writing. It gives the reader time to feel at home before moving into th…

Assisting Young Writers To Compose Effective Narratives

The Full Story About Narratives

Before young writers can begin to develop a more distinctive storyteller’s voice, we must assist them to understand that writing becomes more personal when the topic or focus of their writing is limited to a specific moment in time. The closer they can get to a small moment, the more the writing comes to life for the reader. Then, if they can link more than one of these special moments along a timeline, a sense of storytelling emerges for the reader. 

Writers are essentially story tellers. They frequently tell their stories many times over before they are transformed into words. We must allow the inexperienced writers in our care to practice the art of telling their stories to different audiences. Doing this establish the story more fully in the mind of the writer. This is particularly important with our youngest writers.

 If your students are writing focused and clear narratives but you are not gaining a sense of the storyteller’s voice in the words, this…

Teaching Young Writers To Unpack Heavy Sentences

Unpacking a heavy sentence!
Have you ever noticed how sometimes when you read, you come to a sentence that makes you keen to know more?
Some sentences have a lot of ideas packed inside them. They prompt the asking of questions. You just know that if you were able to open them up like a suitcase there would be more interesting things to discover.
If we can identify those sentences heavy with hidden ideas, we provide ourselves with opportunities to unpack them and share such magic with our readers.
Student writers frequently write sentences begging to be unpacked. All too often, their readers are left hanging because the writer fails to unpack the loaded words. The curious reader is left unfulfilled. 
Experienced writers undertake such craft moves regularly. Here are some heavy sentences written by Morris Gleitzmann. Notice the way Morris follows up and unpacks them in the sentences that follow.
‘I wake up. My neck is stiff and my eyes hurt in the sunlight and I’ve got breadcrumbs stuck to m…

Influencing The Development of Student Writing

One of the great challenges we face as teachers of writing is learning to observe student writing with a view that encompasses instruction. The trick is to look closely at the writing of an individual to notice what that writer needs and at the same time consider other students who may be faced with the same direct need in the development of their writing. 

Patterns of need frequently emerge as you confer with your students. When this happens you may find that you need to develop a teaching focus for the whole class, or a small group. It will not surprise you to learn that this is the perpetual challenge of the Writer’s workshop.

Once your students are writing regularly and displaying increased stamina and engagement, you may find yourself asking questions –

What happens now?
What should I do to most effectively move their writing forward?
What do I say to them when I join them for a writing conference?

It is easy to look at a student’s writing and immediately jump on the secretarial aspect…

When Student Writers Become Fully Engaged.

When young writers are fully engaged in the writing they are doing, it carries with it the same habits of mind and heart one associates with the engaged reader.

They display sustained attention to a particular writing project in the same manner a reader invests time in making meaning from a text.
They remain focused. They accept that sometimes writing is quite challenging. It is this meaning making challenge these writers increasingly enjoy.
The engaged writer seeks real purposes for the writing they do. They develop a growing awareness of the need to attend to the needs of their readers (audience).
The engaged writer exudes a quiet confidence as they as they participate in the writing life.
The engaged writer willingly engages with language. They see potential in words.
They engaged writer is more likely to develop an appetite for reading. They appreciate the role reading plays in being a writer.
The engaged writer handles confusion with perspective. They view its occurrence as a natural o…

Slice of Life Story- Wise Words of Winton

Enjoyed the privilege of hearing iconic Australian author, Tim Winton talk about his writing life on Friday. He also discussed the writing of his latest memoir instalment, ‘The Boy Behind The Mirror,’ chronicling aspects of his earlier life in Western Australian and the influences on his writing life.

My library has many of Winton’s books from the iconic fictional saga of ‘Cloudstreet’ to ‘Dirt Music’ and 'Blueback' to one of my personal favourites, ‘Land’s Edge,’ a coastal memoir, in which the author writes about his obsession with what occurs where the water meets the shoreline. It is a homage to the ocean and his childhood and the thread that links the two. It is for me, a book to which I regularly return, to experience the joy of discovering literary treasures.

I hold two copies of this book in my library. The first copy came complete with a catalogue of colour photographs. It was reminiscent of a coffee table book. It was later republished in a trimmed back version paying a…

Slice of Life Story - A Small, Yet Awesome Moment

From the safety of the shore I recently watched as a small boy maybe eight years old paddled his surfboard towards a wall of surf on Bali’s Legian Beach. 

A good three metre swell presented itself to all who were game to chance it. Many older, more experienced surfers had accepted the challenge. The boy was not dissuaded. The small framed one stood out like a fly in a bowl of rice.
The small boy worked his skinny arms tirelessly propelling his board to a place beyond the breakers, where the big boys go. A place from which to launch themselves upon a shore bound wave. It was a struggle, but he doggedly persisted, almost willing his board to go further out. It appeared to be a giant challenge just to get out there.
Waiting for the right moment to go, he watched the older surfers break from the huddle and tackle the waves. The boy’s first two efforts are unsuccessful. His light body and his small board make it easy for the wave to give him the slip and he slides off the back. He is not done…

Growing The Young Writer's Awareness of Audience and Interest

We can help student writers discover the real purpose for their writing by discussing the matter of who we write for. Yes, it is important to establish a sense of audience. Yes, it is important to understand the needs of your readers. However, as Jane Yolen reminds us in her book, ‘Take Joy,’ the only constant in your life is you. As teachers, we must alert student writers that the first audience for their words are themselves. They are the first reader. 
As teachers we must demonstrate our understanding of this important fact when sharing our own writing with students. 
Whether writing from the perspective of the child you were, or the adult we have become, we initially write to satisfy your own needs.  It is imperative to explain to the less experienced writer how we write about those matters that grab your interest. We write about things we find intriguing, things that make us think. 
Teachers sometimes tell students to write about what they know. It is more than writing about what we …