The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

The Raven and Writing

"The imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself." -  William Blake

'Writing is the Painting of the Voice' -

Concerns about the gap between boys' and girls' achievement in writing are not new. At all key stages, the gap is wider than that in reading and has persisted over a number of years. At Scotch College we are well aware that we have to ensure that we look for ways to encourage our boys to develop both a love of writing and an understanding of why writing really matters. As Mr Stewart, our Head of Junior School says, 'Boys can be reluctant to write. That may be for a variety of reasons. For some the challenge of getting their ideas on to paper is a deterrent. Others may struggle with the genre or even just not know where to begin.'


Donald H. Graves was a pioneer in literacy education who ultimately revolutionised the way that writing is taught in the United States and around the world.  The research study he began in the 1970s at the Atkins Academy, a rural New Hampshire elementary school, would transform writing instruction and launch a new kind of resource: professional books for educators.  His bestselling book, Writing: Teachers and Children at Work, challenged teachers to let children's needs and interests, not mandates, guide instruction.  For the first time, young children became engaged as writers—not just students learning to write but students encouraged to see writing as a voice to express their interests and understandings. As they were guided to make the decisions writers make in an authentic writing process, they raised our understanding of the capabilities of young writers.

Across the whole school we have a number of writing initiatives to develop a genuine love of writing, much more than just meeting a technical curriculum need.

In our Junior School we employ the VCOP (Vocabulary, Connective, Openers and Punctuation) programme. The programme gives boys a focus for the development of their writing. As we work through the entire VCOP process the boys address each of the four areas in a structure modelled approach. What we have seen is that the boys begin to write longer pieces of work as their confidence has grown and the quality of what they write has improved significantly as they know what to do to make their writing better.

In Middle School context and interest are major hooks to get the boys to enjoy writing. Topics which interest boys in their day to day lives can well be the motivator to get them to write. A good example of this occurred at a recent assembly where some boys shared their slam poetry. In fact, two pieces have actually been published in this edition of our Raven.

One of the other jewels in Scotch's crown for encouraging boys to write and publish is our publication The Raven. Our most recent copy can be accessed here.  As you read the work published in this electronic magazine you are likely to be encouraged by the quality of boys' writing at Scotch.  Their imagination, insights, alternative perspectives and enjoyment of word choices are very evident.

While it is important that boys have the necessary skills to write, it is also important that they see writing as a purposeful and pleasurable activity. The ability to write well is not reserved for authors, poets, journalists, and screenwriters alone. In fact, strong writing skills are crucial for countless careers and callings. They're even important for an email to a friend or a text message to a family member. Perhaps most critical of all – writing is another way in which we can develop to become better people.

So, in summary 'Why is Writing Important?'

  • Writing is critical to becoming a good reader.
  • Writing is an essential job skill.
  • Writing is the primary basis upon which one's work, learning, and intellect will be judged—in college, in the workplace and in the community.
  • Writing equips us with communication and thinking skills.
  • Writing expresses who we are as people.
  • Writing makes our thinking and learning visible and permanent.
  • Writing fosters our ability to explain and refine our ideas to others and ourselves.
  • Writing preserves our ideas and memories.
  • Writing allows us to understand our lives.
  • Writing allows us to entertain others.
  • Writing can bring comfort and meaningful insights to others.
  • Writing is a shared space for knowledge and growth.
  • Writing can be a site for social activism and reform.
  • Writing provides us with vicarious experiences and alternative perspectives.

Our boys have many opportunities to express themselves throughout their journey at Scotch. Let's hope writing continues to be a central medium for their expression. Who knows when we will read their work after graduating, but at least we know they can aim to become published authors while at Scotch through our own publication, The Raven . What better way to relax then to pen a story or two over the summer break. As part of encouraging some summer reflections, if any student (PreK – 12) or their parents are interested, the editorial committee of the Raven would love to receive submissions for when the new year starts on the topic 'Reflections of Summer'.

Finally, speaking about the value of regular writing, this is our last fortnightly edition of the Thistle for 2019. I trust you have found each edition informative and reflective.

On behalf of my family, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to each and every one of you for the level of support and engagement throughout the year. Our school and wider community is the beneficiary of your engagement, commitment and trust.

I wish all families a safe and joyous Christmas and an even happier 2020 to come.