Beliefs are critical to quality leadership and teaching of writing - Gail Loane

“There can be no significant innovation in education that does not have at its core the beliefs and attitudes of the teachers. The beliefs, assumptions and feelings of teachers are the air of the learning environment: They determine the quality of life within it.”

~ Postman & Weingartner

Gail certainly packed a lot in to her literacy leadership day run in February at Seifried's Estate; the key to every aspect of her presentation were the importance of BELIEFS.

If you get the chance to attend this professional development in the future it is a MUST.

Literacy leaders from across the top of the South with Gail Loane.

Below is just a taste of the many aspect of literacy leadership discussed throuout the day-

How to motivate reluctant writers; boys, bright, but reluctant in the writing process?

  • They don’t need to be ‘reluctant’. If you get it right for boys then you are sorted for everyone else.

  • Often it is our own beliefs as educators - if we say it, it will happen. If we say, ‘All kids can write’ it is a more useful belief.

  • We often hear, ’But we’re only three weeks into the year’… change your expectations, ‘We’re already three weeks into the year’. Start on day one.

  • What’s happening in schools? What’s happening in classes? What is happening with particular students? As leaders we need to monitor this.

  • There is the belief that, ‘All kids can write,’ but our daily language may not reflect this and it needs to.

How to motivate other teachers in your team - How to spread the ‘fire’.

  • Writing is the cinderella of the curriculum. Nationally it hasn’t moved.

  • We are working on old beliefs and methods that aren’t helping move forward.

  • If we don’t make a change in our practice, then nothing will change.

  • Teachers need to be literate. ‘I hate teaching writing’ - the teacher cannot pull for himself the facets that make good writing, and is simply teaching a hate for writing.

  • It is our fault if students are writing, ‘I went to the Warehouse in the holidays, and…, and…, and….’

Supporting learners-

Gail discussed the importance of helping circles to support and enhance the learning of students-

  • Belief- oral language is vital.

  • Space for a circle is important. Use for oral language, and for ‘helping circles’. If a child is not in the circle then they are emotionally unengaged. Come to the circle with your work, bring your drafting pen. Whole class. Quick. Must suit the whole class. (I noticed that person A drop out of the lesson at this point -what happened and why?).

  • Class family. Class team.

  • Whole class session. Quick 5-7 mins. Then split into tutorials. Make sure tutorials are quick, focused and hitting the mark; if they are not then the kids end up taking longer, slower, louder.

Four threads for improved student outcomes-

  • Evidence of improved student engagement, learning and achievement.

  • Evidence of improved teacher knowledge in three separate, but related, areas. We need to know-

  • our students

  • how to teach

  • something about writing itself.

  • Evidence of improved understanding of the transfer of literacy principals into teaching practice.

  • Evidence of effectively led Professional Learning Meetings, wherein the whole team makes up an effective learning community.

Leadership Inquiry Process - Literacy

  1. What do our students know and need to learn? Where are the kids? - what is the data showing us? e.g independence; connecting with their lives, ‘storying’ every day.

  2. What does the writing show, and what does the teacher need to learn? What knowledge is missing? What are they not doing that they need to be doing? Are teachers running good ‘helping circles’? Observation of teachers in your team is so important.

  3. What do our leaders need to know and learn? Teachers may not be supported enough; you cannot simply tell people what to do.

  4. If we achieve this it can lead to better results.


  • Pre observation conversation (the day before)

  • What was your learning need in our last conversation?

  • What do you want the kids to discover and learn? E.g. Poem, That was summer…

Further reading-

Open to learning conversations - Vivienne Robertson Choice Words - Peter Johnstone, about the language we use as teachers and leaders Monitoring bookwork-

  • Mileage is there enough writing to get better?

  • Is there enough different kinds of writing for diff purposes?

  • Is there evidence of student crafting and re-crafting?

  • Teacher presence - is it clear there is a teacher behind these students?

  • Models of text evident in books

Gail's presentation was an excellent balance between raising teacher/leader knowledge and capacity in effective and explicit strategies for teaching writing, and how to effectively lead literacy in your school.

Thank you Gail, once again, for your passion and energy in helping raise literacy achievement for our tamariki, and we look forward to hosting you in the top of the South again in the future.

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