Monday, February 02, 2009


Thank you Mark for the invitation to blend in at the Nga Tii Roa cluster’s TO day. (Yeah I can hear the "Lorraine - blend???" comments. :-) I have long wanted to participate in one of Gail Loane’s workshops, ever since the 1990s when I heard Julie share her student’s writing following such a course. Today I found out why.

It is interesting to reflect on the successful strategies promoted to support authorship. I can see why I felt such a buzz. It links so much to what I believe, to what I do in my work.

21st C Learning – Rich, Real, Relevant

We can’t give children rich lives, but we can give the, the lens to appreciate the richness that is already there.

~ Lucy Caulkins

Value the real, getting kids to see what is there, learning to look closely, to describe, share, to write what they see, feel and do and not what they think their teachers want them to write. To empower students. Their writings, their views, their reflection of their lives, are valuable.

“If nothing happens for the writer, nothing happens for the reader”

~ Gail Loane

e.g. Do sentence starters help make things happen for the writer? What do these contrived starters say about our beliefs as teachers? Is it perhaps that we believe students have little or nothing to write about unless we prompt them with a narrow sentence starter? If we start the story, who owns it? We saw examples of thin narrative. We want to engage in rich experiences, rich writing, rich authorship, rich narrative.

How many of us will begin our school year asking students to engage in a recount? How could this be made so much more interesting? Gail shared with us a poem by J.K. Baxter which began: “The town was usual enough: it had….” It was here we began. Rather than the usual recount we looked at what response this poem engendered for us. Did it trigger a memory, a visualisation? Any unfamiliar words? Emotional engagement? How were the words broken up? What effect did this have? Why did Baxter do it this way? What are the clues that tell us this was a small town… or being hot….

What if we replaced the word, “town”? By deconstructing Baxter’s poem we unpack the keys to this successful piece of writing. Once done it allows us to make our own reconstruction….

Inspired by James Kay Baxter’s poem & Gail Loane’s passionate facilitation –

The ditch was usual enough; it had

A dip, sheltering trees, the soft earth, pine needles

Covering the hollow at the end of our

Street. Seldom visited. My sisters, neighbours and I

Dug down, hidden from adult

Eyes with matches and stolen cigarettes

Dad’s pipe, sucked sharply, breathing

Life into the curl of charred tobacco

Scorched resin, soft earth, our secret place

A Sunday Afternoon.

~ Lorraine Watchorn

Just bought the book "Love That Dog" by Sharon Creech from Fishpond. Love It!!! It tells the story of a Jack who doesn't care too much for poetry, his teacher, Jacks learning reflections and his dog.

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