Friday, July 16, 2010

Reading that Catches the Teaching Heart on Fire

My newest book to my collection of go to books for the classroom is Pyrotechnics on the Page: Playful Craft that Sparks Writing by Ralph Fletcher. I absolutely love Mr. Fletcher's writing. He has a way of writing that makes me feel as if we are sitting at Starbuck's talking about best practices in writing. He makes me laugh out loud and often time pause and think about what my classroom looks like and what changes I need to make in regards to writer's workshop.

The book arrived yesterday and I couldn't put it down. I read 1/2 of it in one sitting. A couple of things I noted that I want to remember.

1)A quote Mr. Fletcher mentions by Tom Newkirk in Holding On to Good Ideas in a Times of Bad Ones " an ongoing series of micro-experiments that extend and modify the repertoire of teachers. When we stop experimenting, we stop living as teachers" (2009, 21)

This resonates within me. I have always done what I call little experiments each year, but usually kept them secret from my grade level until about my 5th year teaching (currently on year 10). Little did I know that one of my experiments would lead to a change in our grade level writing.

2) "No writer or writing teacher can be satisfied with lackluster, formulaic sentences. If we aim to empower young writers, we must encourage them to explore the limitless possibilities and effects with words that are readily available to us all" (2010, 19) From Pyrotechnics

I will admit that once upon a time I taught prescriptive essay writing because it allowed majority of my students to be successful on the writing test for the state. I will admit that I hated every single week of it. I used the writer's notebook until January. From January to the end of February I taught the formula. Now that I have delved deeper into Calkins, Fletcher, Graves, and Keene I realize a formula is not needed in order to achieve success--teaching students how to be a good writer, exposing them to good writers, and studying genres of writing are what achieves success.

3) Allowing invention

I love that Mr. Fletcher has inventing words as a chapter all unto it's own. I have to say that I am a guilty of inventing such words, but I never thought about collecting them. Often times when I hear them or say them it is conversational. Being brave and moving beyond conversation and putting them into print is something that I would like to do as a writer this year.

As I get ready to sit down to continue my reading tonight, I feel as if it is Christmas and I am awaiting the presents from my family members. I am looking forward to the new "ah ha" moments I will have tonight with my dear friend, Ralph.


  1. Lynnelle,

    As a teacher, I have experienced the challenges when teaching writing. The "formulaic sentences" you mention sound like the grammatical rules taught in primary grades. Nontheless, the beauty of writing is that is allows for words to flow and depict messages across to our readers. Our younger learners may not be able to understand such beauty, but is it well noted once the ability to express themselves has begun.

    Don't be afraid of your knew words, you never know what door they can open.