Microwriting – getting practical in English

This resource is part of a suite of conversations between the English Curriculum Team and teachers and school leaders from across the NSW Department of Education. These recorded sessions draw upon research and experience in subject English and present a range of evidence-based strategies for improving writing.

Audience: Stage 6 teachers

Watch 'Microwriting – getting practical in English' (57:25)

Supporting teachers to develop their understanding of ways to embed regular microwriting activities into Stage 6 programs.

(Duration 57 minutes 25 seconds)

Ashlee Horton

This workshop is split into 3 sections. We begin by unpacking the module description, using strategies that can also be utilized in the classroom. You're going to have a go at completing a microwriting task that can be done with students during a ‘Craft of Writing’ lesson. And then we're going to spend some time with the core texts to provide practical suggestions for how to use the English text concepts of code and convention, genre, and style when teaching. We believe that these strategies can be applied by you to the prescribed text that you choose for your program.

During this session, we aim to deepen your understanding of the knowledge and skills required of students in ‘Module C – The Craft of Writing’, demonstrate how microwriting activities can be embedded throughout the year to encourage and foster writing skills. And then by the end of the session you will distinguish between the skills and knowledge required of students in Module C and identify how this knowledge and skill development can be supported in teaching and learning activities, informed by the syllabus requirements. Consider how microwriting tasks can be integrated into your HSC lessons throughout the year. And reflect on how you can use microwriting as a formative assessment tool to monitor and support student understanding and skill development in writing.

Now, just before I continue, I was going to record this presentation and I've just realized I've forgotten to do that. So, give me one moment. Oh no, it has started. Thank you. See? Angels in the background. Alright, let's keep going then.

So, to kick us off, I thought we'd read this advice from Stephen King, "If you want to be a writer, you must do 2 things above all others – read a lot and write a lot.” So, we feel like this quote nicely summarizes the relationship between reading and writing that is stressed in the Stage 6 English courses. It's important to remind students that both reading and writing are skills that need to be practiced in order for us to improve in either one or both of these areas.

So, let's examine how this module fits into the rest of the course. This module can be taught concurrently with other modules and to understand why Module C has this flexibility around delivery, and to help you crystallize the focus of these concurrent Mod C lessons or tasks, we're just going to take a moment to look at the purpose of this module.

So, the foundations for the knowledge and skills required of students in Module C are laid in the very first module for Stage 6, ‘Reading to Write’. So, this is the transition unit, the transition to senior English. In this module, students are required to engage in the reading of quality texts and reflect on their reading experiences. These reflections allow them to make connections between the reading and writing processes. They also use these texts as inspiration for their own imaginative, reflective, and analytical writing.

In ‘Craft of Writing’ students still engage with quality texts, but they read with a very clear purpose. They read with the purpose of identifying how they can develop and refine their own writing. This module provides them with the opportunity to refine and extend their knowledge about language and their use of language, which they have been developing over Stage 6. This would suggest that Module C is a skill-based course, and we agree that it is, very much so in fact.

In our discussions Zenna and I have often referred to the Mod C lessons as being the “prac” lessons of English, which is where the title of this presentation has come from. So, let's have a look at these modules side by side. And when we compare them in this way, we can see how students’ knowledge and skills develop over these modules. We also get a better understanding of the relationship between the 2 modules.

If we look at students required knowledge first, we can see that students move from reading for enjoyment and reflecting on their reading experiences, to reading with purpose and reflecting with purpose. They are reading with the purpose of developing themselves as writers. This requires them to take deep dives into texts and consolidate their understanding of the interconnectedness of purpose, form and language features.

‘Reading to Write’ provides the foundations for the knowledge required in ‘Craft of Writing’ and it also provides the foundation for these skills. So, on this slide, we have a side-by-side comparison of what students know how to do, as opposed to the previous slide, which was what students know. The knowledge, what students know. What we can see is that the progression of skills that they've started developing at the beginning of Year 11 in ‘Reading to Write’ continues all the way to ‘Craft of Writing’. When we spoke about students in ‘Craft of Writing’, reading with the purpose of developing their own writing, and we can see here that they are expected to apply this knowledge to their own writing. In fact, most of the skills in this column revolve around student writing.

So, that tells us that ‘Craft of Writing’ is all about the doing. It's asking students to immerse themselves in the writing process and develop their voice as confident and effective communicators.

You may like to present students with this side-by-side comparison of the module descriptions to your students. This would be most appropriate at the beginning of ‘Craft of Writing’ as it illustrates, where they have come from and clarifies where they are going with this module. These module comparisons can be used to prompt rich discussion in the classroom and with your faculty as well.

So, here is the breakdown of the Module C description. We know that the font is tiny, and we'll show you each side of the table using a larger font in just a moment. And we've included this slide for the visual comparison of the breakdown. So, take a moment to think about what it is that most stands out about these 2 components.

You may like to pop some observations in the chat as well if you're feeling particularly brave.

So, does it come as a surprise that there are fewer statements about content and skills? And while it might not seem like a significant difference, it's considerable when we take into account that the knowledge content is aligned to what students do.

When we look at the statements that fall within the skills column, we can see that the inclusion of the verbs “apply”, which is used twice, and “experiment “require students to transfer their skills and knowledge to their own compositions. These verbs also indicate that students are immersed in the writing process. So, they're participating in all stages and developing an understanding that writing is recursive.

These knowledge statements identify why students are reading in this module. The observations they make about language in these complex texts are going to assist them with their own experimentation and application. And that refers back to the verbs on the previous slide. So, we can see that the knowledge informs the skills and much of this Module C revolves around the refinement of these skills and what better way, we think, to target the considered use of specific language features than through microwriting activities?

So, again, we would recommend sharing the breakdown like this with your students. You may like to use the statements as discussion points as you unpack the module, or you could even jumble the statements and ask students to identify what they are expected to know and what they're expected to do. To reinforce the connection between their writing and the requirements of the module, you may also like to tweak these statements to form learning intentions for your lessons.

So, now that we've established a connection between microwriting and the module description, let's look at how we can use the module description outcome and the associated content points to create microwriting activities that target focus areas. So, on the screen, you have an example for Outcome 3, and this is also replicated as a screenshot in your participant booklets. We've chosen Outcomes 3 and Outcomes 4 for this particular part of the presentation, because we feel that they align so closely to the description for Module C.

So, in these English standard outcomes, the focus is on students developing their awareness of how language is used so that they're able to use it effectively themselves. If you look at the outcome, which is in black on the screen, you can see that it says, “A student analyzes and uses language forms, features, and structures of text and justifies their appropriateness for purpose, audience and context, and explains effects on meaning.”

This screen demonstrates how you should connect points in the module statement, which is shown in the red arrows with the focus skills in Outcome 3. And notice that the focus here is on students doing. So, we've also taken the same approach to Outcome 4 for English standard, and while we are certain that there are other outcomes that might apply to parts of the module statement, I'm sure you'll agree with this, that 3 and 4 are pertinent to programming effectively for Module C.

And this is an activity that is also included in the booklet and one that you might like to take back to your faculty at a later date. Let's take a moment to look at the module statement and Outcome 9, which is the outcome that talks about student reflection. So, using the examples provided for Outcomes 3 and 4, which specific parts of the module description provide elaboration on how this outcome will look? So, take a moment to think about that and you might like to pop your answers into the chat.

If you've got a printed version of the booklets on page 9, then I believe there's space for you to write in there too. Yep. So, Linda has matched up the section to talk about own learning and individual processes that link to work independently. Absolutely. Where else are the connections?

We would say that we need to encourage the development of students’ reflective writing as the module statement requires students to reflect on the complex and recursive processes of writing to further develop their self-expression, and work independently and collaboratively to reflect, refine, and strengthen their own skills, which was that section that was identified by Linda in the chat.

This means that we need to provide opportunities for students to explicitly reflect on aspects of their writing. Attaching reflection exercises to the microwriting tasks, Zenna will demonstrate shortly, allows you to assess students’ skills and knowledge of reflective writing. Utilizing peer feedback strategies can also assist you in meeting this requirement. And on this note, it's time for you to do some more reflecting.

We have a quick-thinking routine for you, and it's one that you can do with your students after studying the module description. So, while these questions are for teachers and focus on getting you to think about the teaching and learning program, they can be tweaked by you for use with your students. So, take a moment to complete the questions and again, if you're feeling brave or feeling confident, or you have any additional questions, please feel free to pop them into the chat.

So how does the breakdown of the module description connect to your current teaching of Module C? How did this section extend your understanding about ways to teach Module C? What challenges or puzzles emerge for you? So, we'll give you about 3 minutes to have a think, and again, please share your reflections if you feel comfortable enough to do so.

And again, if you are using a printed version, there is space for you to convey these reflections on page 12.

So, Linda has said that one of the challenges is that the inclusion of the prescribed text shifts us to more reading activities rather than writing and suggests a need to refocus. And I think that's why, yes, I agree with you and I think that's why when Zenna and I were putting this presentation together, we found it so interesting because when you do sit down and look at the module statement for Module C, it is so clear that this has to be a really hands on subject, but I think that can often get lost in the pressures of teaching HSC courses as well.

So, hopefully having these microwriting activities, because they are quite short and can be sort of peppered throughout a program, it'll help to mitigate some of that. What else have we got in the chat?

Using insight to assess your activities for students to give positive feedback and suggestions for improvement to reach the higher bands? Yeah, absolutely. I think peer feedback is pretty critical for this unit. Where is the skills and knowledge table? The skills and knowledge table is a little earlier in the booklet, 6 and 7 there you go.

Prescribed texts rather than the writing, yep. And sometimes my students get caught in analysis and essay responses rather than creative and reflective responses. Absolutely. And sometimes it's like, they've got blinkers on. They know they have to write essays for that exam and that's all they want to practice. So, I think giving them those opportunities to really emphasize the importance of their creative and reflective writing is good just to reset their thinking as well.

And then using the Mod C text to reflect on the use of skills more than focusing on content. Yep, absolutely. And hopefully Lee, some of these activities will provide easy ways to do so.

And Julie has said that she teaches Mod C concurrently, and I think it's in the spirit of the module's intention to develop student skills over time. I also focus on development of specific skills and the recursive processes the module statement requires.

Yep, absolutely. And actually, that reminds us of one of the questions that we received in the registration survey, which was how we can backward map these skills from Stage 6 all the way through to Stage 4 and mapping the outcomes across those different stages allows you to see quite clearly where the outcomes allow for creative and discursive writing skill development.

Again, using microwriting activities, short, sharp bursts of writing that you can use within those junior programs to help build up to those skills in Stage 6. Alright, beautiful. Well, on that note, I might pass over to Zenna who's now going to be talking about some of these practical lessons and practical activities that you can include in this very practical module. So, Zenna, over to you.

Zenna Diab

Thank you, Ashlee. I'm really excited that I remembered to unmute within 3 words of starting. So, that's a great achievement on my end. I'm also really excited to be talking about microwriting today. And as Ashley alluded to earlier, just like science, practical experiments, and playing a game of soccer in PE, in English microwriting is the practical task that we need to make sure we are including in our English programming.

And one way to ensure that these practical aspects of English occur on a regular and frequent basis is to include microwriting. So, what is it? And I suppose what we are looking at is writing completed in short bursts. During these sessions of 5-30 minutes of drill, students are challenged to write spontaneously to craft micro stories or parts of stories.

Ian Reed's research about teaching creative writing by including accessible and relevant mentor text is at the core of the AATE book, Creating Micro Stories, Small fiction with Big Impact by Erika Boas, Emma Jenkins. To maximize the benefits of completing each microwriting task activities should include clear and explicit instructions, a focused aspect of writing or element of language and a mentor text, or a sample of writing.

So, they're the principles of microwriting and embedding microwriting into lessons on a regular basis will be beneficial to developing the skills required for success in Module C. However, this does not have to be limited to Module C prescribed texts. In fact, as previously stated, we recommend including microwriting drills in your programs for the common module and Modules A and B.

And to touch on something that was mentioned in one of the questions from our registration survey, this can also be something that you're including throughout Year 11. And of course, if you're backward mapping from Year 7 and upwards, to do that, one of the first things you can do is to begin exploring the English textual concepts, using them as the basis for designing effective microwriting tasks that focus on the development of aspects of writing or elements of language, which is part of those principles.

We'd like to take a moment to talk about the English textual concepts that we think are particularly effective for development on writing for the sake of writing. And we are basing this on the premise that you are hopefully by now using the English textual concepts to frame your teaching of subject English.

These concepts provide a conceptual focus that is based on subject English. We recommend that you choose 2 or 3 concepts for each writing task, possibly even one, depending on your student needs. And that you set that task with an explicit teaching of the concept or the ideas. Presented on the screen are some of the concepts that we personally as part of the English curriculum team, we personally have used these in our design of microwriting or Module C tasks.

Using code and convention for the concepts commonly allows you to focus writing tasks on how students can use elements of writing to convey meaning. In addition, students will be better equipped to apply the conventions of syntax, spelling, punctuation, and grammar, as they see appropriately, and to build the confidence to experiment with those in their own writing, which is part of the crafting element.

When you begin to explore a mentor text or a sample text, or even one of the prescribed Mod C texts, understanding of the English textual concept genre will definitely benefit students as they begin to explore the type or kind of text. Learning about genre equips your students to apply their knowledge of textual forms and features in their own sustained compositions. And doing this to begin in small sharp bursts of writing is obviously going to be the most effective way to experiment with use of genre.

The English textual concept style refers to the characteristics deliberately employed by a composer to express ideas in their own distinctive way. Learning about these, and then exploring these in their own compositions will equip students with the skills to create hybrid versions of various compositional styles. And they will be meeting one of the key bits of advice provided by NESA in their support document.

Now, if we move on to looking at particular microwriting activities and how we design those, we'll talk about how we use the English textual concepts, the outcome mapping that Ash mentioned earlier, and also the actual link to specific aspects of the module statement or module description to design each of these particular activities.

This first microwriting sample draws on the English textual concept, code and convention. To design this task, we began with Outcome 4 – understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features, and then we narrowed the focus to the content point, student makes imaginative use of language features, including punctuation and syntax for particular effect. I'll give you a moment to read what's there on the screen.

So, you can see that the task is very specific in what it guides students to do, part of those principles of microwriting and the sample that is provided here was a joint construction. And the students engaged in robust discussion about the setting, both in relation to the location and to the time of day.

Once again, the task did provide specific instructions such as including the setting in the first line. And it said that they had to use at least 5 types of punctuation with a list provided. Extending on this imaginative writing task we then draw on Outcome 9 and wrote a question that specifically allowed them to independently reflect on their own processes of responding as well as reflect on how they have experimented with and refined language choices. Key words from those outcome content points.

Moving on to the next microwriting sample, creating characterization. So, this mighty microwriting task draws on the English textual concept character. Again, I'll give you a moment to just read the actual task details and just so that you know, these are all included in your booklet. So, they're there for you to reference later on.

This task was designed during a study of the Castle and students had been learning about characterization and about developing their capacity to infer based on character interests, food preferences, and so on. After a few of those iconic dinner scenes, when Darrell compliments his wife's cooking, students were tasked with creating a character.

These instructions are quite specific which benefits reluctant writers, hence details such as the opening of a response and introducing the character through his or her reaction to a particular food provides a clear entry point for students who may end up being stuck with, how do I start? Because it's so explicit that element or restraint in writing is put aside.

The challenge to use imagery was drawn from Outcome 3, uses language forms, features, and structures of texts, and the content point under respond to and compose text, which reads students controlling, which features text structures, and stylistic choices of text to shape, meaning and influence responses. Supplementing the task with an example, which the students discussed prior to writing allowed them to identify the way that they can use language to build towards characterization. In this example, students love the exaggerated description of the process of making 2-Minute Noodles and also appreciate that the character is easily satisfied when hungry.

In the microwriting sample 3, adaptation of a fable or fairytale, this was designed revising intertextuality in Year 12 for an English Advanced class and the task was used to give students a chance to experiment with representing values in various contexts or perspectives.

As you can see on the screen, task 3 had various parts. And so, it might actually be one that you consider doing over 3 different lessons with 10 to 20 minutes allocated at the beginning of each lesson for each part, or potentially it might be a lesson that you hold in one 80 minute or 60 minute lesson, depending on how long your periods are.

So, in some cases your microwriting tasks might actually extend a bit longer than 20 minutes. But what we would recommend is that you do each part in segments so that the principles of microwriting are sustained, and students aren't overwhelmed with a large bit of writing in one go. Once again, just giving you a moment to read those task details before I elaborate on the design concept.

Okay. So, as mentioned, if I was introducing this for module 8, I would begin by addressing Outcome 12.6. And the idea here is that students investigate and evaluate the relationship between texts. Even though the content points under this outcome do not explicitly require students to compose text using intertextuality they most definitely benefit from investigating how intertextuality is a compositional choice that represents change in context, values, and attitudes.

Completing the task after engaging with the sample provided allowed students to think about how the narrative perspective had a significant impact on the way values and attitudes are represented. In the sample readers can't help but feel a little sorry for the poor giant in Jack and the Beanstalk. And even though there's a sinister warning in the final line, we anticipate the revenge tragedy to unfold. It was an awesome way to lead into a discussion of The Tempest and Hag-Seed.

The sample by the way, is in the booklet for you so you will be able to access that later on if you did want to use it in your classrooms as well.

So, when we are looking at micro sample task 4, which requires students to use tropes or motif, we are looking at the idea of drawing on a prescribed text. And this was designed for the use in the common module with the prescribed text 1984. After reading the description of the exterior of Winston's building, students were instructed to use colour as a motif or a trope to construct the opening of a narrative in which the setting is established.

It's an excellent example of exploring the English textual concept symbolism. To ensure that students understood the notion of colour as a motif or trope we engaged in a discussion that included how colour may be used metaphorically to represent emotion or how the absence of colour in the world could symbolically represent the absence of independence and self-direction and so on.

And then we also looked at a discussion of how colour was used in Pleasantville as a way of, you know, the absence of colour, as a way of establishing the ominous setting. So, we were drawing all these links to previous learning, and the students were able then to carry that forward with the sample provided in order to create their own piece.

Completing the task allowed students to use language forms and features and structures of texts for purpose audience, and context. This was consolidated using a joint construction strategy in which the class composed the sample. The task was completed a few weeks after the punctuation microwriting activity and you can see evidence of that punctuation activity used to create tone in this particular sample.

Moving on and inspired by one of the NESA sample questions from, I think it was 2019. The exam sample package provides an example of Module C writing where students have to engage with an excerpt from a text and then write analytically about that text before they move on to writing their own composition, based on the stylistic features in that stimulus text in the exam. This task was designed around that sample question.

Students in this particular task are instructed to read the excerpt from Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to answer an analytical question about how language is used to create a sense of place. Immediately targeting Outcome 3, the students are engaging with complex texts through their use of language forms, features, and structures to show their understanding and appreciation of the power of language to shape meaning.

Obviously, this task is modifiable for a Standard class or if you had a particularly engaged and really a class that liked to read you could certainly use the same excerpt or select one that you know is more appropriate to your students' interests or needs. Allowing students to then apply this writing feature which they've spent some time analysing in their own imaginative, discursive, or creative pieces, provides them with the opportunity to practice what they've just spent some time analysing.

Now, as we move on in the presentation, we trust that you can see how the English textual concepts and how outcomes help you to design purposeful and meaningful microwriting tasks, short, sharp activities that allow students to engage in a very particular writing style or particular writing purpose. And these will allow for organic writing opportunities in your classrooms.

For the sake of time, we do need to leave it at these 5 samples of microwriting activities, link to mentor texts, and shift the focus now to microwriting activities for Module C prescribed texts.

Beautiful term that we discovered in the AATE book MicroFiction is this idea of forensic reading, which we've used to label column 2. And I think what some of us often refer to as deconstruction or annotation of a text. So, we'd like to focus for a little bit, which I think we had in the chat a bit earlier on this danger of studying the prescribed text in Module C, which is that we overanalyse the text rather than using it as a sample of and model for effective writing.

Here, we've modelled how you can engage in a forensic reading of the prescribed text to enhance student understanding of how the text is crafted. So, to stay focused on that idea of crafting. Once this is completed, students aim to use these exact features in a piece of writing that is modelled off the prescribed text.

Once again, the principles of microwriting have been applied to the task. So, students have the opportunity to produce a piece of writing in a short amount of time with the potential to extend it into something more substantial later on.

Providing an example of the forensic reading, shown here in columns 1 and 2 with the colour coding, allows students to recognize the features identified to fit, to recognize the metalanguage that they should be using themselves.

Once they are tasked with writing, students can use the sample to compose in short bursts, and that's why we've divided it into rows in the booklet. And then they can come bring that together and write a whole piece, not necessarily following that exact order, but trying to use all those different features in one whole piece of writing.

Now, while the table might take some time to construct, there is an additional benefit that we believe makes all that time worthwhile. The notes in column 2 can later be transferred into the kind of language that your students need to be using as part of their reflective writing or justification. If that is something that is required in Module C. So, it's almost the 2 birds with one stone occurring right there in this short microwriting task.

With the annotations, students are able to then think about the language that they're using in their reflection. And they'll be using that language to justify their writing beautifully.

Moving on from that into other examples of microwriting for Module C. And this is where we're going to ask you to engage with us again a little bit more and to share some of your own ideas. On the screen you have a list of additional activities that we think are effective for Module C understanding of texts without getting bogged down in the over analysis of those texts.

Activities such as these ensure that students understand what they have read in a way that is focusing on the crafting. Some of these activities will serve as entry points into understanding what the text is about, but by activity 5 and 6 microwriting is being used to engage students in short and sharp examples of writing. I'll give you a moment to read activities 5 and 6 in particular.

Now you'll notice that these 2 activities are actually asking students to write a feature article, write a review, whole pieces, but you could always limit that to being part of a review or part of a feature article.

If you could now pop into the chat, some examples from your own classroom that you can show us where you've used writing activities to help your students show an understanding of a text, both in terms of what it's saying, and also how it's saying, that would be really beneficial to all of us.

So, this is a moment for collaboration. And while you are thinking about that and typing your answers into the chat, I'll elaborate a little bit on some additional strategies that we've used, and we thought were really effective.

What better way to engage students in writing from a particular narrative point of view than to instruct them to transform a section of a prescribed text from third person to first person. This task worked well with Bradbury's, The Pedestrian or Lucas Shanker's Dreamers in the Standard course.

For the Advanced course, I have used the task for Nam Le's Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice and for Kate Chopin's The Awakening. To explore perspective using the Module C prescribed text, consider asking students to write the feature article about a moment of tension or about a theme represented.

Provided with a headline "Young girl uses father's rifle to murder pet", my students wrote very powerful lead paragraphs for a news article inspired by Gwen Howard's Father and Child. As a disclaimer, this headline was sensationalized presenting a half-truth to make for an organic headline, typical of what we see in the news articles. Now we're going to give you a moment to share some of your tried and tested examples in the chat.

Bernadette has told us that students wrote a letter to Margaret Atwood telling her why Hag-Seed makes The Tempest come to life for them today, with the letter format encouraging discursive writing, beautiful.

Danielle has used sketch notes, visual plot maps, character one-pagers, a visual metaphor for the character poem about character. Wonderful, any particular text there, Danielle?

Melanie said that students have used Sketched for each stanza of Father and Child, helping them to see the imagery in the poem and then develop it in their own writing. Absolutely love that, Melanie. Yeah.

Okay Ashley, that lovely issue where my chat disappears behind the thousands of screens I've got, has just occurred.

Ashlee Horton

No, that's okay. There are a couple of others that have popped into the chat. So, Darren has asked students to write a letter to the following year group about their experience of the HSC in the style of Dear Mrs Dunkley.

Dajeeka, I apologize if I mispronounce that, uses plotting to help students make sense of time in An Artist of The Floating World.

Caitlin takes a pivotal moment from the text with 2 characters and writes about the scene from another character's point of view or a third-party onlooker. Works well with Nam Le, the students like the burning scene.

Idea of changing verbs and adjectives from extract from Dreamers to discuss and create mood and atmosphere. Actually, there's lots of ideas coming through. They're coming through faster than I can read them, Zenna.

Zenna Diab

That is wonderful.

Look Ash, what we will do, maybe give our participants just that little bit of time to copy these into the table that we've shared in the booklet or put into the booklet rather, I am scrolling down that booklet now. There is a table in the booklet, table 7, which is actually for the purpose of popping in your collaboration content, because we do know that often these great ideas come through and then we don't give you a moment to collect them and transfer them. So good to hear that lots are coming through.

Tom Gyenes

You've got most of them, Ashlee. I reckon. There's some good ideas about changing parts of speech.

Ashlee Horton

Yep. Yeah. Ah, fantastic.

Zenna Diab

Awesome. More than happy to hear a few more, how are we going with time? So, 15 minutes probably almost time to move on because we want to give our teachers some time to do a little bit of writing as well.

Thank you for collaborating as you have. Ash let's move to the next screen. And just putting out there to all of you that we think that the best thing that you can do in your classroom for the practical lesson is to do it with the students. So, teachers could be writing, modelling best practice. Initially, this could be daunting for some of us, especially if we are out of practice, but the more we do it, the more beneficial it is for students.

Talking about the process of composition and the choices you've made as a writer using a think-aloud strategy is also effective because this models Outcome 9, the reflection outcome that we've looked at quite a few times in this presentation. The first paragraph of the module statement declares that the module intends for students to extend their skills and confidence as accomplished writers, to become more confident in anything takes regular practice.

And tell me in reflection yourselves, how many of us have continued to write frequently for the sake of writing like we did when we were students ourselves? I know that it was one of the most daunting things I did as a beginner teacher, but because I did it early on, I continued to do it right up until the last moment I was in a classroom.

We'd love for you to take a moment now to be the student and to do some writing yourself using the excerpt that's on the screen, or if you prefer to use one of your Module C texts, and you've got that on hand and ready to go, we'd like you to engage in the activity that's on the screen. If you are using Nam Le's narrative, well then putting it out there that it's 8,000 words long, crouch end 10,000 plus words long.

And we basically talked about the fact that this could be abridged. So, the students were tasked with making a condensed version of this text, using those very particular guidelines on the screen. They had to use no more than 8 quotes. They had to use whole clauses or quotes, and they had to write 50 words. Depending on your class you could make that a little bit more flexible. The idea is that students are engaging really deeply with the excerpt and that they are thinking carefully about which particular quotes capture the essence of the excerpt and the concept within that excerpt.

So, over to you. Have a go at this task, I'm hoping that Jacquie will have another go at this task because when she's done it for us previously, she produced some pretty good writing. And once you are done, if you would pop your answer into the chat, we are excited to see what you come up with.

[Slide content –

Part A – Write a compressed version of this excerpt from Nam Le's text.

Your purpose is to capture the mood in the scene and to showcase the personality of the character.


  • use no more than 8 quotes
  • use whole clauses or quotes
  • write 50 words.

Excerpt –

“Very fancy,” he said as he led me through my own apartment. “You even have a piano.” He gave me an almost rueful smile. “I knew you’d never really quit.” Something almost moved behind his face and I found myself back on a heightened stool with my fingers chasing the metronome, ahead and behind, trying to shut out the tutor’s repeated sighing, his heavy brass ruler. I realised I was massaging my knuckles. My father patted the futon in my living room. “I’ll sleep here.”

“You’ll sleep in my room, Ba.” I watched him warily as he surveyed our surroundings, messy with books, papers, dirty plates, teacups, clothes – I’d intended to tidy up before going to the airport. “I work in this room anyway, and I work at night.” As he moved into the kitchen, I grabbed the three-quarters-full bottle of Johnnie Walker from the second shelf of my bookcase and stashed it under the desk. I looked around. The desktop was gritty with cigarette ash. I threw some magazines over the roughest spots, then flipped one of them over because its cover bore a picture of Chairman Mao. I quickly gathered up the cigarette packs and sleeping pills and incense burners and dumped them all on a high shelf, behind my Kafka Vintage Classics.

At the kitchen swing door I remembered the photo of Linda beside the printer. Her glamour shot, I called it: hair windswept and eyes squinty, smiling at something out of frame. One of her ex-boyfriends had taken it at Lake MacBride. She looked happy. I snatched it and turned it facedown, covering it with scrap paper.

End slide content.]

Star student Jacquie.

I'm actually really into this excerpt and negotiating with myself which quotes I want to use and then going, "Oh wait. But that quote needs to be included because it speaks volumes." And I think what it does in terms of helping us to understand how texts are crafted is make the students put away that question that we often hear, "Did the author actually intend it?" Because they realize that every sentence is placed deliberately and builds to a certain overall picture for us.

I was going to be brave and add my own response, but I'm nowhere near finished and I don't know if I've met the 50 words because I don't have enough screens to play with, but also mindful of time being 4:20 and there being another component, I'm going to say, please do pop in your answers as soon as they're ready to go because the chat is saved. And I'll also hand over to Ashlee to wrap up our presentation.

Ashlee Horton

Yep. And I've just seen a comment that's popped into the chat. What, Melissa, yes and no. So, the modules that we've used as the foundation, or as the framework for integrating these microwriting activities are Stage 6 modules, but the activities themselves can be applied across all the stages.

And the book that we referenced earlier, this one, the Creating Micro Stories, a lot of the examples in there are actually from younger students. So, I think from Stages 4 and 5. So, really because they're such short exercises and there is such flexibility around what you can do, the concept of integrating them into the unit and partnering them with a mentor text, you can do that across Stages 3, 4 and 5 as well.

Yes, so just to conclude, again just to bring it back to Stage 6, we do acknowledge that time in an HSC class is a sacred and often elusive thing, and you may be wondering when these tasks can be completed. Well, as we've said, we work on the premise that microwriting will only steal about 15 to 20 minutes of a lesson and this doesn't have to be every lesson, but perhaps once a week or once a fortnight. And it is time that is really well spent because of the skills that are being honed or the skills that are being developed. So, to consider when and where you should include microwriting tasks, you need to plan for your school context.

And again, that comes back to that flexibility that we just spoke about before. So, we did have a couple of questions from the registration survey that we just wanted to draw some attention to at the end. If your question is on the screen and we haven't quite answered it, please feel free to unmute or just provide some clarification.

So, the first one was, “Do we have a clear position on how the texts should be referenced in required, in the Trial HSC exams?” So, I think this was from Elizabeth. And if you are here Elizabeth, again, please feel free to unmute just to provide some clarification.

What we think this was referring to was the extent to which the prescribed texts can be discussed in the student's responses. So, there is no set amount, but what we emphasize is that students use their prescribed texts to talk about how their writing has developed. So, through the study of the prescribed text, how have they developed and refined their writing? With that particular focus, I think what you'll find is that it's more natural to integrate the references to the prescribed texts throughout their responses.

Another question came through was videos of the sessions. This session is being recorded, and it will be available up on the department website on the professional learning page and we'll pop that link into the chat for you as well. The chat itself stays visible. So, if there's something that you missed from an earlier conversation, you'll be able to go back and just have a look.

Someone has written in to say they have 3 very disengaged learners in a support unit. And how can I turn this around? Again, without a little bit more context, it's hard to answer this question as authentically as we could, but we hope that some of the microwriting tasks, again, because they're short, low-stakes, and there is that flexibility to adapt it to your school context, we hope that's provided some useful information about what you can include.

We sort of talked about it briefly before, and perhaps including a competition element is always a good way to reengage some reluctant writers as well. And this one, I think we've spoken about as well, how can Stage 3 teachers better prepare students for high school English classes and what writing techniques will help them transition to Year 7?

Again, any of these microwriting tasks, short, sharp bursts, really connected to skill development are all going to be incredibly helpful. And again, the Micro Stories book might provide you with some more examples that you can use with younger students.

So, just before we wrap up, we are doing another statewide staff room check in a little bit later in the term, Thursday of Week 9, which is 23 June. And this one is focusing on strategies that you can use with your students to revise for the HSC Trial Examinations. So, that's just a very brief plug there.

And our first one for Term 3 is preparing for curriculum change in English 7-10. So, keep an eye out on the state-wide staffroom because we'll put up a little bit more advertising about those, and we hope to see you at either one or both of those events.

So, just to finish up, thank you for coming. We really appreciate you taking your time out of the afternoon, at again, what is a very busy time of term. If you have any questions about anything that's covered today or anything that is about English teaching in general, please feel free to reach out to us.

Our English Curriculum email is just on the screen there and there you have the lovely faces of everyone who's in the team and you often see us in the state-wide staffroom as well. So, you're also more than welcome to tag us if you have any questions.

[English Curriculum Team 7-12, English.curriculum@det.nsw.edu.au ]

Again, thank you for coming and we hope you've, you've taken something away. Actually, just to add, if you do use one of these strategies in your classroom, we'd love to hear about it. Our newsletter features a section called ‘Voices from The Classroom’ where teachers can write in and talk about some of the strategies that they've had success with. So, we would love, love if someone would like to write in and talk about a microwriting strategy that they've tried and has worked, it would be absolutely wonderful.

Thank you again and enjoy your afternoons. It's been an absolute pleasure. And Jacquie, can I just get you to download the attendance please?

Tom Gyenes

Ashlee, Tom here, just a couple of questions from the chat to address. So, thank you again for all those people who put their ideas in there and just to stress that the chat remains with this meeting forever in Jacquie's words, so you'll be able to go back even after the meeting is closed and read back through the chat. So, if you miss some of those strategies, don't worry, they're there. There was a question about enrolling for the coming PL. We're a little bit behind on that, but it'll be up as soon as we can. And I'm sure there'll be a post in the state-wide staffroom as soon as you can register for that event in Week 9.

Ashlee Horton

Yep. Yep, absolutely.

Tom Gyenes

I think I've covered most of the practical things from the chat.

Sharyn Stafford

And the evaluation survey as a link in the chat. If you could fill that in, it'd be great.

Zenna Diab

Oh, Bernadette has mentioned, I think I cut someone off there. I apologize.

Jacquie McWilliam

But all I was going to say Zenna, a few people ask where the recording will be housed, we've created a new PL section of the English curriculum website, and we're slowly moving the previous recordings onto that section. And there will be linked the booklet as well, just in case you forget that it's in the team space and we will also be adding the Stage 4, 5 English textual concepts, posters to the website as well.

So you will be able to download those if you want access to them, but they are currently housed in the Stage 4 and 5 files section of the state-wide staffroom. And thanks again, Ashlee and Zenna for a really wonderful presentation.

Ashlee Horton

Our pleasure.

Mark McDonald

Just to answer Kylie's question in the chat around whether this is NESA registered or not, unfortunately it's not Kylie, but it can be used as elective PD.

Zenna Diab

I'll just delete my answer to that one. Thanks, Mark. Thank you.

Lauren Parsons

Oh, you should type it in case someone reads the chat Zenna, because that's what I was just doing.

Zenna Diab

Have you still got your typed in there because I just pressed delete.

Lauren Parsons

I will send it.

Zenna Diab

Thank you.

[End of transcript]

Accompanying this recording is the Microwriting professional learning participant booklet (DOCX 400 KB).

This session is designed to support teachers and develop their understanding of ways to embed regular microwriting activities into Stage 6 programs. These strategies build students’ skills for success in Module C. This presentation is underpinned by research on teaching creative writing to maximise student engagement, develop student confidence and enhance student

The English curriculum team showcase how to design effective microwriting tasks that focus on the development of aspects of writing or elements of language. Participants explore ways to use a mentor text or a sample of writing as models for students. They are also guided to consider how to integrate these tasks into regular English lessons, rather than in standalone writing lessons.


The following structure guides the session:

  • understanding – how to design writing activities that foster the development of student confidence and in turn writing skills
  • applying – consider how to use the task samples provided in current teaching and learning units
  • teaching and learning – construct impactful microwriting tasks which are derived from the English Textual Concepts, outcomes and Module C statement.

Related resources


This accredited professional learning is connected to the domains:

  • Professional engagement – Standard 6 – Engage in professional learning
    • 6.2 - engage in professional learning and practice.
Return to top of page Back to top