Showing posts from 2018

Reviewing Student-Teacher Writing Conferences

Too often kids think a ‘writing conference’ is where the teacher ‘fixes’ your writing... 

The notion of a conference as a 'conversation between two writers' needs to be at the heart of a conference. 

If we want provide our writing lessons with authenticity then as teachers we must encourage students writers to request a conference when needed rather than foisting one upon them.

There's little to be gained interrupting the flow of a writer deep in the act of composing a piece, just to conduct a writing conference.

On the other hand, there's little point in making a writer wait when they desperately need your support to deal with a perceived roadblock in their writing. 

It therefore makes sense to set up a system where the needs of the writer are placed at the centre of the action. Better to implement a conferring system where the writer is encouraged to identify a need to confer and is able to initiate some discourse around their writing. 

The student writer is asked to write…

Further Jottings From A Writing Life

These random writing thoughts are gleaned from various sources connected to my writing life- my writer's notebooks, blogs, Twitter, Facebook. They represent some of my recent writing related activity in these places. Not all these observation as memorable, but they are mine. I collected them. I share them to demonstrate the broad and enduring influences upon those of us who choose to be, teachers who write: _______________________________________ I would hate to live a life so full of time pressures that I couldn't possibly expend the time to return a shopping trolley after visiting the supermarket.
You can choose to teach according to curriculum (or school based mandates), adopting a tick the box mentality, or you can teach according to what you know about the particular needs of learners. Without doubt, the difference is significant, the impact lingering! Blindly adhering to curriculum mandates does not make your pedagogy authentic. Let curriculum inform your work, but never le…

Revealing Author's Craft To Student Writers

When we read like writers we set about gathering information about writing that will form curriculum for our teaching. As teachers of writing, we must ask ourselves:
What do I see the writer doing here?
Why does the writer do this?
Have I seen this particular craft move in other writing
What can I call this craft move?
How could I try this in my own writing?
How could I help my student writers to try this in their writing?

The more we practice reading like writers, the easier it becomes to identify elements of writing craft present in the books with which we work. It is a skill that develops with practice. It takes time and regular practice. It requires us to engage in professional conversations with our colleagues regarding a text's potential.That is why such matters should be part of teacher planning sessions. Such texts should be our ticket in. Bring a trusted author with you...

In time it has the potential to change the way we read. When we learn to read like writers we are no longer …

Mentor Text Magic With Pookie Aleera

The effective use of mentor texts is something worth sharing. Exposing impressionable young writers to exemplars and allowing the words of a trusted author to influence the writing student writers produce, is important in our work as teachers of writing, and teachers of writers.

My friend and colleague, Leanne Hunter currently teaches Grade 3 at Toorak College, Mount Eliza in my home state of Victoria. Leanne choose to read a personal favourite of mine, 'Pookie Aleera Is Not My Boyfriend,'by Steven Herrick to her eager young learners. In this verse novel, Award-winning author Steven Herrick presents a heart-warming tale about friendship, grief and the importance of baked goods. In a country town, in a school just like the schools you know, the kids in Class 6A tell their stories.  – it's honest, quirky, funny and frequently heartfelt. It is written from many characters' points of view - the cool kid, the funny kid, the bullied kid, the teacher, the school cleaner and ev…

Writer's Notebook -Summer Scribes

At the conclusion of each school year, I write, urging teachers to quarantine a little time for writing over the summer holiday period. As we rapidly approach the end of the 2018 academic year, my message remains unerringly simple. 

If you are a teacher who writes, it is easier to present as a writer who teaches. 
     In these final weeks of the school year numerous teachers have informed me (without prompting) they will be embracing the challenge of keeping their own writer’s notebooks in 2019. Well, that notebook will benefit from some early 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.  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 wil…

Reviewing The Role of My Writer's Notebook

I feel a compelling need to revisit notions of what it means to use a writer’s notebook as a writing tool. Firstly, I understand, not every writer has a notebook in the traditional sense, but many do. I am one of the many. My relationship with writer’s notebooks winds all the way back to September, 1983. Across the intervening years, my notebooks have been various. I have an extensive collections of notebooks. Notebooks documenting my journey as a writer across more than three decades provide a rich paper trail from which I am able to mine some writing wisdom.

Mu notebooks have evolved over time with respect to shape, form, and content. However, there are elements of that notebook/writer relationship which have remained consistently unchanged. Each notebook has been sturdy in its design. All my notebooks have had strong spines and hardy covers. Most have had ruled lines, but occasionally I have consciously chosen a new notebook with totally blank pages. I enjoy the variety such decisio…

Helping Young Writers Understand The Significance of Details

When I ask young writers what they understand by the term 'add details' they frequently respond with, 'We have to add more describing words.'

Some actually tell me that it means they need to add some adjectives. Such misconceptions sell the role of 'detail' so short. As a consequence, this becomes the only strategy these developing writers have to address the important issue of detail. The result is often a piece of writing drowning in flowery, somewhat clunky adjectives.  A kind of adjective pile up. Adjectives are like fat. We need to learn to consume them sparingly!

Irecall how my teachers frequently glided by as we were engaged in writing and following a cursory glance at our assembled words uttered the phrase - ‘You need to add more detail.’ These words were delivered while waving a floppy finger above the page. They would then move onto the next writer before there was any chance to ask a follow up question. We were left to ponder the deeper meaning of ‘det…