Breaking new ground for Teachers of ATAR English

Tips and news about writing, and writing in education.

Our NEW PD on August 27 is especially for Teachers of ATAR English who have attended the Creative Writing Professional development Masterclass for Teachers of ATAR English. I encourage those who have attended the Masterclass to participate, not just to further classroom repertoire of writing instruction and exercises, but because the support enables me to keep doing this work.

But, I am excited to be developing this new PD program for Teachers of ATAR English 

  1. It is an opportunity for us to reconnect and build on our previous PD experiences 
  2. And I want to share how a critical bridge between creative writing practices, comprehension and formal writing for ATAR students can be developed by using techniques of Image Schemas to promote a link between Composing, Comprehending, and Responding.

A previous post here examined the gap that has emerged between the Composing and both Comprehending and Responding sections of the ATAR English exam in recent years. In view of this, I would like to see Composing to continue to improve its score, but to not do so at the expense of Comprehending and Responding. In other words, I would like to see an overall improvement of scores, with all three strands improving (perhaps still led by Composing, though). The discussion below looks at one particular technique I will be introducing at the August 27 PD at Murdoch University that works to bridge this gap.

These exciting techniques can be deployed in your English classroom right away

In the Creative Writing PD for Teachers of ATAR English, we discussed the relationship between thinking and writing, and the challenges associated with students developing ideas. This capacity is the key to success in English because, in the end, it is the quality of the idea that makes any expression interesting.

Getting our students to come up with good ideas to write about not only inspires them — making the writing itself easier — but it inspires the examiners too.

Our goal is to develop a critically creative and creatively critical student consciousness. This is what enables students to take their learning from one discipline (or sub-discipline) into another and use the learning from each as a scaffold to higher order practices in the other.

In other words, the knowledge and skills they develop in Composing can be used in reaching new levels of understanding in Comprehension and Responding.

The same is true in the inverse direction, but only if the bridge is effectively built between the sub-disciplines. And this is where Image Schemas come in. The scaffold is increasingly provided by students’ learning, and less by teachers’ instructing.

Image Schemas are cognitive tools we use to categorise thoughts about objects and actions that are too complex to comprehend as a single phenomenon. They are skeletal patterns that recur in our sensory and motor experiences that, among other things, give our minds access to objects, events and actors involved in the Small Stories that make up life, and can be highly effective cognitive bridges in experiential learning.

In short, Image Schemas are the foundations of being able to both tell and comprehend a sequence of events as a unity.

In our first session of the day, we will explore how to use Image Schemas

These thinking techniques are so embedded in our psyches, we don’t even recognise how powerful they are until we look closely. What we will explore is how to make use of Image Schemas in the classroom to promote a deliberate transfer of a structure from one context to another, which leads to (there’s an image schema in use right there!) a powerful writing technique of Narrative Imagining.

This also applies to Comprehending and Responding because we can effectively evaluate a student’s capacity for constructing language that communicates a thought they have generated through an act of Narrative Imagining by drawing comparisons based on Image Schemas of thinking, writing and considering.

One of the great benefits of this is better alignment of learners’ goals with teaching goals:

Examiners want students to write and deliver them a reading experience from which they can evaluate the way that students see objects and events under consideration in relation to how the examiner might imagine a perfect execution of such thinking, writing, and considering. 

It is the examiner’s Narrative Imagining of the future as a perfect execution that produces the wisdom by which such an evaluation can be made.

It is a simple concept, and a series of simple exercises can implement the technique.

Of course, there’s a lot more in this fully packed (and exciting) day. …

Image Schemas and Narrative Imagining are the keys to working creatively, but we will tie the techniques to developing and maintaining student motivation through a six-stage model for instruction design ideally suited to teaching/learning in creative practices, including writing.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, Image Schemas also lend themselves to techniques for Thinking Thematically, Writing with Literary DevicesAddressing Prompts, Character Creation and Plot Development, all of which are among the follow-on sessions.

So yes … I am excited about this because it takes us into very new territory and I urge anyone who has attended a Creative Writing PD Masterclass with us to consider joining me on 27 August at Murdoch University for this.

I promise you will leave feeling exhausted.

Details here >>

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