Showing posts from November, 2017

Writer's Notebooks And Summer Promises

At the end of each school year, I write, urging teachers to quarantine a little time for writing over the summer vacation period. This year my message remains on song. If you are a teacher who writes, it is easier to present as a writer who teaches. 

In recent weeks I have met numerous teachers who have told me they will be taking up the challenge of keeping their own writer’s notebooks. Well, that notebook will need feeding and the summer presents as a potential feast…
I am aware of the level of exhaustion that exists in schools at year’s end. The need to tie up a multitude of loose ends prior to school closing for the summer holidays is paramount. It’s a race to the finish line. The last week of school seems to take the longest time of all the many school weeks though. School becomes the epicentre of fatigue for both students and staff.
I am also aware that on summer’s horizon teachers will have free time to relax and regenerate their energy reserves.  A time for relaxation, holidays, …

Helping Student Writers Find Their Voice In Personal Narratives

Writers must be readers –avid readers. They must also carry within them an enduring love of words and remain keenly interested in how other writers write as well as noticing what they write.

For these reasons I scour book shops for books about writing and writers. It is where I found, ‘Writing The Memoir’ by Judith Barrington. A book which aims to provide a practical guide to the challenges and dilemmas in crafting a writer's own true stories. 

In the book, the author makes the point that in order for the reader to care about what you make of your life, there has to be an engaging voice embedded in the writing –a voice that captures a personality and breathes life into the words. The author further states that memoir requires that the reader feels spoken to. A sense that a conversation is taking place becomes central to the success of the writing.

This is such pertinent advice for those of us who teach writing.  It is a reminder that voice remains a critical element of effective writ…

From Territories To Topics

Writing Territories
Nancie Atwell taught me that the broad range of things we do as writers define our writing territories. They include genres in which we write, or would like to write.Genres and modes we would like to try. Subjects we have written about or would like to, and real or potential audiences for our writing.

 Our writing territories should be packed full of ideas, obsessions, experiences, itches, aversions, and feelings. The writing about these territorial issues may take many forms –poems, memoirs, novels, reviews, literary criticisms, essays, articles, letters, speeches, lists. Our writing territories are as vast we allow them to be.

My Personal Territories include:
Social Issues
My Life In Education
Music and Memory
Travel adventures
Childhood adventures
My parents
Being an educator
Misadventures, mistakes and places beginning with “M”
Family matters/history
Learning about myself
Collecting –books, music, photography
Simple pleasures, tranquil places

All A Twitter About Reading and Writing

The world is what you make it. So is Twitter. I am a willing participant in the world of twitter. I use it to be informed and to share information. I have shaped the feed I receive to include those voices that will grow my understanding of life and learning -well mostly. I use it as a conduit for thinking.
The reading I do informs my writing. It is a place I go to to gather a little treasure among the trite and the tasteless.

A boy once asked his father, 'What is Twitter? The father responded, 'Well you know how annoying it is when the neighbour's dog starts barking in the morning, well Twitter's like that, except it goes all day and all night.' 

Some educators I meet perceive Twitter in this way and as a result have no part of it. Others dabble occasionally. There are also many who, like me, have jumped right in.

I  see Twitter as a tool for learning, a resource for reading and learning. Opportunities exist for information sharing invaluable to my literate existence. …

Teachers, Teaching and The Writer's Notebook

It has been pleasing in recent years to note more and more teachers embracing the idea of 'teacher as a writer.' The adoption of the writer's notebook as a resource for both students and teachers has served to increase the standing of writing within the curriculum. It has lead to greater student engagement with, and understanding of, writing.

Importantly, when a student comes to the realisation that their teacher is a writer too, the credibility of the teacher is significantly enhanced. So too is the student's perception of what it means to be someone who writes. When a teacher chooses to portray themselves as someone who chooses to write, writing is more likely to be viewed as having genuine value. Engagement is more likely with teacher buy in.

A priority in the classroom must surely be teachers making their reading and writing lives visible to impressionable students.

The first challenge for teachers who write is to make writing a  habit. I once had a teacher say to me,…

Growing Writers Through Authentic Teaching Practice

When writing is taught from the perspective of  'what' to write rather than 'how' to write, the pedagogy tends to become isolated.  Discrete genres end up being taught. A set amount of time is frequently given to each particular genre and as a consequence,learning  silos are created. These specific gnre studies are often referred to as units of work. Student choice is greatly diminished and writing frequently becomes somewhat perfunctory. Under such approaches student voice is sacrificed to assuage the need for the teacher to manage the writing task. Establishing a neat and tidy writing environment overrides other considerations. Such an approach flies in direct opposition to the ideal of 'independent writing.' 

What follows are remarks such as. 'Today girls and boys we are all going to write an information text.' This approach lessens the chances of a teacher being either informed or surprised by the writers in their care. It frequently results in writi…

Teaching Kids To Vary The Pace In Their Story Writing

It is important for  every young writer to understand that not all the events within a story are treated equally. Inexperienced student writers often assign equal attention to each aspect of the written piece. This results in the following type of writing -I woke up, got dressed and had breakfast. The kitchen caught on fire and then I went to school.

From our knowledge of stories we know there are parts through which a writer moves quickly, and more important parts where the writer slows down and lingers a while. This is where the writer might intensify the action or reveal the character’s reactions in greater detail. Young writers need to know that this is a deliberate strategy on the part of the author. The author consciously zooms in. The writer uses a magnifying glass to view a part of the story more closely; to focus on a moment and to slow down time. When an important part of the story is enlarged upon, it is a signal to the reader, that this part of the story is important. Both …