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.

Writing Break


“Writing breaks are a reminder to me to just shut up every once in a while and let the kids think.” While we often feel pressured to talk till the bell – to pack as much content as we can into a class period – we also know that kids don’t remember as much when they are overwhelmed. as we said in chapter 1, less content can be more, if more is actually retained.” p 31 Content Area Writing – Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman, Nancy Steineke

A writing break is a break, at specific points during the class, where students stop and reflect in writing on the class / information so far. Some quick, turn and talk sharing usually follows the writing, then the class resumes.


These figures will amaze you (well they amazed me). Kids recall between 10 and 30 % of what they read, hear and see.By incorporating writing breaks at regular intervals, about every 10 – 20 minutes, you can really kick the retention up a notch because writing and then talking about it, moves the sticking rate into the 70 – 90 % range.

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

Read Aloud – why use this strategy?

“A read aloud is a planned oral reading of a book or print excerpt, usually related to a theme or topic of study. The read aloud can be used to engage the student listener while developing background knowledge, increasing comprehension skills, and fostering critical thinking. A read aloud can be used to model the use of reading strategies that aid in comprehension.”

The Elementary Science Integration Projects (ESIP)

Read alouds promote listening and comprehension skills, expose children to fluent, expressive reading and new information, help students deepen their understanding on a theme or topic, broaden vocabulary as well as allowing students to simply appreciate good literature.

The blog as an authentic teaching tool.

I am delighted with the success of my “Photo a Week” project. It began by having the students get access to a photo a week, pasting it into their writing journals, and writing between 50 and 100 words about that photo. The writing can be descriptive, a poem, a list of instructions, an observation, a list of questions etc, as long as they were writing about the photo.

For those students who have limited access to digital photography, printers, cameras etc. it has now progressed to alternatively using any sort of graphic – something they have drawn, or a picture from a magazine, newspaper etc.

This project is their weekly homework and the motivation to complete it is intrinsic. Everybody likes to talk about their own lives and things which are important to them. I have coupled this project, with 2 regular, weekly blog posts, which the students are required to complete each week.

1. Your week or weekend in a sentence (which was a direct steal from a project Anne Mirtschin was involved in with her regular blogging activities). I have found that as well as hearing things about the students which are really interesting and which they are motivated to share, that it is a very legitimate way to focus on the structure of a sentence. How much more effective is the teaching when it is broken into small steps.

2. Grammar – eg Homonyms, antonyms etc. I select a homonym and have the students use them correctly in a sentence. eg. new and knew.

The use of technology in all these tasks have made the homework far more meaningful and enjoyable. As you might have gathered, I am a huge supporter of the blog as an authentic teaching tool.

Tips for creating your own Wordle

Ok bloggers, here are a few tips on creating your own wordles.

1. If you want a certain word to appear larger than the others, write this word several times
2. If you want a group of words to appear together, use the tilde key ~ between words
3. Don’t forget to save your screen dump as a Jpeg.

Improved Student Outcomes

What a difference a few months of working with the web 2.0 tools can make to students and teachers alike. Prior to being introduced to these amazing tools of trade by our two dynamos Anne and Jess, project presentations were somewhat tedious to say the least.

At the start of the term, when I proposed the idea of a “project” and brainstormed methods of presenting them, the preferred option for students were posters or books! I was horrified.
That’s when I made the decision to hop onto the blogging wave which was swamping our school. The students all had their own blogs, and they had in place some of the tools that became pivotal to our progress. Once my home internet was reconnected and I could access the technology from home again, it was all go, go, go.

The students helped design our presentation rubric, where we explicitly pin pointed the things that made a presentation a “good one”. Then we brainstormed a number of ways in which we could use these tools of technology, to help us enhance our projects. The results have been amazing.
The students have used:
• Powerpoint – and then slideshare to embed their presentations in their own blogs
• Smartboards and wireless mouse (does anybody else have their tongue out the side of their mouths, or feel like they have had a stroke while using this? )
• Photostory
• Podcasts
• Video interviews and role play
• Voicethread interviews
• Quizzes using “mystudiyo”
• Voting – using “polldaddy “ and “zoho”
• And of course, the faithful old wordfind and crossword puzzles

Below is a quiz created by one of our students, who did a brilliant presentation on Albert Einstein. Tzigane created this quiz using mystudiyo, and it was a huge success. It was the finale of her presentation. She chose the same number of children as she had questions and as each child got the answer correct, she issued them with a lollypop.

My Life is now complete …. I have a voki

Well, after a discussion with my year 6 students today, it was decided that Ms M needed a voki. The real incentive presented itself after one cheeky student whose blogging name is Beatstar, (and whose report I am yet to write!)said “come on Grandma…” Well, for what it’s worth you cheeky children, here is my voki.