[It involves] putting sentences on the board, word by word, and asking the kids what goes next, Mr Seldon said. Its based around a sentence scaffold that is easy for the boys to get their head around.
Its teaching how you write single and multi-clause sentences, and its incredibly easy. It seems too simplistic for people, but the boys play with the clauses like little blocks of Lego. The results speak for themselves.
There is, unfortunately, a misconception in English that you can talk about the subject, and then you say, okay, write about it. But thats not good enough. It needs to be more mathematical, and say, this is how you write about it.
Mr Seldon taught teachers in other disciplines how to use the program, including those in science, who were least likely to feel well prepared to teach writing according to a survey of 4000 NSW teachers.
I know a lot of science teachers who have amazing knowledge of their content, but you cant master that content unless you can communicate that content, said Mr Sheather, who was originally a science teacher himself.
[Previously, students’ writing] was over-complicated, difficult to read. Its like they put too much content and not enough literacy in their writing. It would take them a page to write what they could have written more effectively in a paragraph.
NSW Department of Education research has found that students in the top two bands of performance on the year 8 science assessment were more likely to report more writing instruction in their science class. An analysis of NAPLAN data also found a students writing score was a better predictor of HSC performance than the other NAPLAN domains.
After Mr Seldon began his project, there was an immediate impact on year 12 students, said Mr Sheather. And the school has been in the top 10 [in HSC English] for the last four years, including all selective schools, based on band six.
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Jordan Baker is Education Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald