I hope you read Katie’s blog post about the storytelling time she has set up in her classroom. The telling of stories can be so much fun and that foundational start with her kinders will lead to some great story writers, I’m sure. Her idea fits closely with Carolyn Coman’s new book from Stenhouse called Writing Stories: Ideas, Exercises, and Encouragement for Teachers and Writers of All Ages. This small book (seriously, it can almost fit in your pocket) is chock full of useful information that will help you as a writer and as a teacher of writing. Coman explains the difference between character-driven stories and plot-driven stories, teaches about developing voice in your writing, gives tips on using dialogue and speaker tags, shows us how she gets to know her characters deeply and why that’s important, and so much more. The exercises at the end of each chapter are easily adaptable to many grade levels. They are meant to be quick ideas for students to try out (not prompts) and lead students into a discussion about some aspect of writer’s craft. I highly recommend this text particularly for teachers of grades 2-6.
AND… the wait is over. Ralph Fletcher’s new book is out and ready for instant use in your class’s writing workshop. Mentor Author, Mentor Texts is right up there with all the other great texts that Fletcher has written for teachers and students (like many other folks, I’m a big fan!) Ralph has written 24 interesting texts, all short enough to be read in one sitting. Instructions are given as to how to access these whiteboard-ready texts, even with audio clips of RF reading his pieces. But don’t rush so fast to start projecting these pieces and leading discussions with students. Take the time to read and reflect on Ralph’s ideas on how mentor texts are being used and misused in some of today’s classrooms. He gives us a new direction on how best to make effective use of his and other authors’ excerpts, essays, non-fiction pieces, or poems. Rather than force-feeding our ideas or those of the author’s, Fletcher suggests we “put students in charge of what they notice.” Let them decide what the writer is doing, whether this craft or technique would work for them in their writing, and how they might use the idea in a future piece of their own. He cautions us to remember that young writers grow slowly. Wouldn’t it be magical to see “students apprentice themselves to an author they can springboard off to reach new heights on their own”? One of my favorite short texts in this book is “Interview with a Coho Salmon” — very funny (and Ralph said it was a blast to write too.) If you are using Fletcher’s new text in your classroom, please feel free to comment on how it’s going.
Also, stay tuned in a few weeks when Katie will be writing a review of another great book on writing meant for parents of preschoolers but also appropriate for teachers of PreK-2nd.
What else have you read on writing that has inspired your work with children?