Tag Archives: Writing

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.

mark-pracise-essay

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.

babw-5-2

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.

babw-5-3

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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Part 2: Working with Mark (Year 10) ‘to be a better writer’ using Be a Better Writer by Steve Peha – documenting Mark’s learning.

516aatihrgl-_sx348_bo1204203200_Mark and I decided  we would complete the activity  Take an Edit Pass Approach to Correcting Your Own Work following Steve’s steps.

N.B. These sessions are targeted to Mark’s instructional needs and are directly related to his writing samples.

Working with Mark session 2 016.jpg

Task 1: Mark wrote an introductory paragraph for a book he had read. He chose To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is his first draft (below) and although he’s still scribbling through his edits, overall, there are notable improvements evident when comparing this sample to his first reference piece in Post 1.

Mark’s first draft followed by his edited draft after completing Steve’s Take an Edit Pass Approach activity. Our conversations were interesting as he completed each step. Mark was constantly referring to prior learning and making connections.

mark-2-050-2

Task 2: Mark completed the following passes…

1. Checked his writing for missing words/repeated words

2. Checked his sentences to see if they made sense.

3. Checked his use of capital letters

4. Checked to see if he had used commas correctly

5. Dialog-none in paragraph

6. Checked for mid-sentence punctuation marks

Each time Mark completed an edit pass we referred to Steve’s book to correct  misconceptions. For example, we read the 6 Things Commas Do In Our Writing looking closely at the examples given. Our discussions, and review of commas and their use clarified Mark’s misconceptions.

N.B. Its important to remember that Steve’s book is written for teachers and students. The way explanations are presented is engaging, informative and can be easily implemented!

BIG TICK!

Mark and I unpacked-The 6 Things Commas Do In Our Writing working-with-mark-session-2-023

  1. Separate parts of sentences
  2. Separate items in a list
  3. Separate multiple modifiers
  4. Separate things that might be confusing
  5. Separate speaking from speakers
  6. Separate information to make it easier to read

Mark followed Steve’s recommendation and completed  2 passes for spelling

  1. Underline misspelled words
  2. Correct misspelled words

How best will we/I learn?

Mark likes rules, so we are revisiting common spelling rules and using these rules to make corrections. The rules Mark is revisiting, are directly related to the errors made within his texts.

IMPORTANT!

Two Rules Reviewed

i before e except after a long c but not when c is a “sh” sound and not when sounded like ‘a’ as in neighbour

When the word ends in a vowel + y just add ‘s’. If the word has a consonant before the ‘y’: take off the ‘y’ and add ‘ies’

After completing the above, Mark wrote a second draft of his paragraph (see below).

Mark 2 060 (2).jpg

Learner CycleI asked Mark to reflect on his learning, and reflecting is something we’ll explore further.

A reflection book is a great asset for learners to record new understandings and refer to when needed.

After reflecting, I asked Mark what he felt he needed to learn next and record this on a yellow sticky note.

What do we/I want to learn?

Using the Kunyung Primary Learner Cycle questions promotes Learner Agency.

On the yellow sticky note in the picture (above) Mark has clearly stated ‘Punctuate Dialog’… So that’s what Mark and I will be doing!

How will we know what we/I have learned?

  1. Evidence of learning – Mark’s writing
  2. Continuum: Based on Year 10 Australian Curriculum (being developed)

Cheers Nina

 

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