Showing posts from 2017

Information On Proposed Phonics Test For Australian Grade 1 Students

It is vitally important that educators understand the actual evidence emerging from England regarding the Grade1 phonics test that has been implemented there - none of which was reported by the 'expert panel' set up to advise Australia's Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham. 

Misty Adoniou, Associate Professor in Language and Literacy at the University of Canberra has posted an evidence based response on 'The Conversation,' 

The test proposed for Australian Grade 1 students follows the model of the UK test. 

Here is the link:

It is critically important as educators to be up to date with all the available information surrounding such matters. I urge my fellow educators to read Misty's article. 

Where Do My Words Begin Their Journey?

Rehearsal is critical to my writing. I embrace it. I welcome its comforting presence in my head. I know it assists me to clarify my ideas; find my direction.  Playing with words and ideas internally is such an important part of my writing process. Think of it like a tumble drier with thoughts and ideas rolling around and around until they are ready to be taken out. This is where writing ideas are born. It marks the beginning. 

Writing ideas swirl round in my head. Words collide. They appear and disappear. They are repeated over and over to ensure their suitability. Are they page worthy? I live with them for days and more, before the chosen ones emerge on the page. I frequently wake up thinking about the possible shape of my writing for that day. I wake up thinking about my writing. Later in the morning over a welcome cappuccino, I will probably talk about it –further sorting out will take place. -critical rehearsal for the writing to follow. A bubbling energy is growing within me, -an …

Pre Writing- A Vital Component of The Writing Workshop

I find it increasingly gratifying to witness teaching practice in the writing workshop that recognizes the importance of the pre-writing phase of the process. I see fewer and fewer cold starts where the topic, or writing task is presented to a class and they are immediately instructed to begin writing. –Just like that. No rehearsal- no warming to the task.

Cold start writing was a common practice during my primary school days, Teachers dished out the topic and we began scratching away with our pens. We scrambled for thoughts and ideas, denied the opportunity to mentally plan or prepare. We waited for the teacher to inform us about what to write and we were unable to prepare our thoughts and ideas prior to the writing. Sadly, this approach has not been totally eradicated from the pedagogical practices of some schools. I remain hopeful of its eventual extinction. Getting ready to write is the foundation for producing an improved product. It is a courtesy we extend to the inexperienced wr…

Notebook Nourishment

I was recently approached to comment as a critical friend about how a school was using the writer's notebook to develop the writing of students. They had experienced some confusion around how this valuable resource should be viewed. One view was described as follows:

'Students use their writer’s notebook to create any writing piece they want, in any style, for any purpose, however they wish, whenever they wish, at all times? (E.g. Everyone in the class is writing completely different things, depending entirely on their own desires.)'
While this position most accurately aligns to the vision of authentic writing approaches, it doesn’t quite cover what actually needs to be taking place in the classroom and beyond. It would be erroneous to think the role of the most experienced writer in the classroom is supplanted by this pedagogical stance. It is critically important for teacher- writers to play an active role in the writing lives of students.

We most certainly want our young w…

Realistic Fiction-Time To Get Real

Realistic fiction is a genre that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s there under our noses, yet the writing of other genres and styles is more frequently encouraged.

Interestingly, much of the fiction that students have read to them, or they select for themselves, incorporates this genre. So they are quite familiar with its structure and features. Further, it adds a broader dimension to writing possibilities. A dimension that challenges the young writer to venture beyond fantasy and dystopian worlds and allows them to write about characters who may be experiencing life in a  manner  not too dissimilar to themselves.

Realistic fiction involves stories that are true to life. Students quickly realize that you don’t have things such as talking animals and cars that fly in realistic fiction. If students are taught to ask the question, ‘Could this actually happen? It will keep them away from potential pitfalls should they choose to write in this style.

It’s perfectly legitimate to use…

An Alternative Approach To Teaching Narratives To Young Writers

Periodically I find myself engaged in conversations with teachers about student narrative writing. They are often working with writers in junior classes. The conversation reveals how committed they are to teaching narrative genre to their entire class, simultaneously. They further inform me that their young writers just don’t get it (narrative writing) and they are pulling their hair out attempting to have the writers put all the pieces ’together.’ 

I am extremely keen at this point to know more regarding the approach they have employed. I harbour strong suspicions about the methodology…

Tell me how you are approaching the teaching? I ask.

Invariably, a conscious planning decision has been made to carve up the narrative into discreet parts and teachers have then embarked on a quest to teach these elements separately. They then set the young writer the challenge of assembling the narrative. They are asked to pull all the pieces into a coherent piece. The teaching of narratives has been si…

Extending Student Writing Choices Beyond Popular Culture

s When the inexperienced student writer chooses to write about topics and ideas that might objectively be viewed as being-lightweight, violent, saccharine sweet or even banal, we must reflect for a moment where these writers draw their inspiration. We tend to write what we know and it is particularly true of our youngest writers. 

Despite our very best efforts to expose and influence students in the direction of quality literature and the mindful use of well-chosen mentor texts, (across different genres) we often find ourselves confronting a battle with the strong influence of popular culture and its heady appeal to impressionable young minds.

Kids who have limited reading experience often have little else upon which to call. We therefore encounter young writers undervaluing their own ideas; their own lives and experiences as potential for writing. They are more likely to defer to films, video games, television shows and pop music for inspirational uptake. 

It is hardly surprising that so…

Some Strategies For Improving Student Writing Outcomes

One of our primary aims as teachers of writing is to assist the inexperienced writer to narrow the gap between their intentions and actions. 

Going forward there are some specific actions we need to focus on such as assisting students to develop writing stamina and experience success. 

Here are some issues that may arise with student writers and some suggestions as to how we might assist them to overcome these obstacles to writing success.

If I see this… I might Strategies A student is just going through the motions with a writing piece. Assist the student to unearth topics to write down that provide genuine reasons for writing that go beyond just writing. Listing, gathering ideas, gathering artifacts. Talking to other writers. Students essentially write about the same topic time after time. Talk with students about other reasons that writers write. Consider writing about the topic in a different genre. Nudge them to try something that will move them beyond the comfort zone they have developed.

Effective Editing In The Writing Classroom

We know inexperienced writers make errors. We also know experienced writers make mistakes. Learning cannot take place without some level of error occurring. The challenge is, how do we equip our student writers to identify errors so they can effect the changes necessary to improve the quality of their writing pieces?

Children do not become better writers by writing less, and this is the possible negative outcome from an over emphasis on correction.

Correction is beneficial when students see the need for it. When they have an authentic purpose for the writing they are doing, they engage in the process with purpose and a desire to make the writing they share, work for the reader. They begin to respect their readers and understand their needs. This awareness of audience is a vital consideration.

The pen that makes the corrections must be in the hand of the writer, not the teacher. When the teacher assumes the total responsibility for correcting errors related to spelling, punctuation or gra…