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Seven Steps to Writing Success

Exciting writing – Using multimedia in the classroom

Writing in a digital world is no longer just about the printed word. Writing now takes many forms and our job as teachers is to equip students with the skills to communicate effectively in this context.

Let’s start with some fun writing research activities:

  • Find examples of TV advertisements that tell a ‘story’ (e.g. Rhonda in the AAMI advertisements). Demonstrate how they follow the Narrative Story Graph to help students Plan for Success when creating their own stories.
  • Take a look at the ‘News’ page on the DogoNews website: Get students to find examples of Sizzling Starts™ that catch their attention and make them want to read more.
  • Watch the following video clip: Seeing Nik Wallenda walking in high winds on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon will teach students more about Tightening Tension than any textbook ever can.
  • Listen to an episode of the radio play The Archers: Explore how Dynamic Dialogue is used to convey information about the plot, setting and characters.
  • Use Google Images to find examples of advertisements from different charities. Use these images to demonstrate the power of Show, Don’t Tell.
  • Watch the following YouTube clip showing deleted scenes from popular Disney movies: Use them to prompt students to look at their own work with a critical eye and Ban the Boring bits that don’t advance the plot.
  • Watch the Miniscule Short Film, Picnic: Brainstorm alternative Exciting Endings – the crazier the better – to encourage students to get creative.

For many people, multimedia is associated with ‘play’ or recreation and as such is deemed not as educationally ‘worthy’ or ‘valuable’ as books. This is not the case. According to ACARA:

‘Texts provide the means for communication. They can be written, spoken or multimodal, and in print or digital/online forms.’

The use of multimodal communication in the classroom, therefore, is not only educationally valuable, it is in fact mandated in our National Curriculum.

I started life as an author – 23 books published and over half a million words in print around the world. However, welcome to the digital age! Some of my blog posts, Facebook posts and online articles have reached far more people – in a lot less time – than a novel that took me a year to write.

I’m not saying don’t write books, I think books will endure in either print or digital form for a long time to come. However, I am suggesting that students can now interact in the world in much faster and more innovative ways.

Chances are your students are already experiencing this for themselves. For most, any writing they do outside of school will be in the form of Facebook posts, text messages and emails. Reading and learning, meanwhile, will involve interacting with blogs, websites and YouTube. The question is, are we supporting this in the classroom by training them to write in all of these forms? Are we teaching our future leaders to differentiate between mundane recordings vs. significant sharing?

Ultimately it is important to show students how the skills they use to write a Narrative or Persuasive text in the classroom can be adapted to create other forms of text such as video blogs, speeches, advertisements, etc. In doing so we are opening their eyes to the real life application of these skills and the true value of writing.

The Australian Curriculum has an inspiring goal for writing:

‘Appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue.’ (ACARA)

In a 21st Century classroom this means tapping into the power of multimodal literacy in order to better prepare our students for an increasingly fast moving and wonderfully interesting digital world.

Jen McVeity

Author of 20 books, creator of Seven Steps to Writing Success.

For more ideas on how to integrate multimedia into your writing lessons, become a Seven Steps Online member and download our Action Activities.

Want to learn in one day the easy program for teaching students how to write? Learn more about our workshops.

Counting coins

Victorian public school payment guidelines revised

The payment guidelines for Victoria’s public school system has been revised based on findings that some parents may have been overcharged by some schools.

An internal government review, commissioned by the Department of Education and conducted by PTR Consulting, found some schools were charging for some things that should have been free, while others didn’t have hardship policies for struggling parents.

The review also revealed  the education department had received 705 complaints by parents relating to school payments over an eight-month period.

According to ABC News, Education Minister James Merlino described the new guidelines as bringing ‘clarity and consistency’ to what schools could charge for.

“What we found is that schools had been applying the parent payment policy inconsistently,” he said. “Schools have been informed of the new policy and the new policy will be enforced.”

This inconsistency is further highlighted by an analysis of MySchool data, as undertaken by Fairfax Media, which found some schools charging as much as $3243 per student over the course of 2014.

In contrast, schools in economically worse-off areas were found to be charging as little as $92 – the result of hardship policies implemented to ensure children are not disadvantaged regardless of their parents’ ability to pay fees.

See more on the new parent payment policies, and the review document, via the Department of Education website.


Double Helix Lessons

Stile Education and CSIRO launch ‘Double Helix Lessons’

Last week, Stile Education and CSIRO launched a course of STEM learning lessons as a partnership initiative, trialed first by St Agatha’s Primary School.

The lesson content, which uses CSIRO’s Double Helix magazine as a platform, offers teachers and students integrated STEM learning material that aims to enhance learning outcomes in the area.

Stile Education CEO, Byron Scaf said the concept was developed following the success of the Cosmos-related offering the organisation had already developed for secondary students.

Lacy uses Stile
Lacy from St Agatha’s Primary School enjoys using Double Helix Lessons.

“When I started at Stile it was being led by Dr Alan Finkel, who has gone on to become Australia’s Chief Scientist,” said Mr Scaf, speaking with Education Matters a day after the launch event. “We began working on developing a tool that would make it easy for teachers to create their own fantastic lessons online. The idea wasn’t to create a platform for remote learning, but as a means for teachers to quickly and easily get content to, and receive questions from, their students in real time.”

The ‘A-ha!’ moment came after the launch of Stile’s secondary school offering and the Ebola crisis hit Africa. According to Mr Scaf, Stile used Cosmos’s editorial to demonstrate the science of infectious diseases to students. The results were striking and immediate.

“The students really engaged with the material because they found it relevant; here was a real event they could put into context in their lives,” he said. “That program is available for years 7-10.”

The next mission was to replicate the success of this project for younger years. Hence, Mr Scaf and his team sought a partnership with CSIRO.

“We’ve been through a structured process in order to deliver a universally useful tool that teachers will find easy to integrate on any level,” Mr Scaf said. “We assembled an advisory committee of active teachers, as well as the teachers of those teachers going into primary schools, to ensure we were absolutely meeting the needs of as many classes in Australia as possible.”

The newly released Double Helix Lessons cover everything a teacher is required to teach in Grades 5 and 6 science, including natural disasters, energy and light, and the solar system. The lessons can be easily customised, and consist of a wealth of multimedia. But perhaps most interesting is the concept that Stile has implemented in order to take engagement with the material a step further.

“We’ve designed these lessons to include these really relatable characters that take the students on adventures – science adventures,” said Mr Scaf. “Now that we’ve completed our pilot program with St Agatha’s, we’ve been able to hear some of the feedback from both students and teachers. It’s incredibly exciting to hear the kids say they love it because our characters appeal to their age.”

“The overall result is that we’ve created a means to make it easier for teachers to do what they do best, enhancing their students’ educations. This in turn helps all children to gain access to a higher level of science education – and that’s what we’re most excited about.”

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