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Archive for the month “June, 2012”

University Teachers’ Day

Highlights from yesterday’s University teachers’ day:

Max Smith’s talk on Innovative Teaching and Learning tied in nicely with a lot of the talk on Project Based Learning I’ve been interested in lately. There’s some interesting resources at http://www.pilsr.com/. Yes, the project is funded by Microsoft but it doesn’t mean the resources aren’t useful or interesting.

Teacher mentoring, peer coaching and so on are very much part of our professional dialogue at the moment so it was interesting to hear Jenny Gore and Julie Bowe’s take on all of this. They started with the idea that the Quality Teaching document hasn’t really been given a chance in schools. Most teachers would have been lucky to get maybe two hours on it.

So the question is, what kind of professional development is there that can improve the quality of teaching? Their project involves the idea of ‘teacher rounds’. Think Grey’s Anatomy. Or Scrubs. And now think about what hospital rounds might really be like.

In a well run teaching hospital, rounds are a source of valuable professional dialogue: problem solving with a view to increasing the capacity of doctors. Jenny and Julie have taken this concept into schools, working with teachers in ‘Professional Learning Community’ groups.

Really interesting. I’m wondering what this would look like in a High School…


Improving student writing – revised

ETA Improving Writing New version

On Monday I was at Hunter River High and I re-presented my workshop on improving writing. The revised version has all my lecture notes attached. I’ve also cleaned up the piano metaphor so it’s more central to the piece and said more about developing the conceptual.

Am I alone and unobserved? I am!

It’s a quote from a song, of course. From Gilbert and Sullivan‘s Patience. Reginald Bunthorne, a poet, finding himself alone on stage, addressing the audience. The next line’s ‘Then, let me own, I’m an aesthetic sham!’ But for the curious, it’s a nice little  late Victorian, post-modern, self-reflexive moment.

I think I may have this line engraved on my (virtual) tombstone….

More persuasive resources

At the last minute – about 4 pm Thursday– the keynote speaker from the Newcastle Herald turned out not to be available for Newcastle’s Middle Years day.. Andrew Jones suggested that I could do the keynote. Grrrr. So I did. Luckily I can claim the preparation time as flex hours!

 So, attached is my keynote version of the Persuasive Writing/ Letters to the Editor presentation. It’s different from the workshop version I posted last week because it includes slides about the Whitlam Institute’s What Matters competition, some youtube links and a worked example of a letter from first draft to published quality.

 This might go well as support for a writing task in a persuasive writing unit. Newcastle are working on a project that involves liaison via the moodle with their local Primary schools so I was involved in ‘upskilling’ Year 8. The structure was basically:

  1. Why is Persuasive writing important?
  2. What can I write about?
  3. How should I write?Letters to the Editor keynote

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor I’ve been getting a quick presentation together for Newcastle High School’s Year 8 Training Day tomorrow that I thought I’d share.

 I’m running a session on Letters to the Editor. Yes, I know, these days there’s other more immediate sorts of expositions, but it’s still worthwhile teaching this.

 The PowerPoint just brings a few things together in one place. It’s nothing new, really, but it does have a nice example of freewriting and I am fond of the graphic organiser. It’s probably great if you get that casual who needs a one-off lesson with Year 7 or 8.

Let me know what you think,

All the best

Stewart McGowan

ETA Study Day PowerPoint

ETA Improving Writing for the HSC Here is my full Powerpoint from last Friday’s ETA study day. This is still a work in progress but it does have all of the worked examples. I’m using this as the basis of my Improving Writing across the KLA’s workshop, so if you have any feedback, that’d be great. Oh, if you use this to develop some examples of your own and you wouldn’t mind sharing, send them my way!

Hunter ETA Study Day

Here’s my top three notes from Karen Yager’s talk at the ETA study day on Friday:

  • HSC papers are written with an overarching concept in mind. Last year’s was ‘place’. The theme extends across both papers – ‘Place’ becomes ‘context’ in Paper 2.


  • The notes on weaker responses in the exam comments are often a good guide to where the questions will go. (2010’s notes referred to the ‘add-on’ quality of the context and the need to integrate it in discussions.)


  • Karen recommended that students have a main thesis statement and then four or five ‘sub theses’ that related to it. In other words, it’s important to get students to develop an elaborated personal response to belonging that is a lot more complex than ‘belonging or not belonging’.

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