Five Jars and a Great Story

Just imagine that “text types” as we know them were thrown out for a day and we inspired students to write a quirky creative story that engaged them in vocabulary development and sentence and paragraph structure. Try this idea to whet their appetite for creative writing.

Firstly discuss with the student/s what creative writing is all about.

1)      Explain the idea of the potential audience. Who are they writing for? How are they going to keep the reader captivated?

2)      Discuss the importance of a GREAT introduction that leaves a little cliff hanger to keep the reader interested.

3)      Do a recap of adjectives and adverbs and how they enhance nouns and verbs.

4)      Discuss the importance of dictionaries and thesaurus’s to use new words and different words in the correct context.

5)      Talk about characterization and how often the characters in the story gives it a real interest.

6)      Recap how descriptions are and  what creative writing is all about in order to make the reader feel like you are taking them on a journey.

7)      MOST IMPORTANTLY, provide examples of some good short stories and MODEL writing.  A good short story shows the student/s how to bring all the pieces together.

I use the commonly used hamburger example to demonstrate the correct way to structure a story and differentiate between an A and C grade piece of writing as follows:

C:  *Simple introduction and conclusion.

*One of two pieces of information in the body on the topic.

*Use of simple sentences.

*Uses repetitive, simple vocabulary.

*Has not answered the question given.

*Poor editing and proof-reading skills.

B: *More detailed introduction and conclusion

*Two to four pieces of information in the body

*Uses some complex sentences.

*Uses major connectors.

*Demonstrates good spelling and grammar skills.

*Demonstrates a reasonable range of vocabulary usage i.e. meaning/context.

*Demonstrates some understanding for editing and proof reading.

A: *Has a detailed introduction with a thesis sentence.

     *Concludes essay with a strong conclusion that supports the points in the essay.

*Uses more sophisticated vocabulary.

*Writes detailed paragraphs that begin with a topic sentence.

*Uses major and minor time connectors.

*Show a very good understanding for, and uses a range of vocabulary.

* Answers the question given.

* Demonstrates thorough editing and proof reading.

Now we arrive at the ‘five jars and a story” strategy.  Discuss with students the different components of a narrative. Put variety of examples of these components in jars on laminated card for continued use.  This is where students choose one idea from each jar to help them plan their story.

When: When did the story take place? This could be from an ancient to future period in time.

Where:  Where did the story happen? This could be from the depths of the ocean to a place in space.

Who:     Who are the characters in the story? Have students choose up to four character types from the jar.

What:   What problem evolves in the story? Students should be instructed to know that this is the most important part of the story as it engages the reader and the place where the “ingredients” of the story can be enriched.

How:    How do the characters of circumstances resolve the problem? This section should be one paragraph and lead to the concluding paragraph of the story.

When they have randomly made their selections have them make a story web plan as a guide for their writing.

Most importantly, make sure your student/s enjoy the journey of writing their own creative story. Have dictionaries, word banks and a thesaurus available for them to enjoy developing interesting vocabulary.  Allow them to publish their story on the computer using interesting combinations of fonts and clip art.  Encourage them to illustrate their story by themselves. Mount the story onto cardboard and laminate it to preserve it for years to come.

Five Jars and a Great Story

Just imagine that “text types” as we know them were thrown out for a day and we inspired students to write a quirky creative story that engaged them in vocabulary development and sentence and paragraph structure. Try this idea to whet their appetite for creative writing.

Firstly discuss with the student/s what creative writing is all about.

1)      Explain the idea of the potential audience. Who are they writing for? How are they going to keep the reader captivated?

2)      Discuss the importance of a GREAT introduction that leaves a little cliff hanger to keep the reader interested.

3)      Do a recap of adjectives and adverbs and how they enhance nouns and verbs.

4)      Discuss the importance of dictionaries and thesaurus’s to use new words and different words in the correct context.

5)      Talk about characterization and how often the characters in the story gives it a real interest.

6)      Recap how descriptions are and  what creative writing is all about in order to make the reader feel like you are taking them on a journey.

7)      MOST IMPORTANTLY, provide examples of some good short stories and MODEL writing.  A good short story shows the student/s how to bring all the pieces together.

I use the commonly used hamburger example to demonstrate the correct way to structure a story and differentiate between an A and C grade piece of writing as follows:

C:  *Simple introduction and conclusion.

*One of two pieces of information in the body on the topic.

*Use of simple sentences.

*Uses repetitive, simple vocabulary.

*Has not answered the question given.

*Poor editing and proof-reading skills.

B: *More detailed introduction and conclusion

*Two to four pieces of information in the body

*Uses some complex sentences.

*Uses major connectors.

*Demonstrates good spelling and grammar skills.

*Demonstrates a reasonable range of vocabulary usage i.e. meaning/context.

*Demonstrates some understanding for editing and proof reading.

A: *Has a detailed introduction with a thesis sentence.

     *Concludes essay with a strong conclusion that supports the points in the essay.

*Uses more sophisticated vocabulary.

*Writes detailed paragraphs that begin with a topic sentence.

*Uses major and minor time connectors.

*Show a very good understanding for, and uses a range of vocabulary.

* Answers the question given.

* Demonstrates thorough editing and proof reading.

Now we arrive at the ‘five jars and a story” strategy.  Discuss with students the different components of a narrative. Put variety of examples of these components in jars on laminated card for continued use.  This is where students choose one idea from each jar to help them plan their story.

When: When did the story take place? This could be from an ancient to future period in time.

Where:  Where did the story happen? This could be from the depths of the ocean to a place in space.

Who:     Who are the characters in the story? Have students choose up to four character types from the jar.

What:   What problem evolves in the story? Students should be instructed to know that this is the most important part of the story as it engages the reader and the place where the “ingredients” of the story can be enriched.

How:    How do the characters of circumstances resolve the problem? This section should be one paragraph and lead to the concluding paragraph of the story.

When they have randomly made their selections have them make a story web plan as a guide for their writing.

Most importantly, make sure your student/s enjoy the journey of writing their own creative story. Have dictionaries, word banks and a thesaurus available for them to enjoy developing interesting vocabulary.  Allow them to publish their story on the computer using interesting combinations of fonts and clip art.  Encourage them to illustrate their story by themselves. Mount the story onto cardboard and laminate it to preserve it for years to come.

The Power of Vowels for Emergent Readers

Understanding vowels is the foundation for reading and writing the English language. Try stringing a line of consonants together and ask your child or students to make sense of what they see.  They will soon realize that vowels give meaning to words and create patterns that assist their ability to read correctly.

It is essential for young children to be exposed to the power of vowels from the earliest stages of their reading development.  Research has demonstrated that confusion with vowel sounds, or a lack of knowledge for the importance of vowels in words, serves to create much of the reading problems we see in literacy support classes at school.

For instance it is not uncommon for young children to confuse the vowels “i” and “e”.  One way to overcome this problem is to focus on these vowels independently in the first instance and then to participate in classification activities so students learn to differentiate between the two vowels sound. Following is a sequence of a few simple tasks to teach children to decode words which contain the “i” or “e” vowel sounds.

1)           Make large cut outs of both sounds. Display and discuss the difference in the shape of the letters.

2)           Display word list that contain “i” and “e” as beginning and medial sounds. Colour code vowels to assist young readers with their visual perception of the sound.

3)      Make picture cards of relevant words and their name and have children classify them according to the vowel sound. (Visual example would be good here)

4)      Make mixed up silly sentence activities which focus on one of the vowel sounds for children to cut and paste in the correct order.

A similar problem can also emerge with the vowels “a” and “o” as the shape of these letters is similar. The same activities above can be adapted to these vowels as well as the following activity which is more specific to the “a” and “o” sounds.

1)        Give children a worksheet that demonstrates the shape of both letters.

Ask them to make a smiley face on the “o” letter to show how Mr “o”   looks   straight ahead. Next draw an ear on the right side of the “a” and a nose on the left to demonstrates how Mr “a” looks to the side.

When children have a strong grasp for the first four vowels, and are competent with identifying them in print at the beginning and medial junctions of a word, introduce the “u” sound.

When you sense children are ready to work with the five vowels together, construct simple tasks that assist you to assess their understandings for reading the five vowels. Classification of activities using words with medial vowels is powerful indicators for children’s understandings for example. Below is a list of words that could be made into a cut and paste activity as an enjoyable, yet accurate form of assessment.

This task can be different to meet differing stages of understanding, at a teacher or parent’s discretion as follows:

 

Take vowels seriously when teaching young children the basic of reading. Lack of understanding can be evident for reading and spelling problems in later stages of literacy development. Let your creativity reign and HAVE FUN!

Reading – Ideas to Ponder

As a major form of communication, reading has been used since the earliest civilizations.  It is how we have found  answers about the past and are able to research topics of interest about the present. It is the greatest form of pleasure for many people and more recently a necessary pre requisite for competent entry into the use of technology. It is no surprise therefore, that reading consumes the largest proportion of class time each day at school and is a necessary skill for success and enjoyment across all other subjects.

Over the years there have been many different changes to the education system’s approach to the teaching and learning of reading. However there is just no way around the fact that we all need to acquire a particular level of skill in reading to survive effectively in the formal education setting and beyond.  For instance, it would be difficult to find employment where reading wasn’t a required  skill, especially when you consider the fact that communication via email has greatly replaced the old practice of verbal communication.

As the digital age begins to dominate our daily lives, the need to read well and to be analytical in that process, is crucial. Whilst it has been argued that computers will replace the need to read or write in the future, it can conversely be argued that it is more necessary than ever before for young people to, not only read well, but to read critically. We have been functioning in the new Digital Age for some time now, and those who reap the most success in that forum are those who can read and analyse material objectively.

If we plan to educate young people to be competitive in a global sense we need to educate them to enjoy the pursuit of good reading and to realize the power of the printed word. It is for this reason that the best gift you can give your child is the power to read.  It is the window to all opportunities of success on the global information market. “Good content” is a new way of explaining the quality of material we read on the internet. It is “Good Content” that attracts readers to websites to find information to meet their needs. AND the most important skill required to gain the most from this shift is critical reading.

Why tutoring?

I was fortunate enough to work as a One on One tutor in England for a short time in 2010. From this experience I realised the value of spending time working on children’s academic weaknesses on a One on One tutoring basis. I was so impressed with the amount of work I could achieve with one student in an hour and consequently the leaps they made with their learning. The Education authorities funded this program for children who fell below the National benchmarks and it provided the student and teaching with a vehicle to raise Literacy and Numeracy standards across the coountry.

The Principal at the school where I worked,  allowed me to assess the children involved and create individual programs that targeted their specific needs. The greatest joy was to see students grow in confidence and to begin to think independently. I also found new strengths in myself as a teacher and realised that a career shift would be imminent.

 

It was from this experience that I decided to launch into my own tutoring business – Nepean Tutoring where I tutor students in the Penrith to Blue Mountains districts. Although I could earn a great salary if I returned to the classroom, I realised that my passion lay in One on One tutoring. I enjoy the relational aspect of this work as my students begin to trust me and talk to me about their own perceptions of their learning. This provides greater insights for goal setting and understanding the learning styles of the student.

Another passion I have is to teach older students my method of good essay writing. It is not a secret that formal writing is a dying art. However the structure of Secondary school and Tertiary exams dictates that a student needs to understand the mechanics of writing and more importantly, the structure of an essay. What do I write in my introduction? How do I write a good conclusion? When do I begin a new paragraph?  What does the question mean? These are fundamental elements of good essay writing that need to be reinforced to be competetive in the academic world, For this reason I included an “essay writing” component to my business.

Well it is only a few days before I officially launch Nepean Tutoring and it is all an unknown quantity at this moment. Each time the phone rings my mind will immediately say “is that call about a potential student.”

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I spend a lot of time searching the internet for novel ideas and information so I can post the links to my facebook and website for students and parents to see. The topics range from “making organic cup cakes” to “spelling strategies”. Please visit my site or facebook page if you are interested to see some some gold nuggets for great learning.