Wendy's Writing Project Blog

Reflecting on Ralph July 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 3:12 am


This week’s posts are dedicated to summing up my experiences at All Write 2012.

I loved telling my friends, “Sorry I can’t go out with you on Thursday. I’m having dinner with Ralph Fletcher.” Maybe I was going a little Gooney Bird Greene with the truth by not being straightforward about the 100 other people. Even in a room full of others, going to an event like this by yourself can be lonely– but I didn’t care. I was not going to pass up this opportunity!

His evening talk was on using writer’s notebooks. I marveled at hearing his stories seeing entries from his own notebooks– memories, “snatches of talk”, small details, things he’s wondered about, and more. I’ve had other recent notebook inspiration thanks to the University of Illinois Writing Project (and Ms. Becca Woodard). My iPad is actually my notebook ‘container’ these days. My kids see me write in a regular notebook as well as on my iPad. My second graders used a notebook as an option for work on writing time (in addition to writing workshop paper). My students wrote more last year than ever. I wrote more last year than ever. I’m anxious to see if that trend continues.

My second day of the conference started with Ralph Fletcher’s session on using mentor texts. As expected, he shared a few of his favorite titles. He shared a thoughtful list of tips that were built around the idea that mentor texts weren’t about choosing a book and crafting a lesson, but about being “blown away by it”. He also spoke on the notion of how each reader builds their experience on their likes, dislikes, associations, interpretations, history, and so on. He encouraged us to let kids find what they want to borrow, leaving room for kids to make their own discoveries. His ten tips for teaching craft are:

Read books that you love.
Take advantage of “micro-texts” that can be read in one sitting.
Talk about the author behind the book.
Don’t interrupt the first reading of the text.
Leave time for natural response.
Reread for craft.
Design a spiral of mini-lessons around a craft element.
Invite students to use their writing notebooks to try out the craft element taught.
Use a share session to reinforce the mini-lesson
Be patient. Remember that incorporating a craft element to your writing may take a long time.

My favorite part of his presentation was when he had us write. He shared a mentor texts that he wrote. He had us keep the same start and ending, but make it our own. This is my poem, modeled after Ralph’s…

Sometimes I remember
the good old days

Lying in my sister’s lumpy bed
in the dark

Each crowding
the other’s space

Sneaking giggles
so not to wake Mom and Dad

I still can’t imagine
anything better than that


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