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It makes sense that if there is no prior knowledge, then there is nothing to activate. Students often study topics they know very little about (that is why, after all, that they attend school!) and therefore teachers must think of ways of providing the necessary background knowledge quickly and efficiently.
Compiling a list of bullets points from what students know about a topic leads nicely into a short writing activity. Writing about a topic consolidates learning and increases depth of knowledge.kk
As external exams become a larger part of the Queensland senior school experience, it is vital teachers prepare students to be able to work out the meaning of an unfamiliar word without consulting a dictionary or a mobile phone.

I often get asked, ‘So if you’re not a fan of cloze exercises, what else do you suggest?’ I am a fan of cloze when the purpose is best fulfilled by its use. 

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Children are reluctant planners when it comes writing with many preferring to just get on with it. In so many ways, this is problematic. Good writing requires structure and organisation but, most importantly, it requires students to actually have something of worth to write about. 

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Asking students to copy notes from the board can quieten your class down, but relying on this practice too much means students miss out on the opportunity to rehearse valuable skills.
The act of writing can put a lot of cognitive pressure on students, but teachers can ease this burden on students to help them develop their writing skills.
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Writing is a task that places a huge cognitive load on the brain - and not just for young writers! In this post, logonliteracy's Pat Hipwell talks about techniques for teaching students to write well.
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