I'm Kerry and I am your new Talk for Writing Tuesday contributor.
I’m very excited and a whole lot of nervous to be connecting with you for the first time. Many thanks to Smile Teachers for allowing me this opportunity.
I’d like to start by sharing a little story with you all but in order to give it some context, I need to provide a little background information on myself.
I am a happily married mum of three terrific kids who would do their utmost to convince the world they are relatively grown up. I have extended family to support me and superb friends that fill every aspect of my days. Life has been full of ups and downs but on the most part, things are good – I have no complaints. At the moment!
So one night, a few weeks ago, I was messing about online and came across a relationship quiz. I asked my hubby to have a go at it with me and we were doing well – having a giggle and basically nailing every question.
Then I had to ask him this one; “What am I most proud of?” I thought the answer would have been quite obvious and would have highlighted my family so you could have knocked me over with a feather when hubby replied, within a heartbeat of hearing the question, “Your class. Every. Single. Year.” I was stunned.
Did he seriously think I was more proud of the kids I taught than the ones I had birthed?? Where had that answer come from?
I had given the past twenty years of my life to raising, supporting and loving our kids. They have always been first and foremost on my mind. Did he not know that my family meant the world to
me? I felt quite devastated, to tell the truth. Like I had been acting or bluffing my way through parenthood.
I tend to think most often about these things throughout the night when I should be sleeping instead. I tried to figure out where his answer had come from and I think I begrudgingly reached a degree of understanding.
Whilst I know that my marriage and children are my great achievements, my pride and joy, I suppose as parents, we don’t spend many evenings chatting to each other about how awesome we think our kids are. We often complain about how they filled the dishwasher but didn’t put it on,
forgot to return my debit card last night after I sent them to the shop which left me stranded at the petrol station that afternoon, left the sauce out and lights on after having a second dinner in the kitchen we had just finished cleaning.
Yet while I’m marking some work at home I’ll often say things like, “Awwwww honey, listen to this!” and I’ll read something out to him that one of my kiddos had written that day, full of adjectives and descriptions that I know he wouldn’t use himself in a million years. Or I’ll hold something up to him and say, “Look at this! She couldn’t write a sentence at the beginning of the year and now she writes like this!” I know I tell him that I love my kiddos, I enjoy going to work to spend my days with
them and I honestly don’t suffer from Mondayitis so yeah, I forgive him for thinking that I am more proud of them than anything else in the world.
I haven’t always felt this way about teaching though. I had my years of working hard and partying harder on the weekends and my years of spending twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with little people – those I taught and the precious ones at home. While each stage of my life
was personally awesome, neither one provided me with balance or fulfillment professionally.
There are many reasons why teaching is such a joy for me now. I’m an embedded part of my school and it’s culture. I have been at the school for approximately twelve years, lived in the local community until last year and my three children all attended the very same school.
I teach in an open classroom situation with a colleague I consider to be a best friend. The concertina doors between our rooms are permanently open and we team- teach all the way. Although I have twenty-one students on my roll and my partner has twenty on hers, we teach as if we have forty-one students between us for 90% of the week.
I spend my days laughing and my current situation is almost ideal.
But there is more to it than that. I believe I have found my niche in teaching – my little area of budding expertise that I teach almost every day and I take great pride in the growth and development I foster in my students.
This love of mine is called Talk for Writing and it has transformed both the way I teach writing and the writing my students produce. It’s almost as if the program has a ricocheting effect in my room.
The kids are focused and intent on learning, which means that I am focused and intent on delivering it as well as I can, and so the cycle continues, day after day. I am constantly inspired by the progress I witness in my classroom and I am driven to learn more, master more and
share more about this program with others.
So for those of you who are new to Talk for Writing, please allow me to introduce you. Talk for Writing, developed by Pie Corbett and Julia Strong, is powerful and effective in the classroom bcause it is based on the principles of how children learn best.
Talk for Writing builds on three key stages of learning which work together to develop knowledge, confidence and independence in writers of all ages. Children are given time and opportunities to imitate and learn the language they need for a particular topic orally before reading, deconstructing and altering a mentor text and eventually writing their own version of the specified
The three stages are commonly referred to as imitation, innovation and invention/independent application (the three I’s). I believe the two initial phases in Talk for Writing are unique features of this approach, whereas the third phase has been relatively common practice for students
in primary schools, whereby students are expected to be able to compose writing independently.
The imitation phase provides the students with the opportunity to internalise the pattern of the language that will be required. Each unit begins with the teacher orally sharing an engaging text with the children that contains examples of literacy elements we want the children to learn.
Children create actions and storymaps, containing pictures and symbols that represent the main events or elements of the text. We explore the key elements that make each text work and develop a toolkit of important features to use later in their independent attempts at writing.
Participating in the imitation phase allows the children to hear the text, say it for themselves, internalise it and enjoy it before seeing it written down.
The key activity in the innovation stage is shared writing, supporting the students to write their own texts by constructing a class text first. Innovating on the exemplar text and changing certain elements to make it different in some way, first by changing elements of their story maps
pictorially, allows each child to see how you can innovate on the exemplar text, selecting words and phrases that really work and progresses to children re-writing their own versions. In my experience, this is where the magic really happens!
During the invention/independent application stage, children write their own texts on a different topic but refer to the structure and format of the exemplar text and apply the key features they added to their toolkits during the imitation phase and experimented with during the innovation
But, oh my goodness, there is so much more fun to be had with this!
Personally, my favourite phase to teach is imitation. Yet so much growth occurs during the innovation phase, which is awesome to witness and the invention stage provides incredible evidence as to the effectiveness of the program as a whole. Yep. I love it!!
So here’s the thing. Do I think I’ve nailed the delivery of the Talk for Writing process? Nope.
How about this – do I consider myself to be masterful in the delivery of just one of the three phases? Nah-uh.
I am forever learning, adjusting and trying new things, which doesn’t surprise me or bother me in the least. That’s always been my way with teaching.
Even though I’ve spent the vast majority of my teaching career in years one or two, I rarely repeat any program I taught from one year to the next. In fact, this is the first year in forever that I have persevered with the same spelling program for three terms!
I need to discover ah-mazing programs and resources before I can commit to them long term.
Otherwise, I always feel as if I’m doing my kiddos a disservice, that they’re needing and deserving of better than what I’m providing. Yet for four years, day in and day out, I have poured the bulk of my passion and enthusiasm into my Talk for Writing lessons. I have learned so much and continue to do so.
There are many aspects of the program that I am yet to deliver and elements within each phase that I haven’t even yet explored. Every time I look through my resource books I come across something that I’ve been meaning to implement but haven’t yet done so. And that’s ok. The depth and breadth that this program offers in teaching both narrative and non-fiction text features keeps me enthusiastic and in lifetime learner mode, a state of mind I try to embed in the children I teach.
Speaking of non-fiction text features, the teaching of writing non-fiction had always made me feel a bit blah! I never felt as if I got the best out of the kiddos because there seemed to be so many elements I needed to cover. Like, how could I expect them to write a quality report on a topic
before I had covered effective research skills, which is never easy with year one or two’s in a computer lab. After all, the writer of a report needs to know quite a lot about the topic to ensure the written piece is better than mediocre. The whole process was just too much.
When I attended my first PD at the Dyslexic Speld Foundation (DSF) on teaching non-fiction through Talk for Writing, I walked away feeling so enlightened. It was as if I had been given permission to teach non-fiction writing structures with the same creativity I delivered my narrative writing units with because that’s exactly what I had just been taught to do!
We are currently writing non-chronological reports on dragons and using all the elements of introductions, the clumping of facts into sections or paragraphs and finishing with a conclusion. I can’t wait to share more about this with you!
Now it’s over to you, teachers.
What are you wanting to know more about?
Are you curious to learn more about the three phases of the program?
Would you like to know more about my journey with Talk for Writing?
Connect with Smile Teachers and I would be more than happy to get in touch to help you fall in love with talk for writing.
From one single teacher requesting Professional Development in a relatively unknown program to the implementation of this program at a whole school level within six months. Or maybe team teaching in its entirety has piqued your interest. I’d love to talk more about non-fiction writing too. I’m excited to delve further into anything of interest to you in upcoming posts.
Until then everyone – be safe, be happy and teach well!!
We are so excited to share Kerry's journey with you each Tuesday at Smile Teachers. She has a wealth of experience and knowledge in education as you can see in her first blog post. We know you will love what she shares each week. To get in contact with Kerry please fill out our contact form and we will point you in the right direction. We are hoping you can meet her at our Mindset Manoeuvre Workshop or Bali Teacher Retreat.