What Writing Teachers Do – Re-imagining English ETA Annual conference


It’s always a pleasure to share writing pedagogies with English teachers who bring their own knowledge and experiences to my sessions, knowing that creativity and ideas are for trialling and adapting within each school and class context.

I thank everyone who attended and shared their writing as we acknowledged our writerly identities and allowed them to shine. This post includes the presentation slides, pdf copies of handouts and key discussion points that made this session so valuable and rewarding. I welcome your comments and feedback.

By engaging in regular writing, we experience the positive and negative aspects of our practice which has the potential to build our confidence, understand the hurdles our students may encounter and develop strategies for encouraging playful explorations of language and writing that is not necessarily linked to individual assessment tasks.

We began with an overview of the current research findings from the Teachers as Writers project in the UK. An overview of the executive summary can be found in my editorial of the ‘Writing Teachers’ edition of mETAphor – access for current  ETA members

Alternatively, you can read more: Research Report

We also discussed the priveleging of reading and analysing over writing in undergraduate university and teaching programs. These courses tend to produce early career teachers who are confident in writing critical extended responses which may lead to a priveleging of these forms in the classroom, particularly when guiding students through high-stakes exams.

Then the writing fun began …

A most effective warm-up exercise:

  • write a list of six to ten words
  • share – each person shares one word at a time – try to keep this moving fairly quickly to avoid people justifying choices or pondering over the ‘best’word
  • listen and record interesting words and word combinations
  • record these to add to your word hoard

Why I Write

  • Spend a moment visualising where you write
  • ten minutes free writing about this space

Our discussion was rich with different interpretations and personal reflections. Some of us identified different spaces and methods of writing – by hand or on computer – for different forms of writing. Many descriptive moments created vivid images and placed us in various spaces.

Although there wasn’t time to complete the following exercises, I outlined how useful these next ideas could be for us, as teachers, and within the classroom:

This activity is from a workshop with Lilly Blue – visual artist and educator with a background in physical performance, installation and community arts.

Find out more on an earlier post Locating Unusual Narratives

This idea is from a Writing Teachers workshop at the Powerhouse Museum with Sam Wagan Watson where we were invited to wander the collections, choose items, and create a dialogue or response based on our choice of individual objects and items.

Read my responses here: The Reconciled Writer – workshop #2

This activity draws on a previous writing workshop I hosted at the Powerhouse Museum. Delivering a more prescriptive version of ‘we are all made of words’ in creating a word hoard, I offer a fresh take on the warm-up exercise of gathering words and ideas. If we consider this artwork by Julie Dowling from the book Picturing Australia: National Library of Australia – Collection Highlights, we can open a dialogue with our own experiences of Christmas dinner and family members who provide distractions at the table.

Students might also begin by writing a description of this artwork, or ekphratic reflection.

Ekphrasis or ecphrasis, from the Greek for the description of a work of art produced as a rhetorical exercise, often used in the adjectival form ekphrastic, is a vivid, often dramatic, verbal description of a visual work of art, either real or imagined. In ancient times, it referred to a description of any thing, person or experience.

from Wikipedia

Learning How to Be Stupid

There are many books and essays by writers on writing. I find that students can be introduced to the concept of literary value by reading and reflecting on classic texts that they would be less likely to consider without our guidance. Particularly in light of the new Stage 6 syllabus for the NSW HSC, notably the modules for Year 11  ‘Reading to Write’ and Year 12  ‘The Craft of Writing’, it is timely to consider A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, a memoir of his time in Paris in the early 1920s. The cover of the ‘restored edition’ states that Hemingway

… revolutionized American writing with his short, declarative sentences and terse prose.

Consider how this extract might inform students in their understanding of writing and the many ways that places can be represented through language.

A False Spring



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