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Showing posts from March, 2018

Teaching Young Writers To Closely Observe Their World

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One morning I followed the lead of Keri Smith in her book, ‘How to be an Explorer of the World’ and set out for a morning walk with the words ‘Everything is interesting, look closer’ singing in my ears. My walking project was to take photos only of things found on the ground. Using my Iphone I walked my usual route, pausing to snap items that caught my eye. 



Since the age of about ten I have loved the wonder of photography. As a teacher and a writer, this love of the photographic image has been a positive influence. I believe it has aided my eye as a writer. Small detail is important. You train your writing eye to do exactly what your photographic eye must do. What a camera captures can also be captured inside your head.

As teachers of writing we need to be collectors. We must observe, collect and analyse. This documentation of specific elements of our world, our culture, through varied forms of research, forms a large part of our life-source as writers.

I also collect to enable me to re…

The Wonder of Wordplay

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I recently had the pleasure of conducting a workshop on Wordplay and its important role in growing writers. Here are some of the messages I was able to share with participants. Trust they add to your thinking around the teaching of writing...



Wordplay is such an omnipotent thing. It is unavoidable. Conversation, songs, TV shows advertisements, literature , greeting cards, brochures magazines and newspapers all employ word play abundantly. Everywhere we go, it leaps out at us.

In many schools however the study of words, has over time, been shrunken down to mean little more than reading and vocabulary knowledge. And yet, I still recall my teachers encouraging me to play with malapropisms, oxymorons, listen for tautology and wonder at the mystery of invented words in Lewis Carroll's poem 'Jabberwocky.' I recall the fun we had creating rhyming couplets and discovering palindromic words. At home, my father regularly engaged me in wordplay and riddles. There were also a fair smatt…

Growing Into Writing

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I love to write. I need to write. For me it is a siren voice within. It calls me back if I stay away for too long. I try to write something every day, but it is not always possible. I write most days even if its just a few lines. Other days I write for more extensive periods. The easy flow of words brings an inner rush of contentment.

I keep my writer's notebook close by -always. It travels with me when I leave the house. It is a travelling companion. Wherever I go in this world, it goes with me.  My notebook is my collection zone. A place where I trap and collect potential writing ideas. Ralph Fletcher once wrote that keeping a notebook enables the writer to drag a huge net through their life in order to gather rich details. My notebook therefore contains many ideas. Initial drafts, lists, experiments, quotes, words heard, tentative and fragile beginnings.

I also write on a computer situated in my study. I am surrounded by my favourite books. The support of my fellow writers is clo…

Writers Make Decisions

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Nothing influences a child’s attitude to writing more than the choice of topic. If the child is given control over topic choice and if the teacher displays genuine interest in that choice, then there’s usually no limit to the effort the young writer will make. Young writers who are given this power soon develop confidence in choosing appropriate topics for their writing. They are engaged in thinking and preparing for the writing that follows. This represents the foundations of writer agency. It is a demonstrable act of confidence in the child's capacity to think, decide and act as a writer.



Sometimes I hear teachers say, ‘They’re (student writers) not good at choosing something to write about.' 
The logical starting point is, ‘How do we assist  inexperienced writers to develop this aspect of their writing?

Actively teaching student writers how to make good choices, showing them how to identify a suitable focus for their writing, choosing the right genre/s and harvesting ideas are…

Answering Questions Posed by Young POETS

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As a frequent visitor to schools I have the great pleasure of working with groups of young, enthusiastic poets and their teachers.

When I arrive in a classroom, young poets are often pre-loaded with questions, and most keen to have them answered.  I try to answer as many as I can, but we frequently run out of time, and the poetry caravan moves on to the next classroom. So I am here to answer some of those questions -right here, right now.
So here goes:

When you were little did you love writing?

The short answer is yes. I have always enjoyed words and language. I can't recall a time when I wasn't doing some kind of writing.

When did you write your first poetry book?

I have had poems published over the years, but it wasn't until 2014 that I had an entire book of poems (an anthology) published. When I looked back through all my notebooks I realized I had hundreds of poems from which to choose. So, 'Searching For Hen's Teeth-Poetry From The Search Zone' became my first c…

A Great Writing Habit: Rereading Your Writer's Notebook

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I am forever rereading writing pieces from my notebooks. I greatly appreciate how much rereading older entries assists me in discovering a new idea to feed this writing life addiction. Virginia Woolf defines rereading as a chance to find diamonds in the dust-heap. I find myself frequently covered in dust and constantly looking for precious gems.


I am acutely aware that rereading is vitally important to me as a writer. Apart from the possibility of finding a new writing thread, I am also reliving the moment in time when I first captured a particular entry. On some occasions rereading connects me with previously over looked memories or ideas. So apart from reading to revise or proofread, I would also add rereading for the express purpose of excavating ideas. This rereading is akin to rummaging through a toy box as a child and discovering a lost treasure. It works best when I leave some time between the writing and the rereading. Often i deliberately chose an older notebook to spark my t…