Writing seeds

Ralph Fletcher, in his book “A WRITER’S NOTEBOOK” lists a number of ideas which can help you organise your writer’s notebook into a place “to live like a writer, not just in school during writing time, but wherever you are, at any time of day.” (p4) His list begins with:

1) What amazes/surprises/anger you – unforgettable stories
2) What you wonder about- fierce wonderings
3) What you notice – writing small
4) “Seed Ideas” or “Triggers” to generate stories or poems
5) Small details that intrigue you – mind pictures
6) Snatches of talk you overhear
7) Memories
8) Lists
9) Photos, articles, ticket stubs or other artifacts
10) Your own sketches, drawings or doodles
11) Quotes or inspiring passages from books or poems – writing that inspires
12) Writing that scrapes the heart – “writing you do because your heart will burst if you don’t write it.” (p. 98)

His writing seed ideas, can prompt and entice the most reticent of writers, to pick up their pencils and pens and write – authentically, creatively, imaginatively, wildly and “juicy” (a term used by another of my writing idols SARK)

On his site, Ralph lists tips for young (and not so young) writers. He is my Writer’s Notebook guru and his website is a favourite in my bookmarks.

How to create an environmental disaster

This presentation has been created, inspired by the ideas of Corbett Harrison – Life is a Cook book. I asked the students to think of a current issue, then write it up as a recipe. The above youtube clip, will explain what I mean. The students loved it. What I love about the idea, is that the students have to know the details about the issue, to be able to create the recipe, but creating a recipe, is way more fun than writing a traditional “report” of the issue.

Teaching Writing Right

Thanks to Jenny Gilbert whom I follow on, I have discovered this wonderful blog loaded with ideas for teaching writing – which of course, is my passion. One of the ideas which really took my eye, was Life is a Cookbook. Students select an event or an issue, and then write about it, as a recipe. One of my year 5/6 students selected the recent oil spill off New Zealand

The title for his recipe was “How to create an environmental disaster” and his list of ingredients included a Greek owned container ship, 1,368 containers, eight of which contain hazardous materials; 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel oil; a reef. The “method” as you can imagine, involved all the details of the environmental accident.

What I particularly like about this strategy, is that the students have to research the issue to be able to create the recipe – so they are reading, comprehending, rewording, explaining and enjoying the fun twist on writing about a current affair. I will be exploring more of Corbett Harrison’s wonderful ideas over the next few weeks.

It’s a Book!

I found this cute little thought provoking clip on Langwitches Blog On her blog, she lists a number of questions which weigh up the differences between a “real” book and a digital book. The writer of Langwitches blog, has also considered the differences on 2 other posts: So, what are books? and Commuting between Media.

Have you thought about the differences? Have you tried reading a digital book? Do you own a kindle? Are you an avid “real” book reader?

I haven’t read a digital book yet. I have listened to audio books but unless I am travelling while I listen, I tend to lose focus. My next challenge is to organise to read a digital book this week! I’ll bring you my thoughts after that.

Exit Slip


An exit slip is a short, low stakes, written reflection by the students, of the current lesson or topic. Exit slips can be written in a book, but are most easily written on sticky notes, which can then be stuck to a master piece of paper, or into the teacher’s book. Exit slips are written at the end of the class, in the last 5 minutes, and can be prompted or unprompted – depending upon the needs of the teachers. Exit slips can be used to gather soft data about the child. By using open ended, clever prompts, teachers can glean all manner of information about how well the students have understood the task, what questions they may still have, any misconceptions and a general idea of how much the students have enjoyed the task. These exit slips must be written by each child before they leave the classroom. Students should put their names on each slip. Prompts must be designed to inform your teaching, so that teachers can use them to decide things such as where to next? and which children need support or extending.

For some examples and further explanation – check out this site – Reading Rockets

Cornell notes / double entry journal

Any time you have ruled a line down the middle of a page and compared two things by listing pros and cons, you have used a double entry journal. A version of double entry journals, is CORNELL NOTES.

This structure allows students to record the main ideas / key words on the left hand side, and to reflect, wonder and respond to the information as they go. At the bottom of the page, students can then re read their notes, and make a summary of the information.

“Double entry journals are very flexible. Within a unit, double-entry journals can be used to deepen text understanding, show the thinking behind problem solving, or compare ideas, information, characters and so on.”
p.85 Content-Area Writing – Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman and Nancy Steineke

Writing to Learn – what is it?

“To get true learning power, kids must put ideas into their own words.”

p 26 Content Area Writing – Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman, Nancy Steineke

Writing to learn is different to high stakes, public writing. Writing To Learns are:
Short;spontaneous;exploratory;informal;personal;one draft;unedited; and ungraded.

This semester, in my role as literacy coach, I am introducing some of the Writing to Learn strategies which are explained in the above book, Content Area Writing.