7 Comments

I'm an English teacher Rebecca, so thanks for your piece. I agree that students often lack knowledge on a topic and therefore struggle to write. And, as you said, not being fluent in a genre, means that they're not confident writing what they want to say.

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author

No worries! Students know some things but it’s not the norm that they can just pull out a Cormac McCarthy!

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Jan 14Liked by Rebecca Birch

This is so similar to my experience of realising how inefficient jigsaw activities and other group work can be. I used to think it was because I wasn't doing it right or I was a 'control freak' teacher who didn't feel comfortable when students were 'doing their own thing'. Over the last 7 or 8 years I have been buoyed by the research demonstrating that these activities are not productive for most students and actually detrimental to those with LD. Well written again!

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Jan 14Liked by Rebecca Birch

Hi Rebecca, I really appreciate your honesty. Thank you for putting your thinking out there as many of us face these same issues. I'm not a fan of cold writes, because in primary we know our students very well and we don't learn much we don't already know through this process. I don't know if cold writes create anxiety, but the most vulnerable students are yet again the most disadvantaged. To me it's valuable time lost we could be teaching something useful. I see best results when I do a deep dive into what I term the 'rich pedagogies' such as a version of Talk for Writing or Scaffolding Literacy. What happens then is that the difference in what's produced across the class is reduced dramatically, because everyone gets the benefit of quality whole class lessons. (I am familiar with TWR too though I've never seen kids produce great narratives solely based on TWR.) Like you I have sometimes developed a list of no go topics, decidedly more primary oriented than those you list. I've often banned big numbers eg, 104739000 years ago... Or repeated use of 'one year later..'.

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Jan 15Liked by Rebecca Birch

Interesting reflection! Totally agree with cold writes and the importance of research before writing, even when they have some knowledge it is not usually sufficient. Not entirely ready to throw jigsaw away as entirely unproductive, especially with accessible content. I like to use it to encourage pre-reading as well with younger students. As you say though, needs to be used carefully. I have found it works for texts like ‘Catcher’ or ‘Mockingbird’ but I would never use it with Alice Munro for example.

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I’m glad I’ve subscribed Rebecca. My own approach was (I’m retired now) so different, yet you write with such clarity and conviction (and with such obvious reflected-on experience) that it makes me want to read more.

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author

Thank you Steve. As my old mum used to say, it wouldn’t do for us all to be the same.

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