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2 July 2021

posted 1 Jul 2021, 15:44 by Carolyn Brett
Twenty plus years ago, I was part of  a small team who worked with primary, intermediate and secondary schools across the country on what was known as the 'Exemplar Project'. Our focus was on Writing achievement. Our aim over this two year project was to be able to build up a national picture where we would be able to say 'this piece of writing is a Level #' and 'this piece of writing is a level #'. It was hard work. Before the Ministry of Education embarked on this project, we didn't really have a clear idea of what constitutes a great piece of writing at Curriculum Level 2, for example. Working with approximately 40 schools across Wellington at this time I learnt a lot...

Fast forward and I can say it's still hard work and I am still learning a lot! (Plus the Writing Exemplars have had longevity and are still a useful tool!)

Writing is one of those things that can be so subjective. Even if you are recommending a book to a friend, you can never be too sure whether it will be their thing or resonate with them in any way shape or form. We tend to bring our histories, our prior experiences and our biases to the party. The same is true for the teachers when we are looking at levelling pieces of writing. "I love this piece.... look at the way they have shown us about the character through their actions, not told us." "But look at the spelling........ it lets it down." "Yes, but #### has come so far and their attitude to their writing has done a complete 360!" 

Yes - the conversations are rich! This is why, when we look at moderating pieces of writing across the school, we do so on a no name, no age basis and just look at the raw material that is in front of us. Black and white and blunt!

However, when we make a judgment about how a child is progressing in Writing, their levelled pieces are just part of the picture. Pieces that had teacher intervention/conferencing/feedback for improvement, pieces that were purely written by the child, pieces that were part of collaborative writing, responses to something that has been read, reflections on art or music, punctuation, grammar, spelling... it's all in the mix.

It's still hard! What constitutes 'magic' or that 'x-factor' in a piece of writing still remains rather subjective regardless of how many rubrics, checklists or progressions we use. Teaching combines often the heart first with the head second... being 100% objective, hmmmmmm, tricky!

We are aiming to have all of our writers meet or exceed their curriculum expectations by year end. Their interim progress was measured in April, so a few months into the school year. For some, this doesn't come easy for a whole lot of reasons. I read an opinion piece last week that talked about 'The windy road' - the author said, "well, if you are in Wellington that could have two completely different meanings". How true - the English language is complicated! Please work with us to help our writers. More writing and less gaming on screens, I say. After all, "Writing floats on a sea of talk". So, plenty of good conversation too. If it's a wet weekend - give it a whirl!
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