Showing posts from 2019

In School, Who Were Your Writing Heroes?

W ho were your writing champions as you went through the formative years of learning? Who do you recall as a writing hero; a teacher who promoted writing through their own actions? Someone who inspired you to greater effort and made you want to persist. Sadly, it wasn’t until I reached my tertiary education that I actually encountered such a person. The late Tom McCabe encouraged me to become editor of the college newspaper. He talked about writing in a way that previous teachers had conspicuously failed to do. He re-ignited my passion for writing poetry. He talked with passion and authority about the joy of writing.  He was a stand out champion for writing! I certainly had teachers who stood out as beacons for literature and reading. I recall my teacher in Grade 3, Mr Murphy reading Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi, an adventurous tale of a mongoose and his adversary, the cobra. People such as Frank Harris, my Grade 6 teacher,  who read the poetry of Henry Lawson and Andrew &

Writer's Notebooks - A Broader View For Developing Writers

Stories continue to reach my ears of schools where Writer's Notebooks are being presented to student writers in rather limited ways. Ways that serve to severely limit the notebook’s potential to influence and inform the developing writer.  The notebook is capable of being much more than a depository for 'seed' ideas, lists of potential topics and an endless succession of Y charts, invoked every time a potential topic or idea is raised.  When I see student notebooks limited to these types of entries, it suggests a somewhat narrow interpretation of what a writer’s notebook is expected to provide. They appear undernourished and underdeveloped. They are a pale imitation of what might be. They lack versatility and vitality.   Student notebooks belong to the student writers. We want young writers to develop a clear sense of ownership, responsibility and pride in them. To be putting our energy into claiming control of their notebooks will never achieve suc

Teachers, Invest In Your Own Writer's Notebook

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 2020 school year in Australia, my message remains unerringly simple.  If you are a teacher who writes, it is easier  to present as a writer who teaches.       A Writer's Notebook holds the potential to become a valuable teaching resource, as well as a writing tool, if we approach writing, willingly. We must be the risk takers we want our students to become. To become a teacher who writes requires  commitment and a willingness to quarantine some of your time to engage in writing. We become writers through regular practice. It doesn't happen through hopes and wishes.  If the decision is to go down  the path of maintaining your own notebook, that notebook will benefit from some early feeding and the summer presents as a potential feast… Imagine how much credibility you will attract upon

Obtaining Another Just Right Book -Your Writer's Notebooks For 2020

As the Australian school year draws to a close, we reach a time where attention is given to student resources and supplies for the next academic year.  So, I find myself thinking about how schools might best go about supplying students with writer’s notebooks for 2020.  Handing out a one size fits all notebook relegates this special writing tool to little more than workbook status in the eyes of young writers. If kids come to view the writer's notebook in this way, it loses integrity. It loses its individuality. It can come to viewed as a 'teacher thing.' The ownership has been eroded significantly. Such an outcome remains totally avoidable, but it does however require some pre planning on the part of those managing the acquisition of school resources.  An increasing number of schools are asking suppliers to provide a range of writer's notebook prior to the end of the school year. Student writers are then asked to peruse the selection on offer

Increasing Engagement For Adolescent Writers

I recall a quote in newspaper a few years back regarding the teaching of writing. Professor Peter Knapp was quoted thus; ‘Kids come out of primary school without mastering the technical aspects of writing and yet secondary schools aren't equipped to teach writing or, in many cases, prepared to teach it.’ Let's unpack that statement a little... There appears to be a persisting belief that Primary Schools are expected to teach students to read and write, and Secondary Schools can then focus on reading and writing to learn. This falsehood has persisted since my teacher training days –many decades ago! It demonstrably fails to recognize the developmental nature of learning, and it certainly shows a disregard for students as learners. We learn at different rates. We don’t all learn to tie our shoelaces on a predetermined day. Why would we assume that all learners reach the same developmental point at the conclusion of Grade 6- and why would we discontinue teaching them

Teaching Writing Craft Mindfully

Teaching the craft of writing requires teachers to be explicit in their work with students. Explicit and mindful teaching occurs when teachers are clear about what it is they want children to learn and when  a meaningful, focused program of instruction is provided.  This means conference notes and conversations, as well as writing samples are integral to the process of knowing what to teach.  The instruction provided by the teacher benefits from being informed by such insight.  Learning to look below the surface features and errors in the writing piece creates an opportunity to see the potential hidden beneath. Possibilities beyond grammar, punctuation and sentence structure emerge. When consideration is given to focused learning, student writers receive opportunities to make sense of the learning by creating purposeful connections between lesson purposes, tasks, texts, and lesson reflections. If these aspects of our lesson align, we increase our chances of effectin