This teacher knows a thing or two about facilitating the annual Write a Book in a Day competition – he’s participated six years running and has registered over 90 teams! Doug Grubert, Science Coordinator at Launceston Church Grammar School shares his top tips to have a great day.
1. It is not about the book
I am not a writer, reader, English teacher or anything like that. From my perspective, the real learning in Write a Book in a Day is authentic collaboration, self-management and problem solving. The book is simply the medium through which these meta-skills are demonstrated. It is the tangible, culminating performance.
2. Understand the process
The process is clearly outlined in the manual. It’s important that you understand it so you can teach it without needing to coaching the students too much on the writing day.
3. Don’t meddle
It’s often when you step back that the best learning occurs. I only ever intervene if there is a need for conflict resolution, if it is clear that a new team has a fundamental misunderstanding of the guidelines, or if there is an IT problem that is out of the student’s control, which threatens to undermine the whole project.
4. Define key roles
I like to define some of the roles each team needs:
• One or two illustrators.
• An IT whiz – it helps if they have courage under fire.
• A team manager who can bring the best out of the groups and direct their efforts.
5. Avoid obvious clashes
Often as teachers, we want to mix up groups so that people become accustomed to working with unfamiliar people. Write a Book in a Day is not the time for this. Late in the day, when the stakes are high and patience is low it helps if the team members are all friends. Write a Book in a Day can play a role in building capacity within a team but it not a good way to forge completely new teams.
6. No leave-passes
Avoid having kids who have to leave for piano recital, footy training, duck-shooting etc, it’s too disruptive.
7. Provide sustenance
Your students will be working into the evening and they will need a meal or substantial snack to keep going after lunch, it’s a nice way of rewarding them if you can put on some catering.
8. Bend some rules
Write a Book in a Day is a special annual event, you might be able to allow novel things like (shhhhh, keep it under your hat) eating in the library!
9. Standard supplies
Equip each group with a variety of materials they can use for planning such as a whiteboard, butchers paper, data projector, planning templates in A3.
10. Specialist supplies
Encourage your illustrators to bring their own preferred materials and media on the day.
11. Let them fail
Some teachers might think it controversial, but I like to tell students, “I will let you fail”. Make no mistake, I ensure the students have access to all the necessary materials to make the day a success. But then I expect them to get the job done.
I hear teachers talk about ‘resilience’, ‘challenge’ or the ‘zone of proximal development’ all the time, but if we are serious about those concepts, then students should expect to fail some of the time. Sadly, I think very few children are ever given the glorious opportunity to fail.
There is something powerfully educational about trying really hard and still coming up short. I can’t help but feel that if any child gets through their schooling without ever failing, then I fear that it is school that has failed them by simply not raising the bar high enough.
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– Read more about Doug and his experience in this exclusive Q & A.
– Read about Doug’s record registrations for Write a Book in a Day 2018.