Tag Archives: Literacy

Part 3: Working with Mark (Year 10) to Be a Better Writer

Unpacking the Year 10 and now Year 11 English curriculum in Australia is challenging and something I wish I’d done earlier in my career. Yes, we must know our primary curriculum and early secondary (to a point) but pulling apart these higher levels is interesting.

Angela Stockman has given me some excellent advice and even though I’ve been unpacking curriculum for many years, these standards are complex. Her advice is breaking the standards into learning targets that can be taught in one lesson and can be understood by teacher and student. This is essential to develop Learner Agency. Each standard has multiple targets and as my time with Mark is short, I need to maximise learning.  

be-a-better-writer-2Whilst putting this continuum together, I’ve been working with Mark on punctuation. Steve Peha recommended we do the Punctuation Inquiry activity in Be a Better Writer.

Punctuation Inquiry helps you learn how marks are used. Once you’ve read through a passage and figured out the punctuation, figure out why it’s there.’ Steve Peha

Steve uses a simple chart with three headings:

Example- Why It’s Used- Questions & Comments.

Mark and I focussed on capitalisation. We read through the example and discussed the use of capitals. He describes looking closely at a text as close reading. This is a quick activity and can be done daily on 75-100 words a day. What an excellent launch activity.

Next we looked at Punctuation Reading. The background Steve gives for this is that ‘most of us aren’t fully aware of punctuation when we read.’

We read the passage in Be a Better Writer and then we read the passage again with the punctuation noted in words e.g. new paragraph, indent, capital on a dark capital December night in 1776 comma…

This short paragraph contained 48 marks of punctuation, ten different types of punctuation and fifteen uses of punctuation which are explained in the book.

Steve states that this activity helps you ‘learn the names of the marks’ and ‘helps you develop a sense for how they’re used in published writing.’ Another great launch activity for the classroom.

Mark is reading Triage by Scott Anderson for English. He decided that writing a chapter summary would help him to analyse the text. Summarising the first chapter was excellent, because the first chapter sets the scene, introduces the characters and emotions and plot.

Mark wrote a well thought out paragraph. It was clearly presented, double line spaced and did not require rewriting! The punctuation was in place, placed for meaning and his spelling has greatly improved. I’ve called this his ‘awareness phase’.

I also love the dedication page in Be a Better Writer.

‘Use it to talk to your students about what matters most in writing. Use it to show them the writer you are so they’ll have a model for the writers they’ll become.’ Steve Peha

We break standards into learning targets that are kid friendly and teachable in a single lesson. They use kid language, and we put them on the board or on our anchor charts.We break standards into learning targets that are kid friendly and teachable in a single lesson. They use kid language, and we put them on the board or on our anchor charts.

Each standard has multiple targets, typically. We share them with kids.

It makes things far more meaningful.

 Cheers Nina

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Working with Mark (Year 10) to ‘be a better writer’ using Be a Better Writer by Steve Peha – documenting Mark’s learning.

Mark is in Year 10 in Victoria, Australia. I’m working with him to ‘be a better writer’. I’ve asked Mark if he’s happy for me to share his journey here and he is! We’re using Steve Peha’s book to guide us. Mark is an extremely bright, articulate young man.

Documenting Mark’s learning: Initial sample and observations

I asked Mark to write something he had to do for school and I discovered Mark is left handed. He suffers hand cramps and doesn’t have keyboard skills either. However, Mark is very computer literate, but had chosen to use his iPad or phone for everything. His subject content knowledge is high and he knew what the question was asking, but he has to be able to record his thoughts in an essay.

mark-2

Above is Mark’s starting piece and my reference sample.

516aatihrgl-_sx348_bo1204203200_Where to start: The Basics

I immediately asked Mark to change his posture and I checked his pen grip. I also asked him to write on every second line from now on and not scribble through changes. Dotting every second line gave the visual cue he needed. Mark’s incredibly receptive to advice. Just these few simple changes would enable Mark and his teacher to read back his writing and for Mark to correct his spelling and grammar whilst writing.

What do we/I want/need to learn? Kunyung P.S Learning Cycle

learner-cycle

After observing Mark write and talking with Mark, he decided that punctuation is where we need to start first. Mark is invested!

The pen must be always in the hand of the writer. The writing belongs to the student! The student needs to be able to articulate their understanding of each question in the learning cycle

Below: After focusing on two punctuation and spelling rules you can already see a difference in the quality of Mark’s writing.

Nina phone 773.jpg

Whilst reading Steve’s book, I’ve tabbed certain reference points for myself. Unpacking Chapter 8: Better Punctuation has been interesting for me as a teacher.

Each chapter starts with ‘the stuff that matters most!, 10 things you need to know.’  This is followed by background information about rules and the bsteve-page-272-2est ways to learn about punctuation rules.

The beauty of this book is that its not written just for teachers, its written for students too.

Next is ‘Your Checklist for Better Punctuation.’ Steve explains the key things that effective punctuation involves using. He uses the phrase ‘Ask yourself’ after questions, which is an invitation to inquire.

On the side of the page are tips, each with an icon. These are terrific!

magnify-2Light bulb: Think About This

Clip board: Three Great Things To Do OR Learn

Question Mark: Ask Yourself

A Key: Key Ideas

Magnifying Glass: Look Closely

Steve explains that the checklist doesn’t cover everything, but it covers the ‘most important five groups of punctuation’.

1. End of sentence punctuation

2. Mid-sentence punctuation

3. Capitalization

4. Paragraphing

5. Dialog

The chapter includes examples, explanations, tips and tasks for :

Punctuation Changes Almost Everything

Punctuation Reading

Punctuation Inquiry

When Sentences Go Wrong

The Muddle in the Middle

Example: The Muddle in the middle: I love the way Steve explains the Cantankerous Comma, the Dashing Dash, Polite or Impolite Parentheses, the Commanding Colon, the Superfluous Semicolon and the Ethereal Ellipsis.

What will Mark be focussing on this week?

At the end of each chapter there are activities to complete and Mark and I will be doing these. One activity we’ll do this week is: Take an Edit Pass Approach to Correcting Your Own Work following Steve’s steps. I’ll write about this in my next post!

Cheers Nina

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