Reflective writing and teachers as writers
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 4 and 5 teachers
Watch 'Reflective writing and teachers as writers' 56:37
(Duration: 56 minutes and 37 seconds)
First of all, I'll just say we're meeting the professional learning focus of 6.2.2 so if you want to use this as self-evaluated elective PD, you’re welcome to do that for an hour.
And I'm actually in Kerri-Jane’s home which is lovely, so that's why I'm up here in Moss Vale from Kiama. So, I’m welcoming Kerri-Jane who very, very kindly ran home from work and is here to present today.
And just a little bit of background. I actually met Kerri-Jane when I was in Brisbane conference, a national conference and she was speaking on reflective writing and I was speaking to Eva Gold and I said, “Oh look, this is a Illawarra girl, this is an Illawarra girl, I'm going to go and listen to her.”
And there she was, beautiful, elegantly standing up in a gor – I remember even, you were wearing a beautiful pencil skirt.
Yeah, it's beautiful.
And I had pencil skirt envy, and she spoke so well, and I said I'm recruiting that girl for ETA and we did and she worked with us in ETA for a long time and of course she's a department girl, so she was down at Lake Illawarra and now she's the head teacher up here and started off in Kiama as well, then Lake Illawarra and now she's up here in Moss Vale.
So, she has a wealth of experience, and she was a Premiers’ teacher scholarship winner, which is where the ‘Teachers as Writers’ element comes in and so, and actually we did together I mentored, as she did an action research project on reflective writing in her school and that's how we got to be firm friends. And she'll talk a little bit about that project in a little while.
Thank you, Sharon. And it is, it's very hard to say no to Sharon when she asked me to do this. Just a bit of background to the reflective writing. Yes, I'm a department girl, but my first teaching role was in TAFE in Child Studies because I used to be a registered nurse. And so, the reflective writing 3D format that I developed has a background in developing documents for very busy childcare students on their professional experience, who had to quickly make notes to write reflections after they had completed a day’s program.
The 3D format as it stands, I worked on in more development with senior students at Kiama High back in the days of area of study for journey and the first publication, the first article I wrote was for Metaphor back in 2007, just saying, “Gee, this seems to be working really well.”
I think it's really valuable to consider reflection, I often say to students, if you've had a fight with Mum or someone and you’re sent to your room, for example, don’t you often think about what happened, how could I do that differently? And so, we're always reflecting, it kind of makes it real for them,
But I think it's really useful, I know we're pressed to do reflective writing and think about Stage 6, but sometimes at a school in the past, if there was a fight at lunch time, I'd get people to just write something down because it's a good way to get it out of their head and sort of stop that kind of energy.
Or a response, what's the first thing you thought of after viewing this text or hearing a poem read aloud? Just get those initial ideas down. It's always important to remember that writing should begin after a discussion and perhaps building up a word bank or giving students some vocabulary to go from because, nothing worse than the dreaded white page.
So, that's kind of where we're starting at from here. And in terms of creative writing or any kind of writing, really, warm up exercise really does free people up to do something more than just whatever first comes into their head.
I probably should be on this one, shouldn’t I?
This one? Am I on the right slide for you?
Yeah. No, it's going to be fine. We can go next.
Yeah, no I was going to press that button.
But I don't think it works.
Just one sec sorry everyone. Oh yeah, go.
So, here's the basic format, 3D format, ‘Describe, Disclose, Decide’.
Sadly, it's not that kind of 3D extra fun that people might want, but because I found students often had trouble writing in paragraphs, I thought, let's just give them a really simple structure.
So, you can see there on the screen, ‘Describe’ is just to outline the event and provide some details. And I often give students, especially reluctant writers, a goal, 1 to 3 sentences, or for senior students, quarter of a page.
Then we move into another paragraph, ‘Disclose’, where they actually talk about their thoughts, ideas and feelings. And in the first draft, just what did you think? You don't need to actually put anything more specific because your next draft, and as we know, writing is a process, that's the opportunity for students or yourself even to include some specific examples of features. For example, if you ask students to, you know, what's your idea of this text? Oh, I didn't like it, it was boring, it was crap. Okay, well, that's an opinion. But what is it about the text? Is it the character, unsatisfying kind of resolution? Well, what did you not like? So, then you can even at the most simplest level, get them to start thinking about features one or two paragraphs, depending on if you want to focus on authority or narrative or a particular English concept.
And the final paragraph is ‘Decide’. Have a think about how this affected your learning or your ideas and if they're reflecting on an assessment task, what would you do next time? How could you make your work more, you know, relevant, really? And how would you improve your writing? What more could you include? So, always looking at those goals that students should be setting for themselves.
If we want to think about the particular syllabus outcomes, and I know I think there were some questions about how do we move students from Stage 4, 5 and into Stage 6?
So, when I started Moss Vale High, I thought it was a great opportunity to get the 3D format straight back into Year 7, knowing that it's a process and that people should continue to improve, and which is what I've seen, and I'll talk about the action research later on.
So, in Stage 4, in fact, it's outcome 9 in all the stages. Uses, reflects on and assesses their individual and collaborative skills for learning. And I've chosen the content point, understand an apply knowledge of language forms and features, so I'm going to be looking at examples of vocabulary or reflecting on their learning experiences so that the other content point, respond to and compose texts, reflect on and assess their own and others learning against specific criteria.
Of course, when moving to Stage 5, they're expected to increase their independence and understand and apply appropriate meta-language to reflect on their learning experiences, so, the vocabulary needs to increase. And in terms of responding to and composing texts, they understand and confidently integrate their processes.
And writing is a process for all of us. And we at Moss Vale High, we often have tasks that require multiple submissions or drafting, redrafting evidence of peer assessment or editing before the final submission so that they can actually get lots of benefit. The days of well, it was never real anyway, “the first thing on the page is the best.” We know that we have to do more in terms of improving that, and of course the idea of the meta-language in the process builds towards Stage 6 as well from the Stage 5 outcomes.
So, oh that’s gone back.
I don't know.
Okay. Scaffolding. Oh, no, sorry that was sentence starters and prompts, sorry.
So, always helps to give them some ideas even after the discussion, even after perhaps a mind map on the board about the text and the concepts and ideas. Most students, many, some will require some kind of where do I start? What do I do first? I don't know what to do so, I'm reflecting on, today we read.
And then into the ‘Disclose’, I wondered why, I liked how, I felt confused.
And ‘Decide’, when listening to.
Now, I think it's important to, if students want to start with “I” all the time when they’re then redrafting, they need to think about different sentence starters. And I know I've been looking at NAPLAN marking criteria with my Year 9s and looking at sample stories and why people might do better if they have different sentence starters so they can see that it's a real, it's a real value.
And sometimes even just correcting things, “oh, I believe this film was interesting”. You could get rid of “I believe”, “This film was interesting” and have a more active voice so there's lots of ways to convince students that their writing could be a lot better, improved, and more fun for us to mark and read.
So, in terms of scaffolding, certainly in the very early years, we talk about pronouns, we talk about where, for writing in first person it doesn't just have to be I me, my it could be we or us, and that would be the language you're expecting them to use in Stage 6 anyway, when they're talking in a more third person, more inclusive kind of response.
So, the verbs could be past tense, it depends on what you're asking them to do. and it's interesting to talk about action and thinking verbs so they can get a good mix when they're actually explaining their ideas in the disclose section.
I think evaluative language is always useful and I do talk to stu –.I'm not a functional grammar expert at all and so, I know words like fantastic, excellent, beautiful as superlatives, and so, if a student says, “Oh, it was a great text”, it doesn't really tell us much, so they might use it, but we are aiming towards adjectives like successful, potent, compelling, valid and I know we're, definitely in Stage 5, introducing analytical verbs and asking them to think of synonyms. So, shows or develops or portrays or represents, just to continually be building on that vocab, which my three favourite words for writing, which I used to confine to Stage 6, but it's relevant everywhere clarity, economy and sophistication.
So, can I understand? Is it clear? Economy, have you just used too many words, or have you repeatedly used the same word, and sophistication, is there one word that can replace three, or more? So, it reads in a much more effective way, which, like I said, I think we'd all we all enjoy reading students work that's interesting and effective.
So, here I've got an example of a marking criteria sample, although this is to encourage students to begin writing so, we'll often set up a scaffold like this where we have a specific question and then the teacher has modelled a possible answer. So, I hope you can see that, this was actually for a poetry anthology where the students study poetry and then write their own poems and have to make a choice and selection for which poems they would include in their own anthology, or a bigger work, the school's anthology, something like that.
So, you can see some of the language is similar to describe, disclose and decide. Although the next slide has even more questions and sample answers here so that students can draft. And you will find when you scaffold quite heavily like this that students will simply copy and change a few words and that's okay because this is their first draft, and once they've explained why they've chosen a poem or a specific poem, a simile poem, they need to give an example and then explain a particular line. So, we are really getting them to drill down into that evidence and technique that we'd like them to use.
Justify why you chose this poem to include in your anthology, so we are also including that word justify not just reflection because we know justification or an explanation is much more what is expected in Stage 6, not simply just a reflection. Which kind of embodies a whole bunch of things anyway.
So, from this idea and the similar on the next page with more modelled sentence starters and ideas, we have been just talking this week actually at our faculty meeting of deciding among us which are the most effective of these samples, to put out a more concise document, but with the specific idea of rolling it into the 3D format.
So, we do scaffold quite heavily in Year 7. We've got ten feeder schools and students from a whole range of abilities up here in Moss Vale there’s quite a few private schools. So, you know, you can imagine the kind of clientele that we might have, a huge range of abilities. So, we do heavily scaffold in Year 7 and with this kind of thing, then we ask them to move into the 3D format and do a draft of that, and then they can redraft that before they actually submit their assignment.
We're finding that if teachers mark against the marking criteria that's been explicitly explained to the students, there's a whole lot of marking for teachers. So, when we scaffold this kind of response and then into 3D, the students do peer editing and self-editing, and we expect that their final submission will have evidence of either or both. So, we understand, and they begin to understand the process involved and the improvement is up to them. So, I hope you can understand that I don't have an actual example we haven't put the final thing together because we've just been working on it this week.
So, we want to streamline it into one document. You'll often find Year 7 or young students with less confidence, shall we say, might want to put the headings, decide, disclose, describe, or they will write their sentences separately to make sure that they've got everything in there. But we really do need to, and that would be the second or third draft that we know, it's just a block paragraph before you move into the next idea.
We do use Triple Teal. When I started at the school, it was a Teal paragraph for the whole school we had some ILNIT funding, and we were looking at different things. Now Teal works well if it's sort of content-based facts, whereas in English we know we want them to give lots of information in terms of techniques and language features, languages or it's much more conceptual. So, we moved it to Triple Teal. So, they need to include three things per paragraph which we do expect in the disclose paragraphs of a reflection, and also, we're encouraging the topic sentence, the use of the concepts there where we can.
But we've also, a couple of years ago at the ETA conference, the state conference, Yanni Vasilakis, a colleague, came up with the Texas paragraph. I know people go, “ah we shouldn't be using these scaffolds.” Well, it was useful in Stage 6 once, but now we are using TEXAS paragraph back in Stage 4, Year 8 and we don't use scaffolds at all in Stage 6.
So, what is your TEXAS template?
It's Topic, Elaboration, Example, Analysis, and we expect example analysis to be more than one. You could have one important and two secondary or three, equally. And then S is link, but also Significance to really, you know, reassert that kind of evaluative language that needs to be embedded through the paragraphs.
The thing I like about the kids who have to write their little headings describe, disclose, is for confidence building from 7 to 8 to 9, they can start to see where they've come, and then that moment when they're writing something and they don't have to use the heading anymore, then they understand that they've come a long way and they've got this process. So, instead of talking always in deficit, you still can't do something, you can say, “But look what you used to have to do and look where you are now.”
That's gold, I think that's really, for that process.
And it is all about the process and recognizing that writing is a process. Often, we all have our analogies in the classroom, don’t we? But I often say to people “Who can remember learning how to walk? and how much is involved in that now? Did you ever fall down?” No one can remember. So, have you seen a baby? How do they walk? When they fall over do they stop? What do they do? Just get up and keep going and then after a while you don't fall over. So, you have to kind of look at that as a process.
In terms of Stage 5 and like I said, we kind of removed the scaffold. However, differentiation modification, you know, it's perfectly fine when necessary to be using whatever tools you can. In terms of this second submission, so we're talking now in Stage 5 about a full essay that students will write that can be peer edited and then they can improve on, and they can submit and we even, often depending on the year or what the task is, we will mark it, give them written feedback on the marking criteria and they have the option to resubmit.
Let me just say, before you “marking nightmare” maybe 10% of students do the actual second teacher feedback submission. So, really that's a good way to sort out which students are serious about Advanced or have adopted a process of their own. So, then instead of just saying “Here's your scaffold”, or whatever, we might just give them questions. So, which areas of your writing did you improve? Or what did you do that helped to improve your writing, and what would you do differently next time? So, those questions do fall still into that Describe Disclose Decide specifically if you're talking about the writing process and that can work for creative or discursive any style of writing, I think that works well.
Typically, when I hand back a task, I would take a whole period in feedback. They’ll receive the marking criteria, written feedback. I can go round and talk to people individually, we can talk and discuss and if students are willing and I've checked beforehand, I might just put up some random paragraphs or sections of people's work, that we can then on the board, look at how we could improve in terms of economy or sophistication, interesting words and formally write a 3D reflection. How do you think you actually went on your assessment task and what could you improve? So, there's lots of ways to continually consider their process and how they might be able to continue improving.
So, that kind of feedforward approach where you're looking and using it instead of them going and scrunching it up and putting it in the bin.
Scrunching it up and putting them in the bin, and also the teacher is not the expert. Yes, we are writers ourselves and I know when I'm model writing on the board often mistakes, spelling I used to be good at, so it's perfectly fine and we can all have a bit of a chuckle about this, about Miss Burke not being able to do something perfectly.
And I shared with my Year 9s today actually that in Year 11 when I was at school, I got half a mark out of 20 for an essay and I talked about why. Because I didn't answer the question, it was about Richard the Second and I love my history and I’d just written some other random, what I wanted to write, and of course it was humiliating and so, I know I say to students “I know exactly where you're at if you don't want to do this, because it could be wrong, well, it could be but you know what? You'll get through it. You will get through it.”
So, I just want to take a moment and think about the action research that Sharon spoke about earlier, where I was specifically working with students at quite a low level of ability.
Just a question from Zenna, sorry.
There's been a question in the chat from Angela who would like to know if they're going to get a copy of the PowerPoint and I suppose it's important to answer that one because people know how many, you know how much notes they should be writing.
Don't write any because it's all on my blog.
We'll show you where it is. A whole lot and more.
Right? Okay. Thank you. Yeah, no, but look, I often write notes just because it keeps me focused and motivated anyway it's your call. And I say that to students, write it down if you think it's going to be important, it's a choice, it's a process.
So, in terms of the action research, this was at Lake High, and it was after I'd met Sharon and we talked about what I could do and I’d specifically worked with pretty low to middle ability about their writing and I'm talking here about students who could not necessarily write a full sentence, really didn't understand paragraphing. A school where in a 50-minute lesson you effectively got 20 to 25 minutes of teaching altogether. But that could have been broken up as well. So, it was kind of an interesting process, actually. And there's a whole section of this on my blog. I'll mention that later on.
Actually in this slide you can see there's the HTTPS, but it's easy enough just to Google “multimodalme.blog”. So, this is the actual marking criteria and instead of going from, as you often say, Stage 6, you know, a down to e I sort of decided to deliberately go sideways so that students could see, well, I'm here and this is all I need to do to go to the next level.
So, you can see at the top, we got text structure as I said, the students needed to become much more confident in writing sentences and paragraphs. The middle was, were they, where they putting, or for them to consider, did they include in the Describe, Disclose and Decide the kind of relevant information? And if you can get that kind of introduction, body and conclusion, you can transfer out of first person into a more essay-like structure, which many of these students were just incapable of doing. And at the bottom, the reflective language, so again, just building their vocabulary in terms of the personal pronouns and the verbs. At this point, I wasn't trying to include evaluative language.
So, they would be marking themselves or they would be marking their peers and they would write reflections on the work, on the assessment task whenever we wrote a formal reflection, we went through this process of checking for themselves, what have I included? Highlight, circle, underline and put themselves on the grid from level 1, to 2, to 3, to 4 and it turned out to be, you know, really surprising for me, and I think for the students as well, that they could see, “Oh, oh, oh, I haven't put that there, but next time I can.” So, they would have a copy of this when they were writing as well as afterwards, because it's no point knowing, well, where am I going with this? And what am I supposed to put where? There's no secrets, here it is, and right to “Oh yeah, I'm going for level three, so I'd better make sure I've got that in that paragraph,” or whatever it might have been.
You can download this off my blog as well, so I'll tell you this and you can e-mail me any questions.
So, what I've got next is this is the first reflection that a particular student wrote.
I am reflecting on my creative writing task we were required to write down a list of facts in one lesson. (200 words in a lesson 2)
I didn’t do my best work because I didn’t write a whole page and didn’t use enough descriptive words and put in many full stops. (2)
I learnt that I should read more and use better puncture I have to.]
So, if you were looking at that marking criteria I showed you before, I've put the little 2. You’re level 2 here and level 2 there. This was me showing them how to use the criteria marking, and then they kind of took over that process.
So, that's just one sentence in those paragraphs. So, we just talked about sentence structure as well, we did separate lessons for that and there is no specific detail here, but they do acknowledge that they didn't do their best because they didn't write a whole page. I thought that's…linked
Linked. But you know, that's, I often go around and praise people like some of the boys, in my year ten class “oh I can't write” and I’m like “look at what you've written, you've written a whole page.”
We won't talk about the quality because that's the next step, but sometimes that's enough to get them you know, feeling a bit confident.
And here's the same student’s work a bit further along.
…of this book also I like some comic books, I personally recommend this book to boys that like adventure books.
The book that I am reading is about a girl called Amelia and a young boy called Goku who is very strong. Amelia goes on an adventure to find the Dragon Balls. But she finds Goku who has one of them and he wants to go with her to find them so she lets him. They run into trouble finding them because there are huge guys that have them.
I like this book because the pictures there are variety of different colours. The [illegible] was funny when Goku was fighting people he made noises like thwack, bang and dong.
This term I chose a random book because it was thin and looked easy to…
So, you can see much stronger paragraphs in much clearer sentences. Still some errors, but more detail. and they're really explaining themselves in a way that it's not hard to give someone praise for this work. So, that's, that's the sort of result I was getting by doing that process. Now, I know that's not something you could do all of the time, it's a much more intense learning environment now. However, at that school it was much more important to improve their literacy skills than it was to “Oh, let's cover three novels this year or a film and a novel and whatever.” Let's, let's do some good work here as well as improve their literacy.
I don't, there's no more questions popping up are there?
No, we’re going okay.
Okay. So, let's move into Stage 6 then. And if we think about the syllabus outcomes, I've got a Year 11 Advanced at the moment, so I've been dealing with this, at the moment currently, and continuing to remind students that they have processes. Their writing is a process. I have, I've got a marking criteria that I'll show you.
I'm still calling it reflection because these students are, I know, they're in the new Stage 6, and I'm introducing those words, but those ideas of justify and explain haven't been consistently introduced from the earliest stages yet. So, we're going to get there I’ve no doubt about it.
So, again, it's outcome 9 both in Year 11 and Year 12. I'm sure you realize, reflects on, evaluates and monitors in Year 11 where it's reflects assesses, monitors their own learning and refines individual and collaborative processes as an independent learner by the time they're in Year 12.
And we do work on those things in different ways, it's just finished term one. I have a much smaller class now and that's a real benefit as a teacher, if you can do more one on one or small group processes, pair people up and get them writing in an effective way.
At the end, the content there, respond to and compose texts. It's about set their learning goals accordingly, because they're all at different levels in their writing. They might have got ideas, they might talk, not necessarily write effectively and sadly, still, in Year 11, some students think they can do work the night before and hand it in. Anyway, I no longer accept anything torn out of their workbook. It’s got to actually look like there's a process and some thought and editing that goes in this.
Also, on the Year 12 side I’ve chosen the respond to and compose, where they critically evaluate feedback from others and make adjustments. So, all of the work we do with peer editing and feedback, and comments and resubmission really comes into its own as we get into Stage 6. That idea of a process, and I think reading to write and craft of writing really helps support us in encouraging students to understand writing as a process, much more so than in the past. I really like, I quite like the Stage 6 syllabus that we have now for that reason.
So, if we look at this criteria here, I'm also trying to shift them towards an academic register, it's not that I don't want them to write in first person, but just to encourage them for that sophistication, that kind of level that's above where they were in Year 10, and we were talking about the learning outcomes in Year 10 and the crossover or lack thereof in Stage 6.
So, it's a kind of a catch up isn't it.
Yeah, can be.
Can be. So, yes. So, we're stepping up the vocab again, the clarity, economy and sophistication. I write that those three and audience purpose context, they’re my six words if you got that down, its easy!
We know that it’s not. Some of them even laugh at my jokes. So, you can see, up at the top of the criteria the choices is about their ability to reflect on and evaluate the choices as a composer and I do expect in creative, this was for creative writing and reflection, their first task in reading to write, and I do expect multiple drafts, but we have – yeah “easy” – we have a whole bunch of, I have a double period once a fortnight and each double period is devoted to writing of whatever kind, whether it be imaginative or discursive.
As I said before, you start with a warmup, get some words down, maybe there's a text or a prompt or stimulus to reply, respond to, and then we work on that. The school gives them a journal, I never look at the journal. They can write things up out of that journal, but that journal is theirs, so if I set a task away, we're writing and I actually want to write about the boyfriend, I'll never know and I don't really care, it's about writing and if I have to do more homework, that's fine too.
So, yes, specifically there was an element here for the academic register so that they have to embed more effectively the language uses. So, you do, and I found that in the junior years, when you say it's first person, they might write, “yeah, I really got that”, which is not what you want in Stage 6. That's the kind of example –I like creating examples for students – that's the kind of example I'm talking about.
Did we miss one?
I think we did.
Oh, sorry, no I think you took that one out.
I took that one out, yeah, yeah. Because I thought we're looking at the sample HSC questions don't seem to focus on reflection upon their process as a writer. In the advanced samples, how much do you suggest that we mirror those NESA samples in the class and assessment tasks? I think I think it's about getting the students to a confident level and samples are samples. I like to prepare students, as a marker for Standard last year, anything can happen, and they need to be prepared for that.
And we did see a small percentage of students, certainly in the Standard marking I did but I think so in Advanced, ways teachers had prepared them “you will be reflecting” and they wrote a reflection even though that wasn't in the question at all.
So, students need to be able to adapt, they need that confidence, I think, yeah.
To know that they're answering the question. But we've talked about this too.
This idea of if you build up reflection in Stage 4 and 5 and then you start to shift the academic register and you concentrate on the purpose, audience and context of how they're writing, so you direct them, which is what you were just saying. Then they're open to that more sophisticated explanation or justification. So, that significance and I like that, I like that TEXAS part because, why is this significant? If they're asked, for example, to talk about the imagery used in an extract and how they merit it or copied it? Then how is it significant, the imagery significant? It's not a pat sort of answer. And also, yes, it does depend on the outcomes that you've chosen, and Kerri-Jane demonstrated that.
I think also, but I specifically said to my Advanced class, I don't want you writing in first person. You are critiquing your work as if it is a text, and some it was clearly uncomfortable for some students who would say this text has been written, and others would say the imagery used here, or the writer has chosen. So, then that's another discussion when you do your general feedback or your individual feedback to students about their results, and they then reflect, how could I improve? Circle, well, I won't be doing this again.
In Year 11 we do have to take those risks and we do have to push them to be, “Ooh, I never thought I'd have to do that” because then that gives them some more choice to refine their individual voice, which is…
And often students try to do something, and I think there's merit in that. If you disclose, this is what I was aiming for, like this is what I tried, then there’s merit in that and there's confidence building in that. Okay, I didn't quite come off the way I wanted it to, this simile was a bit forced, but that's what I was after. And I think that's important as well.
It is. And because we double mark all of our work, I made no comment, no marking, no ticking on the story itself. What I did actually write on, apart from the feedback that I got on the criteria was on the reflection and what they did well in, so reinforcing that process. So, yes, you made some mistakes. There was a cohesion in your idea, however, and you tried something, didn't necessarily work as well as you thought. But you're going back to that story with no prompts from me, no ticks, and you can make some more decisions, read it aloud, what's working.
Or suggest as teachers again, we're not experts, but we could suggest an author that does that kind of thing well. How about you read some of such and such? And that's that wide reading element, because the more you read as well, you're exposed to different types of writing and then you get, I know the boys were, some of the boys and other students in Coonabarabran who didn't have a great cultural capital would often mimic and we're all mimics aren't we.
Well, that's – every writer will tell you, you need to.
On giant’s shoulders.
Absolutely. And that's been an activity or an example that I’ve received as a writer as well, emulate. Actually, you know what, sit there and spend an hour typing up a page or paragraphs of a writer you really like, just to sort of soak that in. I don't know if that's a process, anyone else has worked towards.
How are we going for time?
20 to 5.
Oh, okay going alright.
Okay, so, thanks Claire for the comments and your ideas.
And I am talking my context. I know we've all got different contexts, so at this point I was going to talk, spend a little bit of time talking about further reading and resources. Both in terms of reflection and also ‘Teachers as Writers’. So, when I said before, you don't have to write anything down, it's because my blog has got a whole lot of stuff. I started it when I was at Lake in 2012 because I thought, “I'm not teaching here and I'm going to lose my mind”, and so, that's why I began, why I began the blog just for myself, for that kind of, I'm a teacher and I’m a professional. [Laughter]
So, what I just wanted to draw your attention to is across the top, in the light blue, you'll see there the different pages and so, you could just click on Reflective writing there. However, if you see with the red arrows pointing to the search bar, if you type reflective writing, you will be given a number of other options to look at as well and including on the reflective writing, I've written a reflection myself on Blue Back, which I generally ask students to mark. Because I know, I wrote it thinking, it was pretty good and then I went, “There's some mistakes.”
So, let's get the students to think about, well, what could I improve? “Oh, that's well, that's not a very good example, miss”, and it just it makes things a lot more comfortable, I think, for students to understand we're all writers and there is, there's no such thing as good writing, there's only drafting. When we know to stop writing? When there's a deadline otherwise, we’ll keep on changing.
I hope you can all relate to that. So, you will find also at the top there, there's the ‘Teachers as Writers’ page and then there is writing teachers. So, one the ‘Teachers as Writers’ is to do with the research I did for my scholarship on teaching writing groups in the UK, and the other one is when I was running sessions for teachers who wanted to come along and write. And so, there's a whole bunch of activities and links to the different sessions I was involved in.
Yeah, do you mind if I talk about it?
Go back to this picture here.
[Slide contains an image of six women at a table in a café, one is waving to the camera. Next to the image is the heading “Further reading and resources”.]
Here I am sitting there in the coffee shop, looking very thoughtful with my pink journal, and that particular day we went to the art gallery, and we wandered around the art gallery and looked at things and picked out a few paintings that inspired us. And then we went and had some coffee and then we had some little writing activities, and we just took over that whole table and wrote away. And it was, yeah, fabulous. And there’s, I know the lady to the left of me, so, in the forefront on the right, she's gone on to write chapters and chapters of things that inspired. So, lots of people are inspired by a lot of Kerri-Jane’s events.
Yet another fabulous one at the Botanical Gardens and crushing, holding leaves and crushing them and then writing about leaves. I remember doing that. So, some fabulous sort of opportunities to do that. I just wanted to share that.
Yeah no, I put that picture there so we could have a chat.
Leigh and me in Wollongong by the way. So, look use that function and it could be for analytical writing or creative writing or whatever. So, it's a place to go and have a look at.
Oh, yes, thank you, Jacqui. The library in Sydney, when they got upset with us for being noisy and we weren’t allowed to drink water, I remember that one.
If we also, I really want to, so I've got a heap of activities there if you go to ‘Teachers as Writers’. I write with my students in class, and sometimes I'll ask students, “can I share a snippet of your writing on the blog?” Or I will just put my draft up. Sometimes because I'm really impressed with what I actually achieved in the classroom, and sometimes because it's just a whole lot easier and I don't want students to feel threatened about sharing.
Although I never name, anyway or I might adapt it or I might put two sentences up there, that sort of thing. So, feel free, the blog is there, and you can also email me if you're really desperate. But all of these slides, that marking criteria, the two samples of the – ooh look, my daughter's up.
Yeah. So, a little bit more of the action research, if you just type up in action research, that will be there as well. The other site I really want to share with you, because it was kind of, what I built part of my scholarship travel around, the people who set up the UK National Writing Project, and you can see across the top there they have a whole bunch of things.
[Slide contains link: https://www.nationalwritingproject.uk/ and a screenshot from the website with the words “The National Writing Project (U.K), To teach writing, you need to write, go to Weebly site (archive)]
They have explanations of why write? So, if you need some evidence to talk about to your executive, if you're planning some kind of program, there's quite a bit of research information there. I know Jenny and Simon were very generous. I spent time with them in the UK and they connected me with other opportunities as well.
So, ideas for writing, you can click on that, that's suitable for teachers. Look, student, teacher right, it’s all interchangeable a writing activity, an idea from something, and we're all bowerbirds, we all collect, we all change, might be a line out of a song that I heard on the way to school or something that works.
It’s interesting too, some of the activities that I did with Kerri-Jane I have gone and used with Stage 6? But I've also used them with my faculty.
So, you sit and think, okay, so for half an hour of this faculty meeting, bring along yearbooks, or I provide paper and we do a little activity and you're asking them to do what they ask the students to do every day. And I think one of the most important aspects, he said, “If you're not willing to do the assessment so you don't think you can do the assessment test from what you've taught and how you've backward mapped the skills that build to that point then…”
Why are you setting it?
You just it's just, it's just not pedagogical at all.
And from being in the UK I understood that you could just cold email or cold ring Newcastle Art Gallery, the Powerhouse Museum and even Goulburn Art Gallery that if they don't have a cafe, they might recommend a space. Newcastle Art Gallery had their own little room we could use, and they're more than willing to have you come along. Some galleries and some institutions already have a writing project or something that you can kind of build into or there's examples of, and they're more than happy for you to take students. I know it's tricky with the excursions, but maybe a small extension class. A handful of students can go and, you know, be excited by being somewhere else and responding to something in the real world.
Yeah and we were talking I was talking with Jacqui the other week about taking extension students to the local cafe and writing stories about the people that walked past and just having to build and observe and watch mannerisms and then start to take notes and then come back to the classroom and write about a character and then put them in a situation. And I think that's a really powerful thing to go out into the real world and build their experiences.
And I know the Newcastle… is it the Newcastle writing festival? Anyway, you can probably Google “Story bombing” and I just thought that is the, look I've so wanted to do that. People share stories that might be printed on serviette, or they leave stories in a cafe that people can pick up and read and if you've taken the students there to do that, it's just another way of thinking about writing than just have to do it for a task.
Get them thinking
Builds confidence, too. And fun.
Yeah, absolutely. I think for my students it’s also great to model resilience. Absolutely. And your own feelings? Less than perfect. Yep. Yeah, Kaylene it is, it's really interesting,
And I think I spoke at an ETA conference once. I said, there is no, the world does not dry. The more you engage in creative practice of any kind sewing, crochet, writing, cooking, the more creativity, the more ideas come to you. So, it's just, it's just fun. It's just fun to get out there and get involved.
- A Taxonomy of Reflection: critical thinking for students, teachers and principals.
- Metaphor: Writing Teachers edition – Issue 3, 2017
- Creative Journal Writing – the art and heart of reflection Stephanie Dowrick, Allen & Unwin, 2007]
These resources that I'm sharing here, I've just found things that I kind of go back to and dip into, the ‘Taxonomy of Reflection’ by Peter Pappas. It's 2010, so it's a little bit old. What I love about it is that he has set up questions in, he's chosen some key terms from Bloom's taxonomy, and he's developed sample questions for students, for teachers and for principals.
So, it depends on your school and how you might be able to approach a project. I know sometimes I get really frustrated with projects and things that are introduced at my school because there's no inbuilt evaluation or if there is, where's the reflection from the people at the ground level? Or you introduced it, is this what you thought you would get? Or how would you change it next time? Well, well, if you don't want to do it again, why not?
There is a place for it in the processes within the school. Absolutely. Yeah.
Yeah. So, if you go to his site, you can just Google Peter Pappas’ Taxonomy of Reflection. He's got prezis as well as the sample questions on the different levels. And that could be something that might really work in your school.
Again, if you're trying to say, project time, space or whatever you might need. Also embed some of those questions for the idea of differentiation or the different levels of ability for students, you know, creating evaluating, analysing, applying, understanding, and remembering. And we're familiar with those words and we use those ideas. Yeah, perfect. Thank you for sharing that site.
The Metaphor which I've got here, anyway, you can have a look at if you're in the English Teachers Association, it's the ‘Writing Teachers’ edition that I was fortunate enough to guest edit and was it, Ashley? Someone was talking earlier on Kayleen about a writing project and there's a great article in here by Jennifer Dove and Susan Gannon and Susan's at Western Sydney Uni and Jennifer was also there doing a postgrad study. She did some writing with, I think, Punchbowl Boys?
And she's been out at Lightning Ridge for a few years. And so, her article where they both talk about, you know, the value of writing teachers and students together, it's really worth having another look at even if, I just looked at this again in preparing this, and I went, “Wow, that's really great.”
You'll also find in here some examples from the ETA writing teachers that we were talking about a little bit earlier, some of the activities and some teachers’ sample writing.
The other thing that I wanted to point out in terms of this, I mean, there's a beautiful article by Philip Hall, living and writing poetry in a remote Aboriginal community. Mary Burrows is here, but there's also a review of some really good writing books at the back and often people say, well, what resource and what would you use or where would you go? And the National Writing Project in the UK have a book about how to set up writing groups for teachers. But there's also the art of wri – look, like I said, the review is at the back, there's a whole bunch of books there.
You know Shelly, we saw her speak, Playing with Words.
Yeah, playing with words.
Yeah, she's great.
Yeah. There's the ETA productions themselves, the art of writing fiction. I think.
Kira Bryant, who hooked up Western Sydney with the writing teachers Bird by Bird, she's recommended that book and also, at the back you'll find just the pro forma for the action research I did. It's a hard copy. You'll get it online these days. So, that's one place that you might get some more information if you don't find what you like on the blog. I don't know.
Yeah, state-wide staffroom, that's another really good place to go. There's lots and lots of resources on there. And actually, if you go into the state-wide staffroom there’s a how to navigate the state-wide staffroom, and it’ll show you where you can find lots of aspects there.
The, the other thing I've got there is Creative Journal Writing, and I just find journaling really useful. Stephanie Derek used to have a column in good weekend quite a few years ago, so this book is from 2007, The Art and Heart of Reflection. And some of those prompts I find very useful for teaching, for teachers or for students.
But I remember feeling just a little bit scared the first time I taught Extension 2, and I bought myself a hardbound A4 journal, and so I was writing all the time, handwriting. I would be reflecting on the writing prompts in the lessons I'd set up for them, or if they were actually spending a lesson or two writing, I would be writing things. And so, I have this, I have this journal that reflects on my first experience as an Extension 2 teacher, and I put little tabs for each student. So, when I spoke with them and we considered their work, I had a record. F
I could edit that for you, and we could publish.
But yeah, so I had a record of what we'd actually discussed in class because I dealt with a couple of cantankerous parents and I went, I'm not playing that game. So, here's, here is what I actually did.
And we've had lots of discussions about if you're asking students to write, for you to write, and I was talking to Kerri-Jane about a light bulb moment I had quite a few years ago, now 15 or so, where I tried to do a question, one paper, one in class, while the students were doing it and how they couldn't finish it and I couldn't finish it. And it was this beautiful moment where we could talk about what it was it that we weren’t doing? And what I was doing was deep reading, which you can't afford to do.
And so, I was deep reading and reflecting on that beautiful sentence instead of writing and only looking for the purpose of the question. And so, we came up with, this probably about 20 years ago, you know, when the syllabus first came out. So, I started to come up with strategies. So, put, put, reword the question in the answer and so, you only read for what you're looking for, lots of little strategies like that. So, it was my act of writing that allowed the teaching and so, that was, you know, as a young teacher, it was a real light bulb moment for me.
That's really powerful, even if you've prepared the task, a longer piece an in class, you actually try and do it at the same time. It's really interesting and that's how we learn.
Yeah, and share your responses and see where you got up to.
So, just before we – Are you finished?
Okay. So, just before I finish, I just would like, I don't, I’m putting you on the spot.
Kerri-Jane has been wri –.she had a 4 for 5, so she actually had a year off last year. Very envious. I had year-off envy, and she has been writing nearly all that time. So, do you want to talk about what you learned about that process, rather than what you accomplished, but in terms of your process. Because you've had some really insightful…
I did and I learned that I'm not –yeah. Look, I have to say, I paid for a mentor and sort of worked with, I had my ideas I've been researching for a couple of years.
I had different workshop and journal things and this person put me on the spot, what’s your plan?
And so that idea of writing your own plan, so you just kind of make it up as you go along, or you actually plan. And my creative background, I found myself loving the plan and then hating the plan, and you know what? That to-and-fro with writing, trying to stay, trying to stay involved.
And I think sometimes, and this was a question a teacher asked me in a presentation once, what if someone won’t write? I said, ask them to draw, draw their story. And I did find I would go into some really creative moments where I would sketch, colour and then kick myself back into writing.
So, you can't always write all of the time. That's one thing I learned. And that you're allowed to give yourself a bit of grace and that students can get to where they need to get in different ways. Of course, if they're going to draw, you might ask them to explain the story, or ok write down some key points or something, not just a free for all we're doing a graphic novel or a tattoo design here. That's not the process of what you're supposed to be doing, but sometimes people just need that break.
I found it incredibly difficult to not be defensive when you've worked, it's your third draft and someone is critiquing it to the point of, “Yeah, okay, so where's the emotion?” and you go, “That's why I’ve been redrafting for!”
Ok if you can't see it, I’m clearly crap.
But you have to get back to it.
Oh look, it's really interesting but HSC marking killed it. And it wasn't working but that just killed it for me. And I think, you know what, to be completely honest, I'm so impressed by what students can produce in 40 minutes. Doing that craft of writing, there is some fantastic work out there.
And I mean, one of the things you said to me was that it was actually really, really hard to write well.
It's really, really hard. And so, you have to sort of, celebrate that.
And I think there was a question that came in a bit later today about how do you balance your time to write with the time needed to prepare and organize your class as well? You don't. I am not writing this year. I am, you know, I've taken on new texts I haven’t taught before.
So, you go back to writing modelled responses instead of your own creativity, I suppose. You still have to do those modelled ones.
And blog posts and probably just journaling things. Yeah, yeah. But the novel now, it's just sitting here actually, it is sitting right here.
Oh, okay. So, just to finish off. Thank you very much, Kerri-Jane. If there's any questions that anyone has, any last-minute questions. The other thing that we're going to – and I'll let you think about those for a moment – but the other thing we're going to share, and someone will pop the link in the chat, is that we do a little activity in one of our other PL, one of our other professional learnings, where we unpack outcome 9 in terms of reflection. And we're just popping that there because we used it today when we were doing our standard PL and I thought, “Oh my God, this fits in so beautifully with what Kerri-Jane is doing.”
And so, it's an idea where it's sort of a two column document where the content points are there and we've started you off with some activities you can do to build those skills in the content point. And then there’s space for you to continue and it's been a fantastic faculty activity that you can do, and you can talk about, okay, where are we going to build these? And then the next step I would do with that is where are we going to backward map those down into Stage 5 and 4, and it just gets you to have a really close look at all of the skills that are involved in and what's being asked in that outcome 9 because it's actually quite complex.
Yeah, I mean, I’ve only just touched on it. Yeah
Well, we only had time to touch on it, but it actually is really complex. Well, a lot of things, but if, I'm sure, if you go and have a look at those, you can see how many of the things you mentioned today would just slip in.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
You've talked a lot, but there's 100 gems in there.
So, and I encourage you all to, all to go to that blog as well. It's a bit of a Pandora's box, though, so beware, put aside some time. It's wonderful.
[End of transcript]
This session supports teachers to understand ways to implement teaching and learning activities that engage students in reflecting writing.
In this session, Kerri-Jane highlights examples from her classroom practice, which align with course outcomes and content points. She highlights the importance of reflective writing across Stage 4 and 5 to build capacity for Stage 6. Kerri-Jane will also discuss the importance of teachers as writers, drawing on examples from her Premiers' Scholarship experience.
Kerri-Jane Burke is the Head Teacher English from Moss Vale high school.
The following structure guides the session:
- Understanding - the purpose and form of reflective writing – thinking about audience, purpose and context.
- Applying – exploring outcomes and content points to create teaching and learning activities that encourage/support students to write reflectively.
- Assessing – discussing ways to provide feedback and assess reflective writing
- Exploring – the ways that teachers as writers can help teachers to improve their skills and classroom practice. Looking at resources to support reflective writing and teachers as writers.
- National Writing Project (UK) website
- A Taxonomy of Reflection: Critical Thinking For Students, Teachers, and Principals (Part 1) by Peter Pappas
This accredited professional learning is connected to the domains:
- Professional engagement – Standard 6 – Engage in professional learning
- 6.2 - engage in professional learning and improve practice.