Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Update 4 June 2014 - Guest Blog Post by Sheena Cameron

Kia ora tātou,

Week five already!  I hope you have had a chance to check out some of the Matariki support shared recently.  We would love to hear your ideas and how you have used these ideas in your classrooms.

As we reflect on the inquiries shared by our community members we are aware of the diversity and indeed compatibility in our challenges.  What can you learn from, or add to, these learning journeys?  

Inquiry learning:
This week I am sharing Angela’s question:
What practices, planning/teaching tips, questions that develop meta-cognitive thinking?
I am sure Angela would love to hear your ideas and I am sure others will benefit from the discussion too.

This week I am delighted to introduce Sheena Cameron with a guest blog post.  
“Sheena Cameron is an experienced primary/elementary school teacher who has taught in New Zealand, England and the United States. Sheena has lectured at the Faculty of Education at Auckland University and was Director of Kohia Teachers’ Centre. She currently works in New Zealand and Australian schools facilitating workshops and providing in-school support in the areas of literacy, classroom environment and student publishing.”

Sheena Cameron - Personal Choice Writing
This term I have been teaching writing in a Year 3/4 class. One of the questions I have been thinking about is, ‘how can we plan opportunities for students to choose their own writing topics as part of a regular classroom programme?’
I have observed that students often have limited, if any, opportunities to choose their own topics. Although teachers are pressured to cover the demands of the curriculum, I believe students need time to write about things that are meaningful to them. Self-chosen topics can also provide a ‘window’ into the student’s world and a chance for the teacher to connect and get to know them better.
To prepare for personal choice writing, I asked the students to think of three topics they would like to write about. I modelled this by talking about and recording topics that I would like to write about. The students then used ‘think, pair, share’ to discuss their topic ideas with a partner. A few students struggled to think of ideas so I encouraged them to listen to other student’s topic ideas as these may help spark an idea for them. Topic ideas were then shared among the whole class. The students recorded their ideas on a ‘Writing Notebook’ sheet which was glued into the inside cover of their exercise book. (PM 22, page 239 of ‘The Writing Book’).
I decided that Monday would be a good day for personal choice writing as students often have experiences to write about after the weekend. There was great excitement when I suggested the class could choose their own topic.
I projected an image to write about as an alternative. Images and short video clips can be an appealing option for reluctant writers or EAL students.
Some students used the opportunity to choose their own topic but in the genre we have been working on in class. This crossover shows how the genre has been embedded into the student’s own writing repertoire.
The quality of writing can become an issue in personal choice writing. Too often this can become a boring recount, ‘On Saturday we went to the pools…’ ending with ‘It was fun.‘ At first I let the students choose without agreeing any criteria for their writing. I used this to assess areas where students needed support.
Teaching a skill in a mini-lesson and then challenging students to include the skill in their personal writing, helped to promote quality writing. Mini-lessons could support students to: understand what a sentence is; use an interesting hook to engage their reader; add details or use dialogue in their writing. Page 5 of ‘The Writing Book’ has an overview of mini-lessons that could be taught at emergent, early and fluent writing levels.
The students’ enthusiasm has confirmed my thoughts about personal choice writing. I plan to continue to include this on a regular basis, using the opportunity to develop quality writing.
It has also confirmed my thinking that a balanced writing programme needs to include a mix of personal choice topics, modified personal choice (teacher selected writing form but topic selected by students), and teacher-selected topics.

Sheena Cameron

Anne’s Latest Literacy Links and Look ups…


NZLA - the 37th New Zealand Literacy Association Conference. Register now.
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Ngā mihi nui
Anne Kenneally
Literacy Online Facilitator
CORE Education

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