Stephen Graham Professional Learning
'Explicitly Teaching Children to Write'
Learning Writing, Grammar and Punctuation
A Learning Partnerships program
Mid City Motel Ballarat
How can we explicitly teach children to write including grammar and punctuation?
About literacy teaching in our system (healthy comparisons?)
Our education system teaches literacy well.
Pisa says all education systems are different and have challenges (not so in some of the schools we are told to aspire too) We also have students being taught in very remote areas. Sydney University says we should compare Finland to Canberra. Parents in Finland are more literate. In Australia we spend less per head on primary education than like countries.
Australian teachers reflect on practice. In our system we see significant value added in our reading data but we have a gap between reading and writing. The gap is widening and needs to be addressed.
Two demands in writing are knowledge of content and then we need the literacy.
In order to teach literacy children need a shared language - grammar
Grammar- works at whole text level, sentence and word level ( nouns, verbs etc)
Australian curriculum has simplified word level grammar.
Sentence level requires us to teach children how to write simple, complex ( in narratives) and compound sentences.
Text level grammar means we can identify the type of writing we need for a particular audience. ( narrative, procedure, persuasive etc)
Grammar cannot be taught generically it has to be taught embedded in text.
Example -Information reports
Start an information report with a macro group and then go into micro by being specific.( classifying)
Think information report consistency.Paragraphing can be used to write the micro aspects of an information report.
A report on spiders could be looking at the macro ( what is a spider? ) and the micro in preceding sentences could be looking at specific spiders.
Writers should be able to look at a item in different contexts such as describing using different perspectives ( size, description, function, color, position ) At the end of prep children should be a ole to describe a 'teddy'- doing sentences, position sentences, function sentences, size and number sentences etc)
Children need to write topic sentences and write micro sentences in descriptive sentences.
No personal pronouns in information texts, no active voice sentences in passive non judgemental texts. At the sentence level you need short succinct sentences.( grammar embedded in text)
Example with Preps writing information report-
Prep student information report for a student: 'Michael'. Children create sentences for a boy in their class- ( write a number sentence - Michael is 5) color sentence - (Michael has blonde hair) position, function etc done orally and then they write sentences. If all sentences start with 'Michael' they could change the sentences to start some with pronouns but then revert back to the name.
Another example of macro-micro for Preps could be toys as the macro but micro sentences could be about outside toys and inside toys. ( Toys inside are soft. Toys outside are hard.)
Auxiliary verbs like- is, has,was etc helps to determine tense. ( was, were and had however are needed for recounts. ) These are hard to learn but are essential
Steven showed us explicitly how to write a information report especially writing paragraphs.( refer photo of my notes)
Grammar is shared language - He emphasised that we remember:structure macro into micro, write short sentences, visual literacy such as graphs and diagrams and pictures can be used but ensure they underline a core sentence first so that they get visual literacy to match the sentences not just the first picture they find on Google.
Steven showed us a text written by a high school student showing a good quality text that started with explicit teaching of writing.
Steven 'stunned' the audience by saying that information texts do not need conclusions.You do need a purpose for writing the text and that may require a concluding statement.It needs to be a third person evaluative ( role, importance, purpose) comment linked to the purpose of the report.
Show kids about tense with relating verbs.This is very important ( is, are, has are present if you have was, were, had then it is past tense.) We do it well with action verbs but not relating.
There are 9 major text type genre to learn.
We participated in a matching task on our table ( matching text types with examples of text)
Steven said that we might find it hard to identify genres that we don't teach particularly well.
In description writing have children describe themselves and objects and then to start describing literary characters.You need to be able to describe a literary object to write narratives. This is at the upper end of writing skills. LIttle kids need to practice describing sentences (orally) describe your weekend, describe your little sister etc.
He reminded us about the difference between genre and form. Form could be a letter or a poem for example.( for example a haiku is a description but The Man From Snowy River is a narrative.)
Grammar at the sentence level
In English we use 3 levels of sentence- simple ( just one verb) , compound ( more than 1 verb) and complex (more than 1 verb independent and dependent clause)
Punctuation- using capital letters and full stops. If children have problems putting them in then have them read their own work and look for verbs.He suggested that children have no more than 2 verbs per sentence and he suggested that we circle verbs in their writing and ask them about where full stops and capitals should be.
The secret of getting complex sentences in narratives is getting them to use conjunctions and joining words such as: and, but, or, nor ,yet (used probably too much but good at creating complex sentence. Steven calls them 'friendly joining words') Subordinating conjunctions such as: until, however and since which are looked for by NAPLAN test markers.
Conjunctions can be used at the start of the sentence ( We can put 'because' at the start of a sentence) If you do that you need an independent clause.
We spent some time writing different kinds of sentences and completing a grammar quiz.
In the afternoon session we practiced using Steven's scaffold for a persuasive text
While writing our own persuasive texts in groups we used a joint language and edited it. Steven stressed the need to model sentences. Persuasive text should be present tense but examples are usually past tense which can cause confusion.So when writing examples you will need to practice using different tense.
Two most important things to learn:
Don't believe that in Australia we have literacy teaching wrong. we don't because good teachers in Australia reflect on their practice.
There are 9 types of writing genre. We can scaffold writing for information and persuasive texts. We need a shared language to use with children with their writing.
This was a very productive professional learning session. I took away a lot of ideas that I can immediately use in class from Prep to grade 6. I will start by using the information text scaffold with the grade 4s to write a report on spiders and a persuasive text scaffold for the grade 6 students on initially topics of their own choice following my example. I will also give the grade 1 and 2 students the chance to try simple information texts rather than narratives and recounts that they normally do with their daily writing. I think these scaffolds if used as Steven demonstrated witch us will be very effective at improving the quality of the children's writing.
I had a bad start to the day today. When I registered for this PD we had to print off a ticket for it and we were told we had to present it for entry! I left it at work by mistake so went up early this morning to get it. While I was in the new classroom a magpie flew into the old one. ( It isn't the first time we've had a bird in one of our classrooms but it has been awhile.) I know from experience not to go in and scare it anymore. It took a long 45 minutes before it finally found the door and flew off. Needless to say I have a fair bit of cleaning to do tomorrow - and of course, no one asked for the ticket!