Wednesday, 8 October 2014

ULearn14 - Raising Writing Performance in the 21st Century

What do my students find challenging about writing?

Infrastructure, getting their thoughts out appropriately.

Why is writing important and what are different teachers thoughts around this?
  • Planning and lifting style
  • Creating an author's voice in their writing
  • Starting writing
  • Keeping their writing going
  • Spelling and Punctuation
  • Structuring writing
  • Synthesising ideas
  • Rambling ideas rather than developing them
  • Flowery rubbish, really
  • Knowing what they're writing and what they're writing for
  • Express themselves with vocab
  • Transferability of skills
  • Learner responsibility
  • Confidence in their writing
  • Relevance
  • Synthesising Ideas

We need to resolve these issues holistically.

Spend five minutes to write about anything you want. "Don't care what you write about - just write."

This. This is why I came to ULearn. Because I have the ability to share and meet my friends - to learn and relearn and unlearn and learn again. The sounds of the keys being tapped here in the Monarch room is actually incredibly beautiful. It's the sound of a lesson that is humming because we're engaged in our writing. I heard a lot of people sigh or sound shocked that he was making us write. Why? Probably because most teachers of English in particular never have the time to write effectively. Teachers are expected to teach language skills such as writing but often never have the chance to do their own writing. But this is the most important - because we need to role model writing.

I showed my students my last piece of work in that NZATE English journal - partly because I was stoked and excited, but mostly because I wanted them to see that I was a role model in my writing. Ian Hunter just walked over here.. Close to me but not that close - and it's the same old terror of my teacher looking over my shoulder to see whether what I've written is effective. It's quite scary. I forget what that's like. When my students sometimes cover their work because they're scared of my reaction to their writing, their confidence in their writing is low. It's unfortunate because this is the case for most of our students with their writing. I think I'll be more mindful of that now.


"Now - can you turn to the person beside you and read what you wrote/" Collective sighing and worried glances.

Hearing Richard's writing right now. Clever. Red lanyards. Love it. "City is overrun with teachers."

When you write from a position of power - you have something to write. You have passion and excitement.

"Never make your students write an entire essay - when you're teaching skills." 

Build trust with students writing - to then pull apart their writing and reassemble their world.

Yuss! My new friend Richard was picked to read his. I will ask if he will publish it. Love it.

My writing is stream of consciousness type writing.

You're writing is very easy to follow because you write like Hemingway.
When you finish the sentence where you start the next.

Flair is not innate. You are not born with flair. You are taught it. 

Flair is sentence control. You can teach it in 15 minutes.

The typical kiwi student has three types of sentence styles.

  1. Simple sentences begin with a subject: These people, the city, it is, our first, we only... When you write with simple sentences your writing becomes boring and mundane. If you don't teach flair you inhibit the ability for your students to express themselves.
  2. Using adverbs. Quietly, tonight, although
  3. Ing words - doing, bursting..

15 Minutes of Flair. 

We need to teach with flair to create flair and enable our students to express themselves. 

5 Ways.
  1. Short Sentences. Five words or less. 
  2. W - start. When, While, Where, ....Complex sentence because it's a in... word. EG. While we were all writing, they were asleep.
  3. Ly - start. adverb beginning. Quickly, interestingly, bravely, curiously. Curiously, he delighted in spelling.  - The Rule. (What was it?)
  4. Em-Dash. Inserting a phrase for effect. Speedy, elegant, sophisticated - the Ferrarri sped off into the distance. The Ferrari - elegant, luxurious to a fault - sped into the distance.
  5. Explore the subject sentence - begin with the subject. Ulearn, attended by over 1600 delegates from around New Zealand, started late. This sentence structure is the hallmark of a great writer. 

 Just figured out where I know this guy. He's a historian. Brilliant. :)

Jargon stumbles students writing accessibility.

Myth busting - you always put a comma when there is a pause.

Whenever you begin a sentence with an adverb, you use a comma.

How do I fix waffle?
Answer: word limits.

How do I get my students to use their subject languages?
Answer: word limits.

"If you call up the Ministry tomorrow and say, 'He said we should use word limits' and they'd say 'Oooh. No.'  They're wrong."

1.5 spacing. 3cm Microsoft Word margins. 12 pt font size.

Teach economy of writing.

I want to buy his book on Innovation.

How much should students be writing?
Primary - 100 words.
Y7-9 - 100 words long. 100 words is five or six sentences. If you want to work on run-on sentences - average sentence length is 20 words per sentence.
Y10 - 100 words.
Y11 - 120 words.
Y12 - 140 words.
Y13 - 160 words with 8-9 sentences.

C.S Lewis - average 18 words. Sometimes his sentences overly wordy - 
but he has a strong ability with his punctuation to control it
Kipling - average 17 words
Suzanne Collins - average 10.7 words

Short sentences create clarity. "The goal of great writing is clarity not cleverness."

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. went through Slaughterhouse 5 and crossed out all the bits that he thought were clever.

Structures are only forms. Form follows function. If students apply form arbitrarily then it becomes boring.

Do you teach brainstorming? You should. But that's the worst essay planning technique. More than 30% of students are only writing less than 100 words in ten minutes. There's no logic in their writing. Structure needs judgement and logic.

When a student walks into their exam - they panic. So they need to remember what they know.

The List Plan

3 Steps:

  1. Brainstorm everything you can think of. 
  2. Circle your best three or four. When you give your brain permission then you give it focus. Right side of the brain is when you think holistically.
  3. Apply the numbers. Logic. Number them. (Thinking: This is what I do - but with brainstorming. Because my brainstorms are intense - but my students only write 3... so this list idea is awesome.) 

Write That Essay - just went and saw this stand!! - wow. Loving it. Would love to use it with my students.

Love this programme. I want it.

Free Writer.
Pick sentence styles on the side. Explore sentence structures. Help options.

Plan that Essay.
Loving these scaffolds!!! Wow.

Email Ian at:

He's at stand 79 fyi :)