Our Writer in Residence Program: First Writer in Residence and Co-organiser Rowena Wiseman

Exciting! Here is a copy of a post I’ve put on my school’s blog…

This week our Writers Workshop lunchtime program held its first Writer in Residence lunchtime program. This was open for Years 3-6 students. Our Writer in Residence program has been established to engage our serious young writers.

Writer in Residence: Rowena Wiseman- Published Author

Writer in Residence Program 002

Rowena has offered her support and will be attending and making suggestions on how we can grow this program to benefit our young writers and illustrators. The students who attended our first Writer in Residence were a pleasure to listen to. Their ability compose rich questions reflected the talent of these students.

Rowena brought her notebook, drafts of published works and explained how she collected ideas, honed her skills as a writer and the resilience required to become a published author.

It was interesting to hear how a writer asks others to read their work, comment and make suggestions, as well as the editing process a published piece of writing is subjected to as part of the publishing process.

Rowena is a parent member of our school community. We are also seeking other community members (grandparents etc.) involved in a writing based profession i.e. illustrating, advertising, journalist to name a few to become involved in this program.

Our aim is to have a Writer in Residence each month. We would love to hear from you and invite you to become a part our Writer in Residence program. This is the beginning of a wonderful school initiative which we hope will engage more of our students as word spreads.

I’ll keep you posted. Cheers Nina

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writers Notebook: A powerful tool which documents if ‘what has been taught’ has been embedded and is being used consciously by students.

This year we introduced Writers Notebook across my school. My students and I absolutely love our notebooks. We have a tool/skill workbook where  student’s record / practice grammar, word-work and genre study. Their notebooks have a collection of their writing, thinking tools, planning and ideas. Some pieces are finished, others are not. There are plans, drawings, ideas, narratives, reports etc.

I chose a scrapbook and lined paper because the smaller exercise books didn’t allow for the drawings etc. Upon reflection the lined paper has meant quite a bit of sticking pages into a book but my students have managed this well. For next year our team has looked at a range of books more suitable for a notebook. I also stick books together so the children can look back and reflect on their journey as a writer. And they do!

This week I read a book by Terry Denton. The text in the book is made to look like the meaning. What was interesting was that a number of my students decided to ‘have a go’ at this in their own writing. They always have choice in their notebook. I’ve uploaded some photos of their attempt to make the words look like their meaning. These children are 6,7 & 8 year olds.

Classroom writing 003

Classroom writing 005

Classroom writing 008

Classroom writing 009

Classroom writing 012

Classroom writing 014

These notebooks are powerful as documentation of learning as they show the transfer from a taught skill/ genre to a student’s writing where they draw upon what they know. I’m hoping this makes sense. The scaffolds are around the room but the students need to direct themselves and their use. The notebooks clearly show me where learning has been embedded into conscious use.

If you have writers notebooks or something similar, I’d love to know how your students use theirs and if you use their notebooks for assessment purposes.  

Cheers Nina

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

I wanted to respond to a comment but it became too long. Thanks Helen! It gave me another opportunity to reflect on where I’m heading. Continuums! The big ‘UM’…

Fellowship Project: Angela Stockman WYN Education Associates

angela-stockman-wny-h

Background thinking!

I have to choose my words carefully here because assessment is vital, but not when the assessment overrides teaching. I’m seeing teachers sitting at tables individually assessing students for long periods of time during what I think should be ‘on the feet’, small group and whole class instruction time. The assessment looks impressive, but is it really? Is the assessment driving learning or is it all about where the student is?

Assessment drives teaching (absolutely) but is everything we are assessing necessary? I know it’s not! However, having said this, what are the crucial ‘clicks’ which move a student from one stage to the next? I have ideas and hunches but I need to validate these using the grounded research methodology which I’m learning about now.

I do feel that when we educators discover something new we can overuse it and in doing so take away the power of the tool and overwhelm ourselves in the classroom.

As you would understand current research on the Six Shifts in Teaching and Learning recognises there are key shifts (clicks) in student learning are directly influenced by the curriculum. These shifts are vital for teaching and need to be transparent to all stakeholders. This is where my thinking began.

We know a strong focus on improving instruction has a direct impact upon student achievement. Yes!

Professional development and quality teaching and learning will lift whole school data at all levels and individual student achievement. Yes!

Reflective teacher practices include the need for me to be aware of weaknesses in my teaching and I need to reflect and work with others to target specific areas which will improve instruction. Yes!

My reflective practices have made me aware of my current practice and areas for improvement. I know what I don’t know! Therefore, I need to plan opportunities to gain understanding of specific best practices and the ‘clicks’ which drive are ‘for learning’ and ‘as learning’. We know that teachers who intervene at the level of the individual student and develop processes and structures to enhance learning opportunities will improve student learning. Yes!

Best practice:

  1. builds knowledge through content
  2. will be grounded in evidence
  3. provides regular practice
  4. will focus where the Standards focus
  5. has coherence
  6. has rigor

Having said all this are continuums:-

  • for learning – providing feedback to inform the next stage of learning?
  • of learning – providing information about what students have learnt?
  • as learning – providing opportunities to support future learning?

How can I improve the continuums I am using so their use has a direct and improved impact on student learning? 

Cheers Nina

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Continuums! Continuums! One big ‘UM’! Making learning visible to all stakeholders…

angela-stockman-wny-h

 

This year I’ve started a Fellowship program organized by the Western New York (WNY) Education Associates (Angela Stockman) using grounded theory methodology. I’ve been playing around with a number of ideas and have now come up with my study. It’s not articulated well but what I’m doing is broadly outlined below.

 

We’re big on continuums for everything and this is great, but the challenge is to make these continuums child friendly and all learning visible to teachers, parents and most importantly the students. The problem is (my opinion) that the continuums we have are huge and perhaps contain benchmark statements which have become padding rather than essential. At my school our continuums are built on Fountas and Pinnell which is a great resource.

What I’m looking at through my students’ writing is the ‘WHAT’. What has actually moved their writing forward? I’m thinking of a hurdles race here where each hurdle or challenge is essential while other factors are not. This analogy sounds a bit different but I know from my students’ writing that there are core learning outcomes, but you don’t know what you don’t know!

My challenge is to develop criterion  to assess and ask my students what the ‘click’ was and from this create and trial a streamlined continuum which is fully understood by all stakeholders. The answer is embedded in their writing and I think I’ll use how I teach writing genres to scaffold the process. My students write well and I’ve been asked how I teach writing, and given that we plan in teams and I use our team planning documents I must be doing something differently. So, if I am doing something differently, what is it? I need to discover what it is and make this visible to all.

Cheers Nina

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Introducing Rowena Wiseman: Author & JD Class Parent

This year I discovered that one of my student’s parents is a published author. As any writer knows getting published isn’t easy but  the love of writing comes first. This is what we  want to inspire in young writers.
This post introduces Rowena Wiseman and I’m excited to share our conversations here.
Exit-Stage-Left-final-cover
 Rowena Wiseman:-  I’ve been writing pretty seriously for 10 years now, so I’m so excited to have had these 6 books picked up, as well as a novel coming out later in the year ‘Exit Stage Left’ by Merge Publishing in the US, as well as my novelette ‘Bequest’ that’s just come out with Tenebris Books. I’m proud to have been able to show my kids not to give up – to keep trying at things and eventually it may pay off! My daughter said to me last year that she wanted to become a publisher, so that she could publish my books! How sweet is that?!
 Rowena explains:-
Aunty Arty is a series of chapter books for junior readers. Frieda’s Aunty Arty has a sheet of magical round red stickers that can transport them into a famous work of art. Their adventures take them to Italy, where they meet live statues with strange heads, China, where they laugh along with seven smiling men all named Yue and to a dance studio, where they encounter a troupe of old, angry women who never want to give up dancing. Along the way, Frieda’s siblings learn about jealousy, bravery and not wanting to grow up too fast.
Astro Circus Kids is a series for early readers that traces the exciting world of four kids growing up in the circus. Estrella performs on the aerial hoop, twins Buster and Lexi have an act with twelve dancing dogs and Mia is just starting out as a performer in the Astro Circus Show. Will they be able to save the circus when all the props disappear one day? Sausage the Clown is feeling miserable and doesn’t want to perform, will they be able to cheer him up? And will Mia be able to find the right circus act for her?
Jet Black Publishing is a new children’s ebook publisher based in Melbourne. Their mission is to publish inspirational and creative stories for children and young adults and they are donating 20% of the sales to children’s literacy charities, such as the Australian Children’s Literacy & Numeracy Foundation.
Book pictures
(Above) Draft Illustrations: Ray Eckermann
Rowena concludes:-
I work at an art gallery as an editor, so a lot of my inspiration comes from working there – especially for the Aunty Arty series. I’m absolutely loving working with the two illustrators on these books – as it merges my two great loves, art and literature!! Narelda Joy is illustrating Aunty Arty and Ray Eckermann is illustrating the Astro Circus Kids.
A final word from me…
Teaching writing is my passion! My students see themselves as writers and know the importance of reading. They love to read too! Having a published writer as a parent is wonderful and something I’ll be sharing with my students.
Cheers Nina

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Government Testing in Australia: A letter from a principal to students who sat NAPLAN tests this year!

I’ve listened to Steve Jobs’ address many times, so what have I learnt? Reflect to ‘connect the dots’, reflect to learn, leave a footprint you will be proud of, reflect to set goals,  except your past, learn from life’s experiences, but most importantly move forward to achieve your dreams.
The principal of Beechboro Primary School Len Christie  adapted a letter written to students in the US and UK and gave it to his students with their NAPLAN testing results.

A Letter to all students who sat NAPLAN this year

This week you would have received your NAPLAN test results. We are pleased that you tried your very best in these challenging tests and during the weeks and months leading up to them. I’d like you, your family, friends and teachers to remember that these tests are unable to measure all of what it is that makes you the valued person who you are. The people who have created these tests and those that mark them don’t know you as well as your teachers know you, to the extent to which I know you and certainly not the way your family and friends know you. They don’t know that many children at Beechboro Primary School speak one or more languages other than English. They also don’t know that you may be a great singer and dancer or that you can play a musical instrument really well. They also don’t know how well you can draw beautiful pictures. They don’t know that you have a sense of humour which can bring a smile to your friend’s faces and make them laugh or that they can rely upon you to support them when they need a kind and encouraging word. They wouldn’t know that you can write poetry and stories, play all types of different sports and have interesting and enjoyable hobbies. They also don’t know that you probably accept responsibility for taking care of your brothers or sisters from time to time. They don’t know that you have travelled to or come from fascinating places and had amazing experiences. They don’t know how much you love spending time with your family and your close friends and they won’t know how much you are appreciated and loved by them. You are trustworthy, kind and thoughtful and you try to do your best every day. Do they know that? The NAPLAN test results give you some very specific information about yourself but it can’t say everything about who you are and what you have achieved. I hope you are happy with your results and that they inspire you to do even better in literacy and numeracy. Just remember that there is so much more to describe who you are that can’t be shown in these scores.

Len Christie Principal

Cheers Nina

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

My response to the Herald Sun article today – Listen up teachers

‘HOMEWORK has almost no benefit for primary school pupils, a parliamentary inquiry has found.’

This headline on the front page of the Herald Sun caught my interest today. Something about ‘Listen up teachers’ instantly made me cringe. Homework has always been a topic debated in primary schools and is often instigated by parents. Surely the journalist could have used a headline less condescending!

201

I recommend parents read 201 Literacy and maths tips to help your child published in 2011 by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (Melbourne) Victoria, Australia. This is an excellent collection of activities parents can use at home to foster learning beyond the classroom.

Document Link Here

Cheers Nina

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized