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Writers Workshop Resource Boxes

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Hope everyone is travelling okay and those in Year 5 and Year 6 have survived Naplan and all the interruptions this brings to your planning and teaching! Not to mention that you are now in report writing mode! Teachers almost need to go into stamina training to survive!

I have nothing but admiration for you all – just keep the faith in yourselves and keep encouraging each other.


Writers Workshop Resource Boxes

I’m a recent Facebook post I referred to Resource Boxes for Writers Workshop. This is an area that some of my schools are developing. I love the way teachers just take an idea and run with it – they make it their own and always come up with something much better than I would have developed!


Resource Boxes can be placed on each table and are essential if we are to encourage independent writers.


There are core resources such as Oxford Word List in alphabetical order; conference arrows; letter strips ( Foundation/Year 1) but most of the resources need to be created by you from whole class Mini-Lessons and small Focus Group teaching. When we teach we need to create exemplars so that students can refer back to them when revising or editing their writing. For example, if I have taught complex sentences in Year 5 then there should be a simple statement of what a complex sentence is and then exemplars of such sentences that were written by the kids – typed on a small card and laminated and placed in the resource box.

There is no point filling the box with lots of published resources – what goes in the resource box must be purposeful and useful to students. This means we essentially build our resources from our teaching. We must link our teaching to expectation of student practice. Otherwise, how do we know that students have learned what they have been taught – we need to see evidence in their writing, behaviours and strategies!


Over time some resources will be flushed out. It’s important that at least twice a term we ask children to layout resources and talk about how they have used them.


We need to be teaching kids how to be strategic and stop doing things for them that they can do for themselves. Writing is incredibly complex and we have to consider what have we put in place, so students are not dependent on us.  Ask yourself –


What current resources do students have easy access to in my classroom?

What have you taught them in regards to Grammar ( whole text, sentence, clause, phrase, word level ), Spelling, Revision, Proofreading, Thinking that will help them improve as writers?

What resources have come from this teaching, so students can access them when writing?


It has been wonderful to see how teachers at Carlton Gardens Primary School, have developed resources, sending the message to students that they are expected to use these to help themselves as writers.

Year 3 Carlton Gardens Primary School – Tessa, Jess and Ashley

Exemplars in Year 3 Resource Box include –

  • Thinking scaffolds for Writers Notebook
  • Conference Arrows to assist with revision
  • Compound Sentence Exemplar
  • Verb group resource
  • Oxford Word List

Writers Notebook Routine -get ready for some deep thinking

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Hi there everyone! Hope a wonderful year of teaching for you all. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first term in schools. Working with amazing teachers and kids has been so encouraging and led me to detailing more of what I do to assist schools.
I have been a bit slow in adding to my Blog but back on track now.
Below is an outline of the Writers Notebook Routine. I have written this because at times kids find it hard to go from their seed to developing their thinking further so it leads to a real purpose for writing. I always tell teachers to shift into second gear and slow down the modeling, so students can really begin to understand the role of the Notebook – to build their schema, think more deeply and create a real purpose and confidence when they put pen to paper. Too often we see a disconnect between the thinking and shaping into a purpose – it is very easy to write Narrative without really considering possibilities!
Don’t forget how important it is to encourage oral language! Talking to others to others and sharing our thinking helps students to know what they know and is so powerful in assisting their literacy development.
Remember too, that through Inquiry learning and Language Experience you are building their schema as students investigate, share experiences and learning, which makes it easier to write. Inquiry and Language experience approach to teaching and learning needs to harnessed in reading and writing workshops – in fact, if you go into a classroom it would be difficult to identify what workshop you are in!
The Writers Notebook is just a routine that allows students to be independent so we can make the most of our teaching time. There will be times when you pause the routine due to writing, as part of an Inquiry, Author Study or Reading theme, a whole class Language Experience and even Maths! Or it may be, you just want the whole class in Reading and Writing to look at poetry! The good news is when a student finishes early, they are not asking what to do next, as they simply move on with independent writing routine developed through the Writers Notebook.
Oscar in Year 3 is really starting to understand about purpose in writing.  Year 3 Classroom – Tessa Carlton Gardens
The most important thing is that write! We need to model and think aloud if we are to really understand what we are asking our students to do.
Remember – if we want quality writing then we need quality thinking!!!
Happy Writing everyone


Carlton Gardens Prep team guest post

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Well I am finally getting back to the BLOG!

This year I have been welcomed into so many classrooms by generous teachers and kids.

A highlight for me, is when I get to observe teachers in classrooms, and then provide feedback to help them take new steps forward. In this role as a coach, I am also learning from them, and seeing the creative ways, in which teachers, bed down their practice.


Below is some sharing of practice by Prep teachers at Carlton Gardens Primary School, where I have been working throughout the year. Sarah Moon, Laura Ross and Rachel Cross are implementing Writers Workshop, and it is a joy to see the work they are doing and the collaborative way in which they plan and work together.

I hope this inspires more of you to share ideas on my Blog or email me and I will do it for you!


Cloud Making Experiment – Language Experience

In Prep at Carlton Gardens Primary School we have been learning about seasons and weather. We did a cloud making experiment using hot water, ice and hairspray. The video of this language experience was used as our seed for writing. The kids absolutely loved it and it inspired some excellent thinking for their writing.


Ipad – sharing

During Share Time we use the iPad and Apple TV to project student writing. This maximises engagement and allows all students to clearly see the writing and therefore provide specific and valuable feedback.

Laura Walsh, Rachel Cross and Sarah Moon

Prep Team

Carlton Gardens Primary School

Writing Conferences

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This will be my last Blog – I leave for Italy today!

I have no idea where the last few weeks of this term have gone, but I do know, that as I continue to work in classrooms with kids, and debrief with teachers, that I am learning so much!

Writing Conferences

There is no doubt that to effectively confer with kids, we need to build our skills and show real grit as a teacher. It takes time to build our confidence, and it takes time for students to know what is expected of them. We all need lots of practice!

My conferences were a nightmare in the 80’s. I would spend 20 minutes with just one student, while the rest were rolling around on the carpet, bored out of their brain!

It was this quote below, from The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy McCormick Calkins, that whacked me across the head and set me on a new pathway –

I realized that my conferences were ineffective because I was trying to fix up their writing instead of trying to help kids to help themselves! My conferences were a waste of time because kids were dependent on me.

Below is a handout I have created to help teachers. It provides a scaffold for teachers in preparing and conducting a conference and is linked to the Conference Hierarchy that I refer to in my seminars on Writing. My writing conferences are now 10mins – 15mins maximum.


Hope it helps! Off to finish packing!!!

A Scaffold to Help with Writing Conferences!

  • linked to Conference Hierarchy


Preparing for conference


Read student Writing – Hunt for the Good!

  • It may be a lively sentence, the use of an exclamation mark, knowledge of topic and so on.


Determine what the focus will be for each individual in the conference

  • the Conference Hierarchy helps us stay focused so we don’t try and fix everything!
  • Whole Text Level – Is it message or structure? Sentence Level – how can sentences improve – combine; different starters? Proofreading Level – What resources can student access?
  • at each level of Conference Hierarchy, you are focusing on the strategies they have been taught.


Consider strategies or questions to ask the student/ group, to highlight the focus.

  • Keep in mind the Writer and what will help them help themselves


Consider future focus for this writer – how can they take next steps?


During Conference


Teacher focuses on the first student who explains purpose of their writing


The teacher explains stage of writing process student is at, to help group focus eg. If Whole Text Level then message and structure


Teacher affirms what student is doing well. May ask student to read a sentence or section of text aloud. Ask what do we notice? What do we like?


Teacher provides focus for Writer

  • At Whole Text Level – If message unclear, ask student “Can you explain your thinking?”
  • If the message can be strengthened, ask the student to read aloud sentence/s and then teacher asks the group, “ Any questions? What might make the message stronger? What strategies can we use to include information?”
  • If ideas out of order, read to student or outline and discuss strategies with the group. Eg. Read an exemplar, strategies to reorder, visual scaffold
  • At Sentence Level – If sentences are similar, draw on what you have taught them to vary the pattern.
  • At Proofreading Level – What can the student use to help themselves? What resources are available? What have you taught them?


Teacher discusses next purpose for writing with student –

  • Does student need to stick with the same purpose so they can practice and bed down a particular text type?
  • Does student need to be challenged as a writer? (write from another perspective; research and report or explain an event)
  • Will a scaffold or visual or exemplar support writer for next piece?

Mid year update

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First week back in schools after 3 weeks in Bali with my beautiful daughter, Tessa!


Warragul North Primary School has a whole school focus on Writing with the teachers focussed on a particular Inquiry related to writing. It is wonderful to see teachers researching specific areas of writing in their classrooms and using research and professional readings to guide them. Love this model of Professional Learning and enjoying being a small part of their team. On Friday, I worked in four classrooms modelling a Writing session and conferencing students. The students were so engaged and I got such a buzz from how they responded to the conferring – a focus on the writer and helping them to help themselves, rather than on the writing!


Had a great day at Blackburn Primary School modelling the teaching of spelling in different classes then debriefing with teams. Love the way they are working with spelling and really focussing on helping kids to be strategic as they focus on developing them as metacognitive spellers. There is no doubt that a whole school approach makes a difference – not about what one teacher does – it is about what we are all doing to ensure the best for kids as they travel through the primary years.


Melbourne Girls Grammar K- 8 Craft of Writing was the topic for a PD day this week. Really enjoyed having the primary and secondary staff working together. Our focus was the explicit teaching of Grammar, Writing Strategies etc through Mini – Lessons. The most important thing is that when we teach Grammar it needs to be done in a way that is connected to writing – Constance Weaver tells us that teaching it in isolation has never improved writing! I think we know this but teachers need a planning Framework to help them do this! Really enjoyed working with the teachers as they are so keen to improve their professional learning in this area. Strongly recommend Constance Weaver as a writer of great professional texts in this area.


Also at Templestowe Park this week – similar to Melbourne Girls Grammar but reflected their school needs. Another great school to be with! When I leave these schools, I travel home weary but buzzing from the interactions and just wanting to think and create more materials that will make it easier for teachers. Time is the greatest challenge in schools and teachers need all the support they can get!


I will organise to put the Grammar Planning Framework up for you!

Recomposing ~ an effective Writing/ Reading/Research Strategy

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I spent three amazing days in Tasmania working at Penguin District School – K to Year 10.

I did classroom modelling in Writing, in a Year 1, a Year 6, a Year 7 and a Year 10! After each class I debriefed with the teachers, and told them how sensational their kids were.

When you work across primary and secondary years, it is a reminder of how critical it is that we help kids to meet the literacy requirements of different subject areas if they are to truly learn and make progress.

In Primary, we have our Inquiry Units and Investigations, and in secondary different content areas. Yet the strategies I modelled, Recomposing in Year 7 and Anticipation Guides in Year 10, are the same strategies that I would teach from Prep to Year 6!



~ an effective Writing/ Reading/Research Strategy


Recomposing is simply reading information in one format and summarising it in another format.


– read a short biography of a migrant and summarise it as a time line.  This is recomposing paragraphs into a diagram.

– read a flowchart of an insect’s life cycle and summarize it as a written recount or explanation.  This is recomposing a diagram into a paragraph.

Recomposing is both an effective writing and research strategy – a powerful way to enhance comprehension.

Vicky.B. Plenty Campus IGS – Year 6 – Reading text on Water Cycle, determining what is important then creating a Visual text and explaining it to a friend!

Symbolic illustrations with writing explaining thinking…..


The detail is in the illustration and shows understanding…..

I adapted this from – Craft Lessons Teaching Information Writing K- 8 by Portalupi and Fletcher. It is a ripper strategy because students cannot copy straight from the book!

My first blog

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Well…. this is my first time blogging and I am really looking forward to sharing classroom practice and experiences with those of you who choose to join in!

This is my first year as a full-time Educational Consultant and I am loving it! Working in schools, with kids, teachers and leadership teams, has been incredibly rewarding. We all want the same thing – doing the best we can for kids, as we translate current Literacy research into practice. We know that having a consistent pedagogy underpinning the teaching of literacy, as they travel through a school, will give kids the best chance meeting the literacy demands of secondary school and life.

I have been travelling all around Victoria, and interstate, to different schools – love getting the music happening and then hitting the road! It is actually great thinking time!My favourite times have been in classrooms working with kids while teachers observe. Kids are such a joy and so willing to engage and participate – I look at their eager little faces and wonder if there is a better profession than being a teacher! It is also great to be able to encourage the wonderful teachers I am working with, as they are so keen to learn. There are so many demands placed on teachers, yet they are so willing to keep growing professionally and put the time in that is required to do so.


Off to speak at an ALEA workshop in Canberra on Saturday and then I will have four days based in Lakes Entrance working with the Eastern Collective of Schools – stay tuned!