Tag Archives: Writing

‘The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.’ Robert John Meehan

My friend and colleague of many years Angela Stockman is now going to be working with teachers and communities to start their own Writing Studios. I’ve been learning from Angela for a long time and watched and read with great interest the work she has been doing with young writers. Angela shares her learning with all and that is special. Angela made an announcement today and I am delighted for her.

Well friends, I’ve been called to travel down a brand new pathway as I continue this writing studio journey of mine. The good news is that I’m beginning to realize the vision that launched the WNY Young Writers’ Studio ten years ago: starting this summer, I will be helping school districts, community leaders, and even nonprofit agencies launch and sustain their very own writing studios within and well beyond western New York.

Equally, Steve Peha has received another award for his book Be A Better Writer and once again I am incredibly pleased that Steve and his wife Margot are receiving recognition for their amazing work. I’ve been using Steve’s work for many years. Visit Steve’s site Teaching That Makes Sense.

I manage with Steve Australia Writes with Steve Peha Facebook group where Steve shares his work and responds to questions from members. To access the group you will need to request membership.

Steve Awards.GIF

Cheers Nina

 

 

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Steve Peha: Integrated Literacy – Love this! Please read… ‘Integrated Literacy is a framework for K-12 instruction that leverages the complementary nature of reading and writing to make learning easier for kids and teaching better for teachers.’ Steve Peha

This document is excellent and one I think teachers should read. The diagram is simple, yet very effective. Reading and writing are being taught separately and I understand why this is happening, but believe there’s a real need to make links between reading and writing explicit and this document does. Steve’s headings below are fantastic and headings I would introduce to students.

  • Writing Community – Reading Community
  • Writing Process – Reading Process
  • Writing Strategies – Reading Strategies
  • Writing Applications – Reading Applications
  • Writing Quality – Reading Quality
  • Writing Connections –  Reading Connections

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Link to full document above… Integrated Literacy is a framework for K-12

Steve has a Facebook group called AUSTRALIA writes with Steve Peha. Steve is sharing many wonderful resources and answering teacher questions. He’s also working with teachers in Australia and actually visits classrooms via Skype. It is a closed group so you will have to join. Here is the link:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/AustraliaWritesWithStevePeha/

Cheers Nina

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Working with Mark to Be A Better Writer – Year 12 Essay Writing

Working with Mark is an absolute pleasure.  Mark is doing Year 12 Philosophy within his Year 11 program. He’s a very able student who has struggled to get his thoughts on paper. Last year he made great progress with his writing using Steve Peha’s Be A Better Writer.

One of Mark’s big issues is ORGANISATION! Today we got organised. Mark printed off a calendar and we put it up on the wall and started recording important dates e.g. tests, due dates and  Common Assessment Tasks. When asking Mark when something is due, a couple of weeks is probably not the best answer. The beauty of this wall is he can’t miss it. My advice is place it near the kitchen or better still, the fridge!

Calendar .jpg

Mark needs a visual timetable/calendar clearly displaying key dates and we’re using different coloured highlighters for each subject. We use these in primary classrooms but they just look different. Next week we’ll put all assessments on the calendar for this term and then it will his responsibility to keep it up to date.

Today we revisited the structure of a philosophy essay and looked at a possible essay topic around what he has been learning. We pulled a topic apart and placed each part of the topic on sticky notes using the prescribed structure.

essay structure

Possible essay based on classroom learning:

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be-a-better-writer-2Teaching genre is crucial for all ages. Structure helps the writer keep on track. We also revised Steve’s chapter on better sentences or what we have covered so far and listed three key points to keep in mind while writing.

organisation .jpg

Mark’s task was to independently write an introduction paragraph on the topic Mark chose. Next week we will build on this. Mark will be working on his handwriting with me but I can see enormous growth in his writing. He wrote quickly because we are looking at timing in preparation for exams. Structure has given Mark the confidence to start immediately. We will also be looking at a narrative letter response for Year 11 English.

essay start

This is a snippet but I’m very pleased with this.

Cheers Nina

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Part 6: Working with Mark (Year 10) to Be a Better Writer (BABW): Preparing Mark for his Year 11-VCE (Victoria-Australia) Philosophy Exam.

Mark is in Year 10, Victoria, Australia which he will complete in a few weeks. It’s common for students to start their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) in Year 10 by completing one or two Year 11 subjects. Students completing a VCE Year 11 subject are exposed to the rigor and examination process involved. Mark has completed Year 11 Philosophy which he intends to study as a Year 12 subject in Year 11, which commences in late January in Australia. Year 12 subjects receive a ranking grade.

Using Be A Better Writer (BABW) by Steve Peha has provided Mark with the tools and explanations to focus on the critical issues in his writing.

Our focus has been on Chapter 8: Creating a Logical Answer to an Essay Question using the What-Why-How? strategy, Chapter 7: Better Sentences and Chapter 8: Better Punctuation.

For example Steve’s chapter Better Punctuation takes the writer through:

Do Rules Rule?be-a-better-writer-2

Practical Punctuation

When Sentences Go Wrong

The Muddle in the Middle

The Importance of Capitalization

Grouping Related Ideas into Paragraphs

Punctuating Dialog

Unruly Rules

So Who Really Rules the Rules?

mark-criteriaMark and I reviewed the rubric for a Philosophy essay, particularly the language section. What does ‘Language is appropriate’ mean?

We reviewed the genre structure required. Structures assist Mark to keep his responses logical. Initial structure.jpgUsing Steve’s What-Why-How? strategy has helped Mark to look closely at the question and answer the actual question. When students don’t read the question carefully and continue to write an essay on a different topic, there is a problem. The What-Why-How? helps to eliminate this.

Criteria – Rubric

Students should be able to review and assess their writing when provided with a rubric. Rubrics require unpacking with students so they understand what each standard means. So what does ‘Language is appropriate’ mean? Mark and I have unpacked this to include vocabulary choice, sentence structure, spelling and grammar. We reviewed the expectations linked to each of these.

mark-key-vocab

Mark has limited time before his exam. Having key vocabulary spelt correctly is important. Mark has key vocabulary he must learn to spell written on sticky notes stuck on the walls in his home. His job is to revise, revise, revise and remove when he can confidently spell each words. Mark and I discussed the spelling rules we have reviewed. We’ve only looked at the basics to date. Rules don’t always work when spelling, but at this stage its better than relying on sight alone.

Steve’s chapter Better Sentences takes the writer through:

Sentence Sensemark-sentence

Start Different, Stay Different

Short, Medium and Long

The Secret of Well-Structured Sentences

The Sound of Music

Listen Up

Every Writer Serves a Sentence

Mark’s sentence above has ‘better’ structure. He is able to combine what he has learnt with the actual writing task at the time of writing. This is critical, particularly in an examination situations.

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Above is a section from Mark’s practice essay completed as part of his exam preparation. This is a first draft. Mark and I discussed his letter formation and his use of capital letters. Overall, improvement is evident. Mark is now thinking whilst writing, re-reading quickly and making corrections as he writes. He is also writing using structure and a ‘better’ sense of grammar.

Cheers Nina

P.S Mark has completed his exam! He felt confident and pleased with his efforts. Mark’s goal this year is to achieve a satisfactory. His subject knowledge appears to be good and he really enjoys Philosophy. As I will be continuing to work with Mark into the future, I will be using BABW to plan his next level of learning.

 

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Part 5: Working with Mark (Year 10) to Be a Better Writer (BABW): Preparing an English essay for an English test using Steve Peha’s BABW!

be-a-better-writer-2Mark’s focus for our session was preparing for his Year 10 English test. He knew this test would entail writing an essay. Mark would be writing an essay on Scott Anderson’s Triage.

Mark explained the main themes contained in book and how the plot and characters are intertwined within the main themes.

Firstly, Mark and I reviewed what we had covered in our previous sessions about structure, grammar and spelling. Reviewing prior learning is important and provided us with another opportunity to discuss and correct misconceptions.

babw-5We have also been reviewing sentence structure. Chapter Seven focuses on Better Sentences and commences with the 10 things you need to know about sentences.

Sentence Sense is explained, followed by a checklist for Better Sentences with further explanations and examples following.

 Mark and I wrote our own essay topic based on the text to practice. Writing a practice essay would give Mark an opportunity to complete an essay on the book.

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Guilt is one of the themes in Scott Anderson’s Triage. Discuss

We reviewed Steve Peha’s What? Why? How? organisation tool which Mark has used previously. This tool provides a framework for Mark to ensure a logical response to an essay question. Mark proceeded to write a logical answer to the question. He used quotations to support his arguments, paragraphs and was reading back and thinking about his spelling whilst writing. After writing his first draft (copy below) Mark reviewed his draft and wrote a corrected copy.

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Cheers Nina

NB. Mark has seen an Occupational Therapist to review his hands and handwriting. The review has highlighted a number of issues with Mark’s hands. Therapy should help enormously and improve his handwriting.

 

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Part 4: Working with Mark (Year 10) to Be a Better Writer (BABW): Preparing for Year 10 & Year 11 Exams Using Steve Peha’s What? Why? How? – Creating a Logical Answer to an Essay Question Technique/Strategy.

In Australia, students are nearing the end of their school year. Secondary students are sitting a range of examinations or tests over the coming weeks. Mark is in Year 10, but like many students he is doing one Year 11 subject.  This subject is part of our Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and preparing for these assessments can be challenging.

Mark and I are using Be a Better Writer (BABW) by Steve Peha as our guide. I love the fact that Steve’s book can be in the hands of the student and teacher. I call this being able to cross borders. Mark and I have been exploring techniques.

‘Techniques are simple activities that help you do complicated things faster and easier.’ Steve Peha

Our focus has been centred on Creating a Logical Answer to an Easy Question (BABWp8) to

What Why How.jpg

We’re using Steve’s What? Why? How? – simple! After reading the background information we reviewed Steve’s example. The example in BABW is about the American presidential system. This was not an issue for us because any example text could be substituted. 20161031_111539.jpg

Text Example BABW: A candidate may lose a presidential election even if he or she receives the most votes. How is this possible?

What? Why? How? is an organisation tool. It provides a framework for a logical response. After completing Steve’s example, Mark and I posed an essay question related to his course content.

Aristotle believes that beauty is in the form. How is this connected to Art?

Mark completed the What? Why? How? quickly which gave him an organisational structure for his response, something he was grappling with. What’s also very special is seeing Mark’s confidence grow!

Teachers want ‘a logical presentation of accurate information.’  Steve Peha

Finally, this technique/strategy has a hidden strength:

T0 complete this strategy you have to unpack, understand and answer the question!

Cheers Nina

 

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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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