Supporting Children during the Prewriting Stage: Developing an Author's Understanding of Purpose and Audience Using Interviews

By Cruickshank, Bronwyn | Practically Primary, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Supporting Children during the Prewriting Stage: Developing an Author's Understanding of Purpose and Audience Using Interviews


Cruickshank, Bronwyn, Practically Primary


The truth of course is that ideas are all around us ... The skill is in recognising them and making them your own (Gleeson, 2007, p. 19)

THE PROJECT

The study Using literature to engage all students was funded by the ALEA Research Grant where we, (Jessica Mantei, academic partner, and I, classroom teacher) investigated the ways children could be supported through literature to be creators of literature. That is, the ways we could inspire and support them to become authors of children's literature.

MY SCHOOL

This study was conducted during the final school term of the 2010 school year with my Year 6 students. Mine is a 2-stream school in South Western Sydney, NSW and the school population is multicultural and diverse in socioeconomic status. I was new to the school at the time of the study and whilst many of my students were identified as having 'challenging' behaviours, I preferred to think of them as having high engagement needs. I had maintained connections with some of my University lecturers and took the opportunity that presented itself through the ALEA Research Grant to investigate the ways my students might be engaged through literature.

SUPPORT FROM THE RESEARCH LITERATURE

As good teachers know, there needs to be a framing educational philosophy if the designed learning experiences are to offer opportunities for deep learning and engagement in complex tasks. Professional reading was central to the study as we explored and negotiated our own beliefs about literature and the demands of authoring narrative text.

Libby Gleeson's Writing like a writer (2007) provided us with the philosophical frame within which we could encourage the children to both respond to stories and become writers of stories. Throughout the study, we discussed the Gleeson (2007) chapters, making connections to the unique setting of my classroom and the ways the framework could suit the needs of these learners. At each stage of the writing process, Gleeson's text informed the design of the classroom program, superficially through the types of activities themselves and more deeply through opportunities for the children to reflect on and plan for the next step of their learning.

The study was informed by an action learning methodology (See Figure 1). This allowed us to plan, teach and reflect on the students' learning. Reflection informed our teaching as our own understandings emerged about the demands these children were experiencing as they created their own children's literature.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

PROCESS

The children engaged in the learning experiences during the daily literacy learning time in their classrooms, 2 hours per block, twice per week. Figure 2 represents the learning experiences from the teaching program.

This paper takes a focus on one part of the study in the before writing stage, where Gleeson (2007) tells us that talking, brainstorming, conceptualising, testing ideas and sharing are key to writing narrative. It reports on the use of interview to help the Year 6 children understand the likes, dislikes, preferences and expectations of their audience. The Year 6 children selected an audience within the immediate school community with the ultimate aim of having the stories accessioned in the school library.

Figure 2--Examples of experiences at each stage of the writing
process.

BEFORE WRITING

Aims:

* Develop an understanding of literature, its features and purposes
(character, plot, positioning, stance)

* Make connections between texts, own experiences and the broader
community

* Develop and understand of the ways literature is shaped by
knowledge about form, audience, voice and purpose

Examples of tasks:

* Read and be read to a range of known and unknown stories

* Discuss characters, plots, twists, language choices that position
readers in certain ways build retrieval charts as a bank for later
use

* Identify a text's purpose and audience and supporting evidence

* Design interviews for audience and discuss implications for the
writing

* Design storyboards for the story and mindmap character traits

DURING WRITING

Aims:

* Design a story in response to the identiied elements from the
before writing stage

* Engage in conferencing, proofreading, editing to improve the
story

Examples of tasks:

* Silent writing followed by pair writing/ conferencing

* Illustration of key parts of the story

* Comparison of interview data with story content

* Teacher conference about character development and resolution

AFTER WRITING

Aims:

* Create a inal product for sharing

* Relect on the audience response and writing process

Examples of tasks:

* Silent writing/word processing

* Illustration--a range of materials and resources

* Book launch! … 

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