“What kids can do, can’t do and what I need to teach them” - Murray Gadd
"Little and often" - Rita Palmer
I have been exceptionally lucky to have professional learning development days with these two superstars of writing. One thing I picked up from both of these educators... was reading. I think we can get swept away with all of the new and innovative ways to teach writing but reading to kids is by far the most effective. I often wonder if there are enough opportunities to read to my class? I remember in my primary schooling our teacher would read up to 5 chapter books in a year! I am lucky if I get through one! I guess one reason could be the different structures of the day. Now we only have an hour and a quarter in the afternoon, whereas back in the day, there was 2 hours...
I just had a flashback of actually having 5 minute afternoon tea breaks - wow. They were manic. Imagine hundreds of screaming kids, being let out of the cage, tearing outside for 5 minutes! I literally remember going hell-bent for leather, screeching like an annoying battery operated toy.
Rita Palmer advocated mentor texts; a text which you could go to, to help you with a particular aspect of writing: imagery, short sentences, you name it. Ever since then, I have been examining books left, right and centre to add to my list of mentor texts. There are lots of examples online. If you have children, you probably have half of the titles sitting around at home, so go grab a container and start compiling a box today!
To add to this, the new journals are amazing! If you get a chance to use them - check them out. They are packed with rich texts that the kids can read and unpack. Did you know that "Research tells us that reading, analysing, and emulating model texts increase students writing abilities" - Graham and Perin 2007
Murray Gadd had lots of really simple yet effective advice. Gosh he is really switched-on though. Astute as Jacqui put him. He made things look and sound so easy but there was a wealth of experience and knowledge behind his tips and pointers. Here are a couple I have tried out already. I liked his "Knowing words, looking words and hearing words" a strategy for writers when they are spelling. I also liked his use of prompting: "Maybe your reader needs to know that..." Murray's scaffolding was incredible. I must do more of this.
I am so glad that they advised against "doing 5 weeks of narratives" - this just gets boring! Writers in my class now are exposed to an experience or text and shared writing on Monday, crafting and re crafting Tuesday - Thursday, and publishing on Friday. Murray Gadd said that kids do their best writing when it is based on personal experience.
Nonetheless, there is definitely a buzz about writing at the moment. I have loved writing weekly with different purposes to cater for what we were learning about during reading or inquiry. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of making reading and writing links.
I will finish off with this inspiring story by Colin McNaughton. It encapsulates what effective teaching of writing should be and is!