Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Writing with Jill Eggleton

As I embark upon new adventures in a new environment with a younger year group, it is quite daunting to reflect upon everything that I already know and what I need to adapt and learn in order to refine my knowledge and teaching practice for this new learning journey.

Today, I was privileged to attend a writing PD session presented by Jill Eggleton which she designed specifically for teachers of junior classes.  What perfect timing for me!

Jill began her session by quoting Steve Peha, the American educator, as a reminder about the “whys” of writing as well as the metalanguage of writing that it is so important for teachers to use within the classroom: “A communication of content for a purpose to an audience”.

She contended that writing is a multi-layered process in which learning and knowledge are so inextricably intertwined that it is impossible to focus on only one aspect of writing at a time. Jill reiterated that for early writers the focus is encouraging and celebrating the sharing of oral language through writing.  These learners should not be discouraged or be presented with barriers to  this process through the introduction to writing genres.

A balanced writing programme includes shared, modelled and independent writing as well as opportunities for students to publish writing they have edited and re-crafted.

Shared writing

These whole class sessions should last no longer than 10-15 minutes for beginning writers.  They do not happen every day or every week because they are not targeted enough.  Such sessions would only take place when there has been a common approach or shared activity.  This might occur only once every three weeks.

Modelled writing

Jill contends that the hardest part of writing is the trip ideas make from the head to the page.  Modelled writing supports children to make connections to the processes and strategies used by good writers.  It makes explicit the trip that ideas make to reach the page.

The modelled writing approach is the teacher writing for the children - modelling what a good writer does.  It is a personal story shared with the children through the planning stage, think-alouds about topic, purpose and audience, show not tell and adding detail using the senses.  It would include sounding out word blends and modelling correct spelling by using word cards to reinforce the connection between letters and their sounds.

Jill’s final thoughts were that good writers re-read their writing to ensure it makes sense.  To support good writing in the classroom, a teacher’s focus should be quality over quantity with time set aside to teach children how to re-craft their writing.  As Ernest Hemingway said: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master”.

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