Writ­ing Work­shops

Mt St Michael’s Col­lege teacher Juli­ette Bent­ley has a pas­sion for the writ­ten word – a pas­sion she is pass­ing onto stu­dents through a writ­ing club con­nected with the global Write the World on­line com­mu­nity.

The Australian Education Reporter - - CONTENTS - EMMA DAVIES

THE writ­ing club at Mt St Michaels Col­lege started with 5 stu­dents in the first week, grow­ing to more than 20 the week after. Now, 50 stu­dents reg­u­larly at­tend for two hours after school ev­ery Fri­day.

Ms Bent­ley is a firm be­liever in giv­ing young peo­ple rich, in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences which al­low them to share their words on a reg­u­lar ba­sis out­side the rig­or­ous school cur­ricu­lum.

“Any­one who writes knows the im­por­tance of hav­ing an au­di­ence; be­ing able to move them, to evoke im­ages and have them sus­pend dis­be­lief as our words weave new worlds around them,” Ms Bent­ley said.

“It is this plea­sure in, and pas­sion for words, that we are sys­tem­at­i­cally crush­ing through an over­filled cur­ricu­lum.”

“We need a blend of func­tional and cre­ative writ­ing. We can­not an­tic­i­pate that our stu­dents will en­ter the work­force as cre­ative, col­lab­o­ra­tive prob­lem solvers if we do not give them the space to be cre­ative without hav­ing a rubric to con­fine them to, or a time­line for that mat­ter,” she said.

Once stu­dents be­gan shar­ing their work with the group, the peer feed­back be­came a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort and stu­dents were more in­vested in care­fully edit­ing their writ­ing with dra­matic changes in writ­ing abil­ity, edit­ing, gram­mar and pub­lic speak­ing skills.

“Yes, my writ­ers de­velop an au­tho­rial voice and pas­sion for writ­ing and shar­ing but bet­ter yet is the self-con­fi­dence, self-es­teem, self-ef­fi­cacy and so­cial-cap­i­tal that is al­most in­ci­den­tally de­vel­oped,” said Ms Bent­ley.

“They learn to be con­sid­ered in their con­struc­tive crit­i­cism. They learn that with writ­ing, and all cre­ative ex­ploits re­ally, you ac­cept that pro­duc­tive fail­ure is part of the same coin. The writ­ers learn about trust­ing one an­other and ac­cept­ing ad­vice.”

The Write the World pro­gram is an in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that pro­vides stu­dents a plat­form to share their work with a wider au­di­ence, where they are cri­tiqued by not only their peers but pro­fes­sion­als in the in­dus­try.

“The ben­e­fits are enor­mous. My girls have been pub­lished in both of their an­nual jour­nals, and with the help of apps called Aurasma, and Adobe Spark, you can hear them read­ing their works by hov­er­ing your phone over the page,” Ms Bent­ley said.

“The great­est gifts go be­yond the words. They ex­ist in the re­la­tion­ships and in­ter­per­sonal skills that are a by-prod­uct of their en­gage­ment.

I have learned that weekly writ­ing to a stim­u­lus of ten im­ages, words, videos, pre­pares them for think­ing quickly, start­ing their writ­ing and prepar­ing it for an au­di­ence. Writ­ing and the cre­ative thought be­hind it be­comes mus­cle mem­ory.”

Ms Bent­ley has cre­ated re­sources for other teach­ers in­ter­ested in start­ing their own writ­ing club and en­cour­ages schools and state de­part­ments to start a writ­ing co-cur­ric­u­lar ini­tia­tive.

“I think all schools should have a writ­ers club to give the ob­servers, cre­atives, a place to safely find them­selves, their tribe, their con­fi­dence and their voice. Th­ese are the cre­ative prob­lem solvers of the fu­ture, creat­ing so­lu­tions by think­ing out­side of the box,” she said.

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