Everyone needs to learn to write

For those of us in the Southern hemisphere, at this time of the year, our attention turns to holidays and taking some time off to reflect and revitalise for the coming new year. This is certainly the case for the Literary Giants team.

As the year has drawn to a close, we have had a number of opportunities to get out and meet our customers and stakeholders in the educational space. Having a book that has NAPLAN in the title certainly sparks conversations and for some, makes them want to keep on walking straight by.

We were at a school recently, and every person I asked, “Does your child need help with writing?” only a handful said, “No”. This is because learning to write, for most of us, is an incredibly difficult skill to master. So many different skills need to be drawn on to write a response. A knowledge of spelling. Grammar. Sentence structure. Metalanguage. Let alone – knowing what to write and drawing on all that has been learnt about history, philosophy and ideas.

Yes – we have branded the books to engage with a national conversation about literacy, but our books are so much more than helping young people learn to pass a writing test by Year 9. Like so many teachers around Australia, our books are trying to help young people leave school with the ability to make a speech in their workplace or wedding, write a persuasive social media post when they are working in the digital space or write a paper to present at a conference.

Writing is a life skill and we want all children to leave school with a sound ability to write.



How to become a successful speller

One of the concerns raised in having a nationally standardised test is that it can create anxiety for young people who struggle with literacy.  The problem, however, is that many children slip through the cracks and their difficulties with spelling are not picked up and assisted. NAPLAN can, in fact, identify students who struggle with spelling and hopefully lead schools to develop programs and activities to assist learning.

Isn’t that a good thing?

For the teenagers we work with for whom spelling is somewhat of a challenge – these pointers developed by Philomena Ott are very helpful.


C       Capitals

Check you have capitalised the first letter of a sentence and all proper nouns.

O      Omission

Read through your work and check you haven’t forgotten a word. Add the correct word.

P      Punctuation

Check you have added a full stop at the end of a sentence and that you have inserted quotation marks.

S       Spelling

Check your spelling.


Some common features of dyslexic writers

1. Omission: Omit a single letter

occuring for occurring

2. Insertion: Insert a single letter

off for of

3. Substitution: Replace a single letter with another single letter

definate for definite

4. Transposition: Misorder two adjacent letters

lable for label

A single letter is misplaced by more than one position in a word

litgh for light

5. Grapheme substitution: A plausible but incorrect choice of

their for there

thort for thought

5. Wrong use of a split vowel digraph

gole for goal

If you know a young person who makes these kinds of choices – he or she can be helped.

Please see: Information from ACARA on the adjustments available to young people with disabilities.


Information from ACARA on the adjustments available to young people with disabilities.

Support NAPLAN

Information from the Victorian Education Department on dyslexia

Learning Difficulties and Dyslexia

Information from the Yale Centre for Creativity and Dyslexia

Yale Centre for Creativity and Dyslexia

Make words work hard

Be specific, definite and concrete.

In both narrative and persuasive writing, you have to use words to create a visual feast of sights and sounds for the reader to fall into. Being specific creates engaging pictures in the mind of a reader.

Don’t say                     Say

Food                                 Seared steak and crunchy hot chips

The floods                       Mothers waded through the chest-high water

Drink                                Manhattan, Whisky sour

Dog                                   Cavoodle, Golden retriever

Flower                              Daffodil

Cat                                    Persian Blue

Painting                           Banksy’s Slave Labour


Which words create the better picture?

Go and have a look too – at a new section on our website  – some excellent tools for high school and university students.


Well – for someone that really likes everyone to just get on – wading into the NAPLAN debate can be quite scary. Clearly, I don’t want any child to be anxious about sitting a test and I don’t want teachers to feel that they have to only teach grammar and sentence structure in English lessons so their students pass NAPLAN.

However, we do seem to have something of a national problem. Mastering writing continues to be a challenge around Australia. I looked at the statistics myself today on ACARA’s website and they made interesting (and depressing) reading.

The year nine results across the country reveal that more or less only 40% of students met the Band 8 standard or above for writing. In the Northern Territory – it was 20%. This year – young people around Australia had to write a persuasive text of around about 500 words on the topic ‘Don’t waste it!’ and the visual prompts included water, food and time.

Now of course, writing is a difficult to master. It will take some children far longer than others. Children with learning difficulties may find it too big a mountain to climb by year 9. And yes, some young people resist, fall asleep in the test, don’t try and so on – so the figures may not be accurate. I realise school is for learning and it is a journey. A long journey. A lifelong journey.

But. We’ve got to try haven’t we? We’ve got to aim high, haven’t we?

Only 40% of students managed to score over and above 32 marks out of a possible 48 marks writing about whether or not time is precious or food should not be wasted.

Isn’t this something we should be concerned about?

A wonderful response

Thank you people of Australia and the world.

You have embraced our first book and we are so excited.

We have received some ringing endorsements from wonderful teachers and every teacher, librarian and parent we show the book to, says the same thing – ‘Yes please!’.

From Lara Bird – a wonderful teacher – Mandy Newman thank you for writing this book. Great layout and content for both student and teacher. A wonderful resource for planning creative writing lessons. A book to support students in developing skills when learning to write creatively. Thank you

And from Judy Reed – another inspirational teacher – this lovely testimonial accompanies the sale of the book at the Pymble newsagency.

Thanks so much for your support – it’s so satisfying to have created a product that people so obviously wanted. More to come…

What a great first day!

Thanks everyone for your enthusiasm for our first book. We’re thrilled with the wonderful, warm response we have received in the first 24 hours.

A couple of questions have come up that we would like to answer.

Is the book applicable to adult writers? 

Absolutely. The principles of good writing are the same whether you are 14 or 41. This book refers to a national test that all Australian students have to undertake but all writers need to learn how to emotionally engage an audience and to consider how they structure a story to keep the reader’s interest. All of these ideas are covered in the book.

Do you ship to the United States? 

Why yes we do – if you are from any country other than Australia and the USA – please let us know and we will provide you with shipping charges. We are working on this section of our website.

Have you heard of pobble365.com ? 

We had not until today and it’s a wonderful UK site that really encourages fantastic creative writing practice. Go have a look  – http://www.pobble365.com. It’s fab!




Stories are everywhere

A mark of a good storyteller is boundless curiosity. Storytellers are not interested in one explanation  – but many. Stories are everywhere, lying around waiting to be captured, remade and retold. Listening to the radio – to talkback and interviewers such as Richard Fidler are great sources for wonderful tales of different kinds of human experience which can be caught and transformed into a tale to be retold at school.




Fear alleviated…

So the universities have responded…


Hey story tellers! We are all story tellers

We are all story tellers but once we have to write a story down our minds go to mush and it gets too complicated.

We tell each other stories every day. We don’t dawdle and delay getting to the action – we say – hey guess what – my friend almost got eaten by a shark. We cut to the chase. That’s what we have to do with writing as well. Cut to the action. Fast.