Review: How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years set

Review: How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years set

By Val Klenowski, Adjunct Professor, Queensland University of Technology


This set of three books authored by Patricia Hipwell and entitled How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years constitutes a valuable resource for students, teachers, parents or carers.  The books were written with the intention that they be used together.

Originally, Patricia was concerned to help her own children find the words that they wanted to say. The dedication to her daughter suggests that the tried and true methods espoused in the books have been successful!


How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years

The second edition of the How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years develops the ideas introduced in the earlier edition with the inclusion of additional ideas and examples. There is further guidance to secondary students to help them develop their literacy and writing skills, through the clear, accessible examples and illustrations.  

At the outset of this book there is a helpful list of definitions of some of the key terms such as ‘task words’, ‘graphic organiser’, ‘sentence starter’ and ‘connectives’.  The guide is structured using a two-page format for each writing skill of which there are twenty-five. The writing skills range from ‘analysing’, ‘arguing’, ‘predicting’, ‘quoting’ to ‘synthesising’. Each skill is defined with a further elaboration which offers the student additional information about the skill.  An example is then given to illustrate how the student could apply their understanding of the particular writing skill.  Helpful sentence starters and connectives are also included.

To illustrate, with reference to the writing skill of ‘discussing’, first, a definition is given.

Discussing, meaning: Considering both or several sides of an issue or idea, without necessarily coming to a conclusion; supporting opinions or conclusions with evidence.

Second, information concerning the context for the use of the skill of ‘discussing’ follows, with a description of the skills required when using this skill in a written context. For example, reasoning and use of evidence to support the case or ideas being discussed, are skills required when using the skill of ‘discussing.’

A very useful example is then provided, which demonstrates how a writer could discuss the topic of ‘the role of migration in modern Australia.’  The sentence starters for this skill are offered on the following page and include:

“A further issue for the future is that it is …, 
making it …” or
“The challenge will be to develop … that can …”. 

Finally, some connecting ideas within and between sentences are listed such as:

‘also’, ‘although’, ‘primarily’ and ‘to a large extent’.


How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years: Teacher's Guide

How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years: teacher’s guide is an instructive text with explicit teacher guidelines for the teaching of a writing skill using a didactic four-stage process.  The first stage involves deconstructing a text that is representative of one of the twenty-five writing skills included in the other two books.  This stage involves the identification of the text structure and the language used with specific reference to the sentence starters and connectives within and between sentences.  The second stage involves modelling a text which is an example of the skill, followed by jointly constructing a text that exemplifies the skill.  The fourth and final stage, requires independently constructing a text that is an example of the skill.

The teacher’s guide provides a list of the key terms and ideas at the outset together with a statement that makes it clear that the use of graphic organisers is an integral part of the teaching approach suggested.  The graphic organisers provide note-making frameworks for the various stages of deconstructing a text, and planning templates for the joint and independent construction phases.  The use of organisers is intended to help teachers to check the students’ ideas and the structure of their writing prior to the drafting process.

The teaching sequence is logically presented at the beginning of the teacher’s guide and is based on the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model.  To help the teacher fully understand how to use the model, the actual words are given so that the teacher can use them with their own class.  The teacher is informed that the following teaching sequence may take several lessons given the complexity of the particular writing skill. For each writing skill the following format is used:

1. the learning goal (‘I do it’) the suggested teacher words follow, “During this lesson, you will begin to develop the skill of … (display on the board of screen.)”

2. meaning(‘you do it’) similarly the teacher is informed to: “Read the definition from How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years (Second Edition”)

3. example(‘I do it’) Teachers are asked to “Show students a real-world example of the skill and explain your thinking.”

4. tasks words that have similar intent to …(‘I do it’) It is explained that “Sometimes it is not clear from the question which writing skill is required. This is because some task words have similar meanings to others.”

5. question stems that have a similar intent to … (‘I do it’) Similarly, “Also, question stems may suggest a skill even though the skill word is not in the question.” An example, with an explanation is given (p.2).

6. deconstructing a text (‘I do it’, ‘we do it’, ‘you do it’) At this stage of the sequence teachers are asked to: “Prepare a whole-class reading activity for the text you have selected, again examples and explanations are provided.”

7. modelling a text (‘I do it’) At this point, teachers are asked to “model the completion of the graphic organiser for the skill and show the students how to structure the writing using the most suitable language.” Again a comprehensive explanation is given.

8. jointly constructing a text (‘we do it’) Teachers are directed to ensure that the students have sufficient background knowledge of the topic in the graphic organiser so that joint construction will not be difficult. During this stage the students practise writing information from the graphic organiser into full sentences using sentence starters and connectives from How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years (Second Edition”)

9. independently constructing a text (‘you do it’) In this final stage of the sequence, “students independently complete a graphic organiser and write a text that demonstrates a skill.”


      After the preface, introduction, key terms/ideas and the suggested teaching sequence each of the skills are elaborated.  Each writing skill follows the suggested format with plenty of illustrative material such as graphic organisers, useful prompts, activities for the teacher to use and apply.


      How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years: student workbook

      How to Write What You Want to Say … in the secondary years: student workbookis structured in much the same way as the other books.  In addition, the workbook comprises many activities designed for the student to practise deconstructing and constructing texts that demonstrate writing skills.  Students are provided with the opportunity to make use of graphic organisers and use sentence starters and language for connecting ideas within and between sentences.

      In the introduction to the student workbook, the reader is told that the students are provided with opportunities to practise a writing skill and that for each skill students will follow the four stage process of deconstructing a text, of observing the teacher modelling an example of the skill, of jointly constructing a text and then finally independently constructing a text that is an example of the skill.

      It is emphasised that graphic organisers are used throughout the book, to assist students to organise ideas and information for a writing skill, to contain the information to be included, to provide structure to the writing and to allow the student to focus on the writing and for the teacher to check the student work before writing commences.


      In conclusion, Patricia Hipwell has developed these resources using a functional and guided approach which will enable students to say what they want to say and to know how to do so.  Much thought and creativity is evident in the very helpful and well structured set of resources that are well designed to help students achieve the goal of writing with confidence to achieve an intended purpose.  I highly recommend these resources to teachers, their students, parents and carers.


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