Showing posts from 2018

Writing In The Territory

For the last two weeks I have been working with schools in Australia’s Northern Territory. I have had the pleasure of meeting enthusiastic young writers and their equally enthusiastic teachers.

 From Darwin I have been able to visit schools close to the city such as Wagaman Primary School where I worked to 23 teachers from a collection of schools. Pre-briefing sessions were followed by classroom demonstrations and then debriefings. A day of rich writing conversations.

When it comes to writer's notebooks in the classroom, teachers and kids need to reach an agreed understanding - the notebook requires regular feeding in order to remain healthy. The writer must collect a large quantity of material and it needs to be varied in nature.
From the city of Darwin I travelled east to join over four hundred young writers at Taminmin College, Humpty Do for the ‘Big Writing Day Out’ where I had the pleasure of launching their quest for writing ideas and discussing potential ideas in this large op…

Slice of Life Tuesday- Teachers,Tell Your Stories

In recent days I have been pondering the art of storytelling...

A continuing narrative of my work in schools is to promote the idea of writers as storytellers. I have always been a person who has enjoyed sharing stories and jokes, whether from first hand experience, or relating stories gifted across a lifetime.

I always encourage developing writers to tell their stories too. It is a rehearsal tool for the inexperienced writer. Telling their stories before they write not only eliminates the notion of cold starts' it frequently results in a much enhanced end product.

Often a writer's story may be told many times before it emerges as written words. I often tell my stories many times before I commit them to the pages of my notebook.  It is in the telling that the story and the words are refined. The reader benefits from the repeated tellings. Each of us has stories unique to our experience. It is folly not to see value in sharing them.

I once had a student comment about a story her cl…

Book Making With Our Youngest Writers

In recent weeks I have been working with a group of young writers and their teachers at Crib Point Primary School. Writers in their first year of primary school in fact. They are taking important first steps on a long and hopefully, fulfilling journey as writers. 

These young writers choose their own ideas, decide what will go on each page, make changes, reread the text and ultimately decides when the writing is finished and is ready for sharing. They are making books that look and sound like the books teachers are reading to them every day. Books written by trusted authors. The multiple pages created during writing workshop help these inexperienced writer build stamina for the act of writing. How good is that?

It has been most instructive to watch them embrace this learning opportunity. Their boundless enthusiasm for the task of creating their own books has been a revelation not just for me, but more importantly, their teachers.

Each visit they greet me with news of their creative outpu…

Slice of Life Tuesday: Confronting The Blank Page

I have been hearing a lot about writer's block and the challenge of the blank page in my recent discussions in schools and it set me to thinking...

Writers, experienced and inexperienced all face the challenge of the blank page. So let's approach the writing we choose to do with a can-do attitude. The blank page is the very reason the rehearsal of our 'first' or opening words is so vitally important. 
When we rehearse those initial words, we turn up to the party bearing gifts! We bring with us a string of words to launch our writing. Words ready to splash across the page. Words to get things going. These rehearsed words provide momentum. 
I very much enjoy rehearsing my words. There exists in my head a rich world of words and ideas. They entertain me and prepare me for the writing that follows. This is pre-writing. This is the build up. I consider this a vital part of  the writing process; something to share with student writers, so they can prepare their words too.
To hel…

Notebook Sharing Generates Energy.

As I opened my suitcase of surprises, the assembled students peered forward hoping to gain an advanced sighting of the contents. I had brought a collection of Writer’s Notebooks to share with them. During my previous visit I had informed them that I would bring some notebooks to share. They had gathered some artefacts and made some preliminary lists of things that they considered potential topics for their writing, but neither the teacher, nor the students had much previous experience with Writer’s Notebooks. They quickly formed into groups of three as I distributed the notebooks. ‘I want you to be readers and researchers. I want you to be text detectives and make a note of the different types of entries you see in my notebooks. Feel free to take as many ideas as you can carry away. Writers share.'

 I wanted them to see the broad influences on my writing. I told them that there are many ways to use a writer’s notebook. I further explained that what they would be seeing is one way o…

Helping Young Writers Discover The Words They Need To Begin

The writer sits down to face the blank page, only to be greeted by the dazzling whiteness of the paper. The pen is tightly gripped as the writer stares at the empty page. There is hope that time will deliver the wondrous words desperately sought. The empty lines beckon. How to begin?
If you have experienced this feeling, you will have greater empathy for your students and those feelings that sometimes overwhelm them as beginning writers. They often have a broad idea regarding their writing, but have little idea where, or how, to begin. They want to produce something that effectively conveys a message, but remain unsure of how to begin the process.

'I know what I want to write about, but I don't know how to start.'
We need to recognize that it is at this point we can provide meaningful support to allay such writing anxieties.

Teaching students how to think of something to write, provides a way forward. This prewriting stage is the time for students to think and develop ideas- t…

Slice of Life Tuesday- Let's Stop Calling Them Reluctant Writers

'On every page, confidence fights with self-doubt.'
David MorrellI continue to hear the term ‘reluctant writers’ when educators describe certain students. It’s a term that causes me a fair degree of discomfort. 

When teachers talk of young writers in this manner, they pull up some way short of the mark. The question needs to be asked, why is this student behaving in a way that has them shying away from writing?  Asking ‘why?’ is a key to finding out more about that particular young writer and hopefully what is inhibiting their full participation in writing- their connection to writing.

Invariably, what is impeding the writer from experiencing a stronger connection to the writing task is confidence- or rather a lack of it. And if we dig a little deeper it is frequently connected to a poor self-perception in relation to spelling. It may also be the challenge presented by the physical task of writing due to a lack of a fluent writing style. Sometimes it is related to matters of sigh…

The Quest For Independence Among Student Writers

The Quest Continues

When I find myself working in a classroom where student writers are openly encouraged to think for themselves and to make their own writing decisions, it's hard not to smile. The writing of such students is invariably wide ranging and exciting. Their engagement is clearly heightened. The classroom seems to hum with possibility. There is demonstrable energy in the learning space.

As I move about I see student writers choosing not only their topics, but also the preferred genre for their writing. They appear more fully engaged in matching their words to the needs of their readers. They exhibit an authentic sense of purpose and genuine ownership of the writing tasks they have chosen. When you talk with them, they articulate the reasons guiding their actions. These writers are supported in informed decisions. This is most evident.

Each writer appears to know what they want to work on and how to approach their own particular writing challenge or project. Workshop time …

Slice of Life Tuesday- Time For Tea

Sitting in the mid-morning light of day my thoughts land on the idea of enjoying a cup of tea. The sun is ever so slowly warming to its task. By mid-afternoon it may bring soothing warmth to my shoulders. Right now the air is still crisp after a rather cold night. Remnants of dew linger on the wooden deck and on the hydrangeas. This is the pattern of recent days. Cool nights followed by days of clear blue skies and a brief burst of mild sunshine. 

My choice of tea slides mostly between Earl Grey and Green tea. I take my tea with no sugar and no milk. I like to share a cup of tea with someone. I rarely drink tea alone. I was trained by my parents to view drinking tea as a social occasion. To sit and ruminate is a simple pleasure. Action plans are streamlined. Review and reflection frequently occurs. Often speculation drops into a conversation. Dreams and plans can find a spark at this time too. Matters may be resolved. Tea helps a conversation flow it seems. I also use tea drinking as a…

Slice of Life Tuesday -Inkblot Memories

Memory of times gone by emerge from time to time prompted by words, images, thoughts and people. For my recent birthday I was given two pens, both of them special in their own way. One was a fountain pen, beautifully balanced with just the right feel in my hand. The other a finely shaped ball point pen, also possessed of subtle feel when held. I am enjoying having both of them to call upon when I write. 

Upon receiving these gifts, I found myself pondering my life journey from a handwriting perspective. Much has changed across the years. The tools we use for writing have evolved, expanded and improved.  I began to think back to my early handwriting experiences as a left hander in a predominantly right handed world. My response takes the form of a poem. A poem titled appropriately 'Inkblot,'


I was born into a world of blotting paper
Ink wells and fountain pens
A left handed writer
Living in a writing minefield

Ink wells and fountain pens
Held the magic indigo liquid
Providing sh…