I am a class teacher for Year Four and five students and a team leader for the middle school. My class and I are a part of the Manaiakalani Google ClassOnAir.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Do Learning Intentions isolate the writing Process?

The more I delve into my inquiry, the more I feel that we need to change our approach on the way we teach writing. I feel we are stuck too much with the teaching of the conventions of writing rather than making it a joyous task where the students feel intrinsically motivated to write. 

Last week talking to Jannie Van Hees confirmed my notion. Jannie modelled for me in my class. It was great to watch her and notice her not using any learning intention but using talk and lots of talk  to develop vocabulary. She provided multiple opportunities for students to interact with one another in a non threatening, purposeful and enriching ways. The students dominated the talk and  then wrote some good meaningful sentences about the topic. They were motivated and engaged and they also learnt new words to convey their ideas.

Learning Intentions isolate the whole process of writing. We get stuck in teaching capital letters or full stops or inserting describing words or adding detail. It is more important for students to understand that there is a purpose for writing and that is conveying their ideas and their thoughts to people who do not know about the topic you are writing on.  It is a way of communication and it needs to be clear and meaningful, just like talking needs to be meaningful for the listener to understand. What I mean is that the focus should shift from just putting full stops in the correct places to creating a captivating piece of writing. Things like punctuation can be subtly taught and reminded of during the process of writing.

The other question that arises is... 

Do our students understand some of the learning intentions? For example - WALT write in detail? what does this mean to them? I explored a lot over this learning intention for the past few weeks and found out that my children actually do not know what they need to do when they have to write in detail. They started giving me recounts that were three pages long, as they thought that detail meant a long piece of writing. They were super boring to read as they lacked the purpose. There was no soul or depth to their writing. They were monotonous and reading and analysing them was painful. How come one after another, each sample was just a narration of sequence of activities that they had experienced? 

So the question that arose was 

What is it that we are not doing?

I feel we are not providing opportunities for the development of spoken forms of language as a bridge to more academic language. For this to happen we need to look at the quality of dialogue that children are engaged in. 

They need to be pushed to produce more comprehendible, coherent and grammatically improved discourses. And all this needs to be done without making it a tedious activity.

How will I do this?

I will be choosing interesting authentic topics for students to write everyday. I would be focussing a lot on language output. This would be done by extending them from the known to the new. My class would be a communicative class where students would be encouraged to process the language and deliver it in a more comprehendible way. I would be making more stronger links to reading, talking and writing.
In doing so, I know I will need to be more prepared by mindfully going through my teaching process before I actually teach my students. I will need to do this a number of times till it is kind of fossilised into my practice. It is work but it is exciting!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Archana

    What you write is deeply pedagogically reflective...and you dare to be discomforted because the evidence in front of you demands you be so. You extracted the essence of what I did and shared with your five amazing boys - so capable yet so constrained. I loved working with them. So much capability among them and each.

    Writing for real reasons and because we/I've got something to tell seems not to have been on their writing horizons as the norm..and so, it was indeed refreshing for them to collaborate around a topic that clearly was 'hot topic news'...and enticing to consider.

    WALT is a yawn..and in my view does not to enhance learners as writers. I fully agree that what seem like 'best practice' theoretically...but unpick what's going on...we don't need to structure in a WALT mantra for purposeful attentions to be made during writing (or any other learning happening, for that matter).

    At the heart of learners being enabled as writers is supporting them to build 'the field'...namely, know enough about what they might write about – ideas, needed words and ways of expressing; to have in sight why they are writing and for whom....not in a mantra way but REALLY.... and to have a plan of ideas organised and written in such a way that the audience 'gets it'....through the crafting of words and effective playing around with and presenting of structure - (the thematic development of any text).

    'Becoming' as a writer is a careful and crafted journey. It's a complex act to learn to write and write, and throughout that journey of learning the craft, we can and should give learners a sense of joy and realism about writing. Spot on, Archana.

    There's much more to tell...but compliments to you for discerning so astutely and deeply. More of the same won't make the different you desire for your boys and learners. You’re prepared to venture new and different pathways. Good on you.

    Kia kaha. Jannie