I was honored to hear Ralph Fletcher, the renowned writer and teacher of writers last Friday in Concord, NH as part of NHASCD‘s speaker series. Here are some vignettes from his workshop with my comments:
Good writers take you by the hand and lead you through the piece.
Reading is a journey. What a honor it is for a writer to step into the reader’s brain and take them for a ride.
The writing in a class can only be as good as the literature that supports, surrounds, and buoys it up.
In order to write well you first have to be flattened by a book. (Steven King, quoted by Ralph)
I went to the school of poetry in order to learn to write prose. (Grace Paley, quoted by Ralph)
Writing cannot be separated from reading. A good teacher has a literature rich classroom environment and uses books, periodicals, poetry, short stories and more to provide concrete examples for young writers.
If there’s an electricity in the writing it runs on the current of narrative.
One remembers things when they’re embedded in a story.
Ralph spoke about the Common Core’s emphasis on argumentative and informational writing at the expense of narrative writing in the fiction realm. Humans love tales from ghost stories told around the campfire to the recorded narrative my students once recorded of my father’s World War II experience. We need to preserve fiction based narrative as an open for student writers.
We need a question culture rather an an answer culture. (Barry Lane, quoted by Ralph)
Perhaps we need a Jeopardy lifestyle where we teach kids to question than to always seek answers…the right answers.
The central goal of school should be to engender a love of writing and reading.
To be fair, we have to add mathematics to this too!
If you want to breathe life into your students’ non-fiction writing, check out Ralph’s Making Nonfiction From Scratch. Yes, writing is difficult and the pedagogical process can be tedious. But there may not be a skill as useful and exciting to impart to our students.