Jan Allen Creative Writing Competition 2015 – Junior Winner


She stroked his ebony pelt. It felt so smooth underneath her fingers, so vibrant against her pale hands.
“What are you doing? You’re supposed to be at home, not wasting your time on some stupid fantasy! Come here and we can drive home. I’m not letting you near that…that thing ever again,” A nagging, high-pitched voice cut through her pleasant thoughts. She ignored it, oblivious to everything but her gentle hands rubbing against his soft fur.
“Eliza,” The voice screeched, “Come here now!”
Eliza stopped stroking his black fur, and, peering across his withers, saw a pale-faced woman with close-set eyes and thin lips. Curly blonde hair framed her desperate face.
Eliza ground her teeth, “No, Mum. I’m staying here. You know that.”
Her mother stared at her impassively. Her eyes gradually turning hard and cold, she replied, in a slow, deliberate tone that sent shivers down Eliza’s spine.
You are coming with me.”

Her Mum was always over-protective, not allowing her to do anything that she wanted. At this point in time, Eliza hated her mother for it, she was about to do the most important thing she had ever done in her life.
Eliza had spent so many hours on the back of a horse, it was something she couldn’t live without. Yet, here her Mum was, telling her to get away from ‘that filthy, disgusting, dangerous animal, or you’ll get all manner of diseases if you hang around it all day’.
Horses and riding was all that she loved. Every time she went to her uncle’s house, as he owned a farm, she would spend every minute riding horses or being with them in the paddocks. Her mother hated horses, and she despised her uncle for allowing her daughter to come into contact with one.
It just had to be this day, of all days, when her mother finally discovered what she had been doing behind her back. Eliza had been training with Storm, her black show jumper, at her uncle’s house, when she had told her Mum that she was going for a weekend holiday program with her friends. At last, she was at the State Show Jumping Arena, and finally getting ready to display her love of show jumping, when her mother just had to greet her with a cold smile. It was a futile attempt at her ambition, for now her mother knew what she was up to, and her dream of becoming a professional show jumper was over. Eliza knew her plan was eventually going to run into a hard, brick wall. It was inevitable that her Mum would ban her from ever visiting her uncle again, or even seeing a horse, let alone riding it after she knew what Eliza was doing. Although, her hopes were never going to go anywhere if she didn’t try.

Eliza stared at Storm, her fingers slowly tracing invisible lines on his raven coat. Her mother’s voice rang in her ears, but she dared not speak, for fear of letting her dream slip through her hands, when she was so close to touching it. It wounded her to see her Mum’s face, desperate and inhospitable, but Eliza knew her Mum was asking something she couldn’t do – to abandon her hopes for the future. It was a poor request, as it brought the both of them down and they would never agree.
Eliza’s heart hammered in her chest as she sought for a reply, a protest. Something that would make her Mum agree with her, and possibly watch her in the jumping arena. She gazed solemnly at Storm, with a blaze of white fur streaking down his long face, searching for answers in his eyes. When she found none, she cursed herself for getting into this mess. Luckily, as she was about to trust her tongue to explain the colliding emotions in turmoil inside of her, her uncle appeared from behind the horse float.
“George! What on earth are you up to? You could get my daughter killed!” Eliza’s mother exclaimed. In response, her uncle guided her away from Eliza, out of earshot. Eliza strained her ears to listen, but even as they were shouting, could discern nothing.
The bell rang for all participants to saddle up and get ready, as the show jumping event was starting in ten minutes. Eliza quickly placed the saddle on top of Storm, sliding the girth underneath his round belly. Hastily, she managed to adjust her stirrups and put on Storm’s bridle. Swinging over the horse’s back, she mounted. As she did, she peered around, as Storm’s height gave her a new perspective, trying to see where her mother was.

At that exact time, Eliza’s mother and uncle were in a heated argument, “George, she’s only 14! She could get killed on that putrid thing! How could you?” Eliza’s Mum accused him.
Her uncle attempted to soothe her, “I did what she wanted. She loves horse riding, and she spends weeks just playing with the horses. It does her good-”
Before he could finish, Eliza’s mother was already stalking off, leaving everything behind.
Eliza saw this. Fear gripped her, she had held onto the hope that her Mum might have accepted horse riding, and Eliza participating. Despair wormed its way into her gut, and she doubled over with grief, letting out an anguished cry.
Except, I still need to compete, she reasoned with herself through a distressed moan. Tears stung her cheeks, all of her air had left her lungs, but despite the pain that seeped through her, steered Storm toward the arena.

Eliza’s Mum stared into an arena lined with jumps almost as tall as she was. She hated being here, and she thought it was absolutely ridiculous that she was, but her brother-in-law had convinced her, and she was there to watch her daughter fulfil her dream of competing in show jumping.

Yet Eliza didn’t know this.

By Charli Read (15B)

Jan Allen Creative Writing Competition 2015 – Intermediate winner

Almost by Krista Ray

Usually in cliché movies the main character is sad and melancholy because they feel alone, and every single day the weather reflects their shitty mood; dark, broody, and messy. I guess I’m glad I live somewhere that is constantly sunny, because that way I’ll be able to see my shadow. A lot of people, most of the time children, are scared of shadows. The stories their parents read them make them believe the shadows are demons trapped in the darkness, coming to attack them in the cover of night. But no, for me my shadow is my only companion.
Ever since I was little, I never had friends. I tell myself I’m used to being alone, but I know that I’m not when I sit up at night contemplating whether or not I should just give up. And by that I don’t mean surrender in a simple game of cards or something. I mean cry mercy in this complicated game of life.
And even though my shadow sings me to a hollow insomniac’s nightmare I still felt void and alone while surrounded by malevolent devils and bloody angels.
I thought nothing could fix me. Well, I contradict myself here, but nothing can ever truly be fixed. The smashed vase may look repaired, but if someone looked close enough they can see the cracks.
You came along with your sunshine smile, and shaggy black hair, and your stupid dimples. With a few odd encounters and absurd accusations you found a tender spot in my heart. Out of all the girls you could have picked, all the girls that know they’re too perfect to ruin themselves, you swooped up the one with the insecurities and clumsy glue work. I was the vase left upon the table, the bearer of something more beautiful, but you looked past the flowers and found the cracks on my surface.
We were unorthodox, and sometimes ruthless, but we were a beautiful mess.
Love is not measured in the obvious things; not by the number of likes a picture of us gets on Facebook, or whether or not you text back that particular night. For us, it was measured in the rare moments where one of us would bear our soul like writing on a scripture, letting the other read the pen strokes of our story.
For us, it was on that day.
The day we walked until we were lost, but we never wanted to be found because we were so caught up in each other to care about everyone else. I had pointed out the way you would never chew on the end of your pencil, instead you’d gnaw the middle of it. And you pointed out the key that opened my lock.
“Why do you go to great lengths to walk in the sun?”
I could’ve filled libraries with the bullshit answers I’d given other people, but for you it took a mere moment.
“My shadow reminds me I’m not alone; that even if no one wants me, I’ll always have a companion. There may not be other shadows around, but my shadow has me.”
And you smiled that dastardly smile of yours, stardust eyes shining. Like Velcro you stuck your hand in mine, fingers wrapping around my sweaty palm. Your wrist might have rubbed against the rips in my parchment skin, but I didn’t flinch. You pointed at the ground and there was my shadow stretched out, but I was still unknown to what you were trying to say.
“See, my shadow is with yours.” You said as if it were obvious. “Now your shadow isn’t alone, and neither are you. Because I will never leave you.”
I didn’t believe you but you held your pinkie out and promised me.
For the rest of the day we walked so the sun was behind us and we could look forward to see our intertwined shadows.
I never told you I loved you.
You never told me you wanted to die.
When I was told you were gone, your soul scattered by your own hands; hands that wielded to many what was a simple blade, but to you it was a new road, I thought I hated you. You had been there when I wasn’t there for myself. Through the haze you shook me awake. Convinced me that I can live this life I was given.
It made me sick to think that while you were gluing the pieces of my broken glass back together, I could have been doing the same for you.
That day, I almost told you I love you.
And never before have I realised what a heartbreaking word almost is. It is unfair and unjust, making me regret things I shouldn’t. Almost is the word for falling from the edge of something beautiful, but not quite making it. I could have told you, I almost told you, but I didn’t and you never knew.
I never believed the stories or books whenever the ink on the pages claimed that, even if you’re gone, you’re still here with me. I thought it was ignorant, just a way to release a person from their grief and mourning.
But whenever I stay awake at night under the illusion that I am alone, I light a candle. It illuminates the room, and the flame flickers enough for my shadow to waltz slowly on the wall to a song of snapped heartstrings and shattered glass. And after months of trying, I finally realise what you meant by that promise you made.
That I may be alone, but at least my shadow isn’t, and that’s enough to make me stay.

ESC Effective Research


Effective research logo


Effective Research at Emerald Secondary College is based on 6 steps:

  1.  Define the task
  2. Locate information
  3. Select resources
  4. Organise your notes
  5. Present your ideas
  6. Evaluate your work

Resources to support these steps:

ESC Library Effective research student planner booklet 2016

ESC Library Effective Research Teacher guide – to come

Effective Research wikispaces – this link takes you to another website with a step by step guide to the research process.

Other useful resources

ESC Library Website evaluation activity 2016 – this activity is based on the Constructivist approach to learning


Note taking template:

Note taking template 1

Active Literacy – Reading comprehension program

Why read?

Reading is an essential life skill, but more than that, it is the ticket to success in life.

Every day we see that literacy is the catalyst for positive change. It allows individuals to develop their knowledge and potential, earn their livelihood, participate fully in their community and wider society, and enjoy continuous learning and the fullness it brings to their lives.

Source: http://www.literacyworldwide.org/get-involved



Active Literacy at Emerald Secondary College

Students are invited come along to a reading session in the library on a fortnightly basis.  Students complete the following passports to develop their comprehension skills across fiction and non-fiction.

Section 1: Monitoring comprehension – The inner conversation

a Following the inner conversation
b Notice when we stray and how to fix it
c Knowing what you know and don’t know
d Noticing and exploring thinking
e Read, write and talk

ESC Library Active literacy continuum student book section 1

ESC Library Active literacy Teacher guide Section 1

Section 2: Activating and connecting to prior knowledge

a Beginning to make connections: It reminds me of…
b Text to self-connections: Relating the characters to ourselves
c Distracting connections
d Text-to-text connections: finding common themes in author studies
e Noticing and thinking about new learning
f Rethinking misconceptions: New information changes thinking

ESC Library Active literacy continuum student book section 2

(Teacher guide to come)

Section 3: Questioning: The strategy that propels readers forward

a Share your questioning about your own reading
b The more we learn, the more we wonder
c Some questions are answered, others are not
d Gaining information through questioning: Thick and thin questions
e Reading with a question in mind
d Questioning that leads to inferential thinking

ESC Library Active literacy continuum student book section 3

(Teacher guide to come)

Section 4: Visualizing and inferring

a Visualizing from a vivid piece of text
b Creating mental images that go beyond visualizing
c Inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words
d Inferring with text clues
e Visualizing and Inferring to understand information

ESC Library Active literacy continuum student book section 4

(Teacher guide to come)


ESC Active Literacy Book mark – respond to reading with Reading comprehension strategies; prediction, clarify, question, summarise.










ESC Active Literacy bookmark


My grateful thanks go to the staff at Rowville Secondary College for sharing their resources which formed the basis for this program. 

This program is adapted from the following resources:

Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2000). Strategies that work: teaching comprehension to enhance understanding. York, Me.: Stenhouse Publishers.

Oczkus, L. D., & Pearson, P. D. (2010). Reciprocal teaching at work: powerful strategies and lessons for improving reading comprehension. (2nd ed.). Newark, Del.: International Reading Association.

Witter, M. (2012). Reading without limits: teaching strategies to build independent reading for life. Sydney: John Wiley and sons.

School Library Association of Victoria, (2014). Build community through reading. [online] Available at: http://slav.org.au/ [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014].