We had a wonderful discussion last year about what's important for students in learning to write and writing to learn. Fifteen months later what have we learnt about teaching writing?
Read through this great discussion and add your new ideas:
From Louise, Granville East PS
Our Term 4 Rounds at Granville East is based on students' skills in writing. We are grappling with both the technical skills of composing texts as well as the expressive, reflective and generative thinking developed in writing for genuine purposes. Our teachers have spent quite some time looking at the benefits of targeted and explicit modelling to students, so that learning is not left to chance or based on individual motivations. But - does this modelling go far enough? What are the opportunities provided for students to construct, choose, consider, reflect and monitor and write and write and write?
I am keen to hear others' thoughts on the notion of Learning to Write and Writing to Learn. What should we be aware of (and conscious of when designing experiences) regarding the skills, dispositions and capabilities that authors nee when composing in different disciplines and for difference purposes?
Is writing more complex than putting pen to paper?
From Barbara, Critical Friend
Thanks Louise. I agree that if our students are going to become proficient they need opportunities to write and write and write. So are teachers making those opportunities and also using the process of writing to develop thinking and understanding across the curriculum?
Yes, we need modelling and quality texts for students to learn from, and the teacher needs to be explicit. But are our teachers too narrow in this explicit teaching? Are our expectations for students generally too low (and I'm asking this question across schools of all ses levels)? Is our feedback and assessment too often focused on surface features (that a good word processing program will correct anyway)?
I love the sample lessons in the Rothbridge book that demonstrate the importance of quality & carefully selected texts, and how explicit teaching can be used to generate a deep understanding of the techniques that real writers use. Do our teachers have sufficient understanding of the writers' craft to enable them to develop such lessons independently? My big question is, “How do we get our students to think like a real writer?”
From Nicole, Granville East PS
Thanks Louise and Barbara. I agree with your thoughts...to me writing is definitely much more complex than putting pen to paper. The act of taking an abstract thought and translating it into a meaningful written text is an amazing human act, but one that needs to be consciously learnt. In order to think like a writer, children first need to recognise themselves as writers...not just kids who come to school to 'do writing'.
In researching this problem of practice, I am also wondering how effectively we are using writing to help children develop understanding across the curriculum. Freebody's idea of talking about 'literacies' rather than the often ambiguous and misunderstood 'literacy' resonates with me, as the language better reflects the concept that writing (both learning to write and writing to learn) is intertwined with context, field, audience and purpose. How well are we designing these broader, cross-curriculum writing experiences for students? Are they mostly incidental? How can we make them richer?
I am also wondering about the texts chosen for modelling...and the 'hidden agenda' that may be at play here. Do we value some texts over others? Which ones and why? What impact does this have?
From Sharna, Sefton Infants
All of your points are very valid and highlight the complexities of the teaching and learning of writing. I fear that the teaching of writing has become quite formulaic and treated at just a surface level as well. I believe the explicit introduction of genres/text types, as well as functional grammar certainly helped us as teachers to provide more structure for the teaching of writing but often I think we get stuck there at that level and don't develop our students as expressive writers. I think the rubric type assessment and scoring of writing as per NAPLAN has also influenced us somewhat to teach writing in a constrained and formulaic manner. ( I hope learning intentions and success criteria don't do the same!)
For those of us who have been teaching for a while - Do you remember 'Process Writing'? Our focus then was getting children to write, write and write supported by individual conferences with the teacher/peer to provide feedback and build the writer's skills as expressive communicators. I think we are now missing or shortcutting on the writing development that comes through drafting, redrafting (and redrafting) and publishing. How can we balance the best of the explicit teaching of writing with the best of process writing for children learning to express themselves as individuals through writing for a purpose? Writing exercises versus writing as an expression of thinking. And another challenge ... how do we do all of this in our technological age as our written communication is constantly evolving with digital modes of expression?
From Sharen, Old Guildford PS
Completely agree Sharna! Process writing certainly got children writing, thinking about writing & then more writing. Less emphasis around structure; students developed knowledge of this through looking at the effectiveness of their writing in meeting intended purpose and audience.
From Kay and Sharen, Old Guildford PS
We've put some of our ideas from the readings into a comic strip for your enjoyment. Teaching writing is not easy, and the readings certainly gave us some food for thought. We really liked the idea of focusing on writing as a tool for thinking and moving away from a formulaic approach to teaching to write.
Trying some of the ideas, we realised that our students would need plenty of scaffolding to develop the tools for deep thinking. Our students are lacking in background knowledge and experience that facilitate deeper reflections. For this reason, more time would have to dedicated to bridging this gap.
We created a cartoon with Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt discuss some of the key ideas that got us thinking.....
3/17/2018 03:29:00 pm
After reading the March 2018 Pre-Round readings and then going to this blog and reading our comments and research stimulus from Nov 2016, I recognise that my thinking has changed.
3/17/2018 10:40:48 pm
Julia (my daughter) has been writing a story this evening and grappling with how to end it. We were talking about this and she asked: 'But what makes an ending satisfying?' Of course, she can really answer this question for herself, as she is a reader too and has read countless endings of many texts...judging for herself if they are satisfying to her and why or why not. Yet it is a question that lies at the heart of writing: what makes our writing meaningful, purposeful and worthwhile is often (mostly?) how it is received by the reader. To be an effective writer, we need to position ourselves as both author and audience of text. As such, to be able to effectively write a range of texts across curriculum areas, students also need to be critical readers of different texts and across fields of learning. Teachers also need to make these links explicit to students both through and beyond explicit modelling of reading and writing.
3/26/2018 09:36:16 am
Nicki, your comment " Writing has a permanence that oral language often doesn’t…and when it is effective, an accompanying power as well." really stuck with me.
Poppy (and the Geoges Hall team)
3/22/2018 01:55:52 pm
Reading the articles was extremely powerful and thought provoking and demonstrated that there were many types of thinking. It was interesting to discover which ones were of value depends on the learning context. In order for us to understand what our students are thinking we need to support students in the process of building on their understanding of things to be visible thinkers. Are students explaining things to one another? Are students offering creative ideas, Are they , and we as teachers, using the language of thinking? Is there a brainstorm of alternative interpretations on the wall? Are students debating a plan? Do we use rich texts to carefully analyse and dissect the writing in an active learning environment? Are we providing a rich text environment? Do our students feel safe to take risks in their writing? These are just some of the questions we need to be asking ourselves to promote deeper understanding of the learning content.
3/23/2018 12:42:49 pm
At Burwood Public School we approach the teaching of writing through the lense of the EALD learner. Ensuring the talk is in place and opportunities for the development of vocabulary will always be at the fore front of our pedagogy.
3/25/2018 12:27:00 pm
First of all , I would like to express that my favourite part of the article “ A path To better writing “ was the section about “ Create a Pleasant And Motivating Writing Environment”. In my role as an Arabic and cultural studies teacher I find my self in two seperate envionrment . In Arabic , I work closely with students and encourage them to challenge them selves to write in basic Arabic forms which many might not be family with or good at but I saw with motivating and encouraging the students many preserved snd began to write by following simple Arabic rules .
3/25/2018 06:55:25 pm
When I first read this article, the question ‘How can I (as a teacher), help my students begin and successfully navigate the path to greater writing competence?’ came to mind. As the article states, the answer is “devoting time to the teaching of writing and use the time wisely”.
3/26/2018 02:52:06 am
For the past year we have been working with several tools and ideas that are deep-seated in proven evidence based practices. As the article states, it is advantageous to teach some recognised processes and skills to support quality and improvement in student writing. Overall, I have seen a change in student understandings about writing, in particular the way they think about the links between being a reader and being a writer. This has led to an ongoing conversation in classrooms about being a message giver (as the writer) and a message receiver (as the reader) and why you need to have clarity in both audience and purpose before you begin to plan your writing.
3/27/2018 01:13:31 pm
What a fabulous discussion! So much deep thinking to get our round started.
3/27/2018 02:19:41 pm
It was interesting that handwriting and spelling can lead to a 21 percentile point jump in writing fluency K-3. The concept that knowledge is something that you have vs understanding which is something that you do. Lack of understanding is a short coming of the teaching practice not the student. Goals of learning and understanding should be separated. Opportunity for students to write everyday leads to a 12 percentile point improvement in writing quality and even more interestingly it leads to a 14 percentile point increase in reading comprehension.....so it makes sense to provide students with increased opportunity to write about their reading to deepen their understanding of the text.
3/27/2018 10:46:54 pm
Writing is a form of art; personal but for an audience, individual but must follow conventions, stimulating but challenging to hone skills. The task set before teachers of writing is, "How do we facilitate student learning in writing so they see themselves as writers, ie real writers writing real messages for real audiences?". Some thoughts about how we can grapple with this task, formulated following some of the ideas garnered from the readings provided here & from other research & ponderings::
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