Imagination is something that should be nurtured in young people. Encouraging creative writing at home is one way parents can assist their children to improve both their literacy skills and imagination at the same time. Very few children can just sit down and write a story, they need inspiration, prompting and guidance. Here is a step by step method you can use to move your child through the writing process.
2. Sketch a picture.
This exercise is great for visual learners. Again, take a good look at your picture, look at it closely, encourage your child to look at it closely, taking in things they may have missed the first time they looked at it. Turn over the picture so you can't see it. Get your child to draw a picture from their memory. Visualising helps improve and work their memory as well as their imagination - intertwining the two. Allow your child to fully explore their imagination and memory and then draw what they experience. Don't worry about not being the greatest artist. Sketching gives your child a creative outlet for when they are struggling with putting pen to paper to form words.
3. Adjective chart
One of the best ways to really get ideas flowing in all directions is for your child to create an adjective chart. Get your child to look at their sketch and start to list down as many nouns they can about the scene in one column. One the other side, write down the adjective describing nouns. Don't worry about spelling! This is about creativity! Correcting your child's spelling will only make them choose the safe option, the easy word. Allow them to use a online thesaurus if it would help.
Start asking your child to think about writing a story based on their sketch and adjective chart. If they have no idea where they are going with their creative writing, then you may want to do some brainstorming together on what you want to accomplish. Ask your child - Do you want the reader to be moved by the piece because the object is special to you? Do you want the reader to rush out of their house and visit the scene? Do you want to reader to dislike the scene? Should they be afraid, happy, angry, thoughtful?
5. Time to Write and get it right!
Once you and your child have a direction they can begin to write their descriptive piece. Their first copy should be very different from your end result, so encourage them to take the time to write, re-read, edit, revise then write, re-read, edit, revise then write, re-read, edit, revise then write, re-read, edit, revise until they are happy with it.
This process is all about imagination and keeping it fun. Very few people are creative under pressure, so keep things light and try to have fun with it. Planning and writing might be a hobby you and your child can do together - bonding through stories.
Pedagogy is a serious sounding word that just means ‘the art, science or language of teaching’ It is often used by teachers to describe the method of getting the learning objectives into the students heads and attempting to keep them there. As professional knowledge around educational physiology has grown, pedagogy has taken more twists and turns. For example, teaching methods, or pedagogy, of the 1940’s would be heavy in rote learning in a lecture style classroom environment. Today the focus has turned to learning by doing and discovery through guided learning.
Most teachers I know love talking about pedagogy. At one school where I taught I was fortunate enough to be part of a ‘General Studies’ team who was allocated 80minutes a fortnight to meet and discuss how they were teaching. What worked. What didn’t. Teachers were inspired by each other, there was a genuine professional respect because we were able to learn from each other and were well aware of the teaching skills and talents of our co-workers. I remember those meetings fondly.
It is not only important to discuss pedagogy, but of course it is a teachers professional responsibility to record, document and assess the student’s learning, skills and understandings. Documentation is a requirement of every teacher, it is about accountability, in demonstrating that you are meeting your professional obligations and working in a thoughtful, intelligent way. Documentation should be more than writing a running record of students work samples, set aside in case of audit or parent complaint. Real pedagogical documentation should be ‘teacher focussed’ as it should inspire teachers to think about educational theories, analyse their students work deeply, research widely current learning theories in view of child psychology and revise and craft lessons that reflect deep research and understanding .
At this point I have lost most full time teachers – even if the thought of documentation is appealing teachers do not have the time and energy to devote to this practice. Let’s be honest, most don’t have the time for lunch or a quick loo break! Let’s put that very real problem aside for a moment and think about pedagogical documentation in terms of: if we did have the time and energy – why should we spend it in this way?
It’s about active advocacy! Pedagogical Documentation makes connections with families and the community, it show cases student understanding and demonstrates to interested parties that the classroom teacher is a wealth of professional experience and knowledge.
And in my opinion, that doesn't happen enough. Teachers are often overlooked as glorified babysitters. Documentation and promotion of that documentation allows the outside world to see the amazing things we teachers discuss in meetings. It allows those on the outside to appreciate that most teachers are amazing professionals, highly educated individuals who seek to get the most out of each child through positive encouragement an rigorous lessons.
1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary online
2. Fleet, Alma et al, What is Pedagogy Anyway, 2011. Children’s Services Central, NSW
Reading aloud is so important in improving comprehension skills and verbal communication skills. It's importance can not be overestimated, several research investigations have discussed the significance of text engagement and proficient readers (Dolezal, Welsh, Pressley, & Vincent, 2003; Wharton-McDonald, Pressley, & Hampston, 1998). So it seems that if you want your child to improve their literacy skills, it’s time to encourage them to say it out loud.
Teachers are aware of the importance of students reading aloud, but reading aloud can also be intimidating for many young people. There is the fear of getting a word wrong, sounding stupid and having others think you can't read.
My biggest fear, when I was a student was that I would come across an easy word, like 'father' - a grade 2 reading word - and in my nervousness I would sound it out 'fat- her' and before I could think about it, and correct myself, my teacher would correct me and a classmate would snigger. I would spend the rest of that lesson thinking about my one mistake. Worried that I would be the girl known for her inability to recognise the word 'father' forever branded as ‘fat-her'.
When such mistakes are made, other students are usually forgiving or forgetful and no such taunts are followed up. But the real tragedy is that for the rest of that lesson I might as well have been absent. I was no longer able to listen and learn as my anxiety over a simple mistake was all I could hear.
This sometimes crippling fear of mistakes can happen to the most well adjusted child, given the right conditions - and it is a tragedy. An important lesson is passing that student by because of the drama that is playing out in their minds.
The challenge for teachers is to make reading aloud sessions fun, comfortable and a time where students can feel safe about having a go and making a mistake.
All they need as friendly faces, a childhood toy and good book ...and even a dog!
Here are three tips to make reading sessions feel safe for all involved:
1. Read altogether.
Read in a circle. I would move all the desks out of the way and ask my students to grab their chairs and book and sit in a large circle. Once in this circle I remind the students that this is our safe zone, only positive thoughts and encouragement here. I would explain to the students that everyone has to read. We will go around the circle and even if you just read a word that is fine. When it's your turn to read - read aloud for as long as you feel comfortable and then say 'pass'. Once the student says 'pass' we move to the next student.
I would find that even if a student is only reading a few words aloud they are still engaged in the lesson and actively listening. As the lessons continue these students often find the confidence to read aloud more and more.
2. Read with buddies.
Pair friends up together. Teachers are often trying to separate buddies as they talk too much. (Although the truth is that talkative kids will usually talk to anyone.) Kids feel more comfortable with their mates. I would find that if I got the dynamics right, groups of three or four students would read aloud and help each other out in a relaxed and friendly reading environment. Sometimes we would bring snacks and students could picnic while reading aloud.
3. Read to teddy.
For the younger students I would hold a ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ at the beginning of the year. A time where kids can bring in their favourite toy (or choose one from the classroom teddy box) and discuss with their classmates why that toy is important to them. They would be asked to bring their toy back on special reading days. On those days the kids would grab their toy, their book and a pillow and sit by themselves and read aloud to their toy.
This was a lovely thing to do on a sunny afternoon, when we would head outside and sit under a big shady tree.
Reading aloud to a toy meant that kids were not being constantly corrected for the mistakes they were making. They were not worried about being teased. Nor were they anxious that someone would think they were stupid. Although I am sure the kids were making mistakes all over the place, I was looking at the bigger picture - if kids enjoy the reading process, they will work at it more often and it is with practice that they improve.
A safe learning environment where students can feel as though they are able to express themselves without ridicule is the ultimate goal. It’s important for teachers to be imaginative and look at ways to get students to read aloud without anxiety.
My final word on this would be that another way to get kids reading aloud without fear would be for them to read at home to their parents, their teddy or even their dog!
Canine Comprehension are always happy help with the dog part - just contact us.
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