The Social Purpose of Writing

Sometimes there is a disconnect between the issues discussed in the classroom, and the writing students choose to devote their time too. Many of these issues have relevance to young writer's lives and would make suitable topics for writing, but are too often not deemed worthy of their attention. Social action writing is therefore rarely chosen.

Writers workshop works best when it is underpinned by student writers having choice of topic and form. Sometimes however the choices they make are informed by their peers, movies, games and television programs and may exhibit all the stereotypes and bias that comes with territory. Sometimes their topic choices are guided by the status it will conceivably attract. Gender stereotypes may also be entrenched in the choices they make. Sometimes their writing choices are limited by experience and a lack of confidence in moving out of a perceived comfort zone.

Researcher, Barbara Kamler, 1993 makes the point- 'Young writers do not operate freely…

Assisting Inexperienced Writers To Be World Watchers

Learning to be observant is a valuable life skill.

When one has a writer’s notebook it is such an advantage if the owner possesses keen observational abilities. The writer begins to  notice things in the world around them, more acutely. They consciously include sensory observations knowing they complement their writing efforts. The art of observation serves the writer well. A window is always available through which to capture a little magic.

To assist inexperienced student writers develop a greater awareness of the value of including such sensory observations, requires mindful action in the classroom: 

Share text examples where the writer includes sensory details. Details that enable the reader to visualize the scene. Where writers employ show, don't tell, the reader is more likely to visualize the events and actions described. The words are decidedly reader friendly.

Share examples from your own notebook where you focus on what’s around you. Consider your 5 senses. Endeavour to show…

Encouraging The Growth Of Ideas With Student Writers

Last week, upon reading a Facebook post urging teachers to foist writing prompts upon student writers, I felt compelled to write the following.

'The unquestioned imposition of ‘writing prompts’ denies student writers the opportunity to practice thinking and the identifying of suitable ideas for their writing. It discourages ownership and undersells the learner. Let's encourage thinking and invest in the curious and capable learners in our care. Such practice is akin to the intellectual laziness and low level pedagogy that imposes 'sentence starters' upon the developing writer. 'Kids can't of ideas for themselves' is the errant justification for such short sighted practices. Let's encourage kids to tell their own stories. Let's value their ideas and experiences This approach is more about telling kids 'what' to write, rather than showing them 'how' to write. As an author and an educator, I feel this idea speaks to a deficit model of th…

The Writer's Notebook-Helping Me Teach Writing More Effectively

The most effective way to teach writing is to be a writer yourself. That way you can better appreciate the challenges and the joys of the craft. As a writing partner, you place yourself in a position of increased credibility. You present yourself as a model of a living, breathing writer. Writers need to be brave, and your decision to become a writing partner, identifies you as a genuine risk taker.

 As a writer, you surely deserve a place to record your reactions to the daily events in the world that surrounds you. Developing your own writer’s notebook is the ideal way to demonstrate your commitment to a writing kind of life.  In this special book of your own choosing you are able to show your students how you react to the world; record your thoughts, your wonderings and harvest your ideas.  There might also be lists (names, places), anecdotes and words. Phrases and short descriptions of people, places and events may also be used to trigger a memory for more in depth writing at a later…

Helping Student Writers Find That Vital Spark of Inspiration

To prepare for the writing that will emerge during the year we need to teach young writers how to find great ideas for writing  lying  deep inside themselves, before writing about them with focus. We need  young writers to think deeply about what they are writing down. We want them to write about the things that matter most to them, -those things closest to the heart.

Encourage young writers to REREAD their initial work efforts to see if they can add more information for their reading audience.

Possible Teaching Points Upon Which to Focus:

•Writers make lists of important memories, people, places which could become story topics.

•Writers often sketch important memories, people, places which could spark an idea for a writing piece. They collect artifacts and ephemera to further stimulate their thinking.

•Writers get ideas for writing from reading lots of books. Books similar in genre/mode to what they are wishing to write.

•Writers identify and learn from their mentor authors.

•Writers choose…

Adopting A New Approach To Publishing In The Classroom

I must state from the beginning that I have long held misgivings regarding what passes as publishing (of student writing) in many schools. Like fast food, publishing student writing has evolved into something pretty much standardized. 

A one size fits all mentality often applies to the publishing phase of the writing process. Publishing should not be every student publishing their writing at the same time, in exactly the same way. Yes, publishing is time consuming, but it presents a powerful mechanism for motivating students to continue reading and writing.

Publishing should allow students a strong sense of ownership over a host of decisions regarding the shape and form of the final product of their writing efforts. I think that for some teachers 'publishing' becomes a beast that needs to be controlled. This need to control is what ultimately stifles creativity, resulting in a pie factory outcome. We should hold fast to the idea that publishing means ‘to make the writing public’…

Launching Your Writing Program With Bold Intent in 2018

Another school year is on the horizon in Australia...
To assist teachers launching writing in their classrooms in the early days of the new school year, I offer the following support. Hope you find these ideas helpful in commencing your writing program in 2018.

My sincere hope for this year, is for student writers to encounter teachers who are focused on how to write, rather than what to write. In order for this to occur, teachers of writing must be prepared to commit to being writers too. Writing alongside your students sends a vital message regarding the importance of being someone who chooses to write, and sees value in such acts. it will immediately elevate writing in the minds of impressionable, curious learners. I urge you to be bold and brave. Become the risk taker you want your students to be.

I can say this with full confidence; every teacher possesses the potential to be the most influential writing mentor students will encounter in any school year. 

You do not have to be a publ…