Friday, January 22, 2010

Live Writing (Book Study)

Third Grade Teachers @ LES are reading Live Writing by Ralph Fletcher and blogging together.

We are reading together to increase our awareness of writing instruction especially in the Narrative mode.

Ralph Fletcher: By "live writing" I mean the kind of writing that has a current running through it--energy, electricity, juice.

Chapter 1: The Writer's Toolbox
I personally am encouraged by the words of the author when he says there is "no way that your pen will pour out world class writing every day". It assures me that writing isn't perfect and that as a writer I'll grow daily. I love the tools for writing: words, imagination, love of books, etc. These are tools that we should encourage our students to use! ----Vickie

Chapter 2: Reading Like A Writer
This is me now. After reading and studying writing for the past eight years, I truly understand "reading like a writer". Now when I pick up a book, I instantly note something I can use to help others with word choice, figurative language, etc. When I go on vacation, I usually take a few picture books to read myself! Sometimes...I feel like a kid! -----Vickie

Chapter 3: Building Character
Creating a character isn't as easy as just picking a "who". But for young children just learning to write personal narratives, it is easy to pick someone they spend a lot of time with to be the other character. RF says to "start with what you know" and build from familiar people and animals. I usually suggest 2 or 3 characters for young writers because they have to engage those characters. It is easier to involve 2 or 3 in the action and conversation. -----Vickie


Mrs. Peters' Third Grade Blog said...

Chapter 1:
I like how the writer tells the story of his father-in-law giving him a toolbox and he will add to it every year. I have to remember to give my students a few tools at a time instead of over loading them. When the questions are asked: How do I craft a lead sentence that will grab my readers? How can I create characters that come to life on the page? etc. I am saying "yes, yes, yes!" Then as I read on I find that the author is going to give me tools to become a better writer. It makes me realize that we must become better writers to help our students to become better writers!

Chapter 2:
This chapter makes me feel as though I need to go back and re-read all the books I have read over the years. While rereading I feel I should pay more attention to the writing and how the characters come to life and I become part of the story. Usually, when reading stories I am focused on what is going to happen next instead of how the author made me feel a part of the story.

Chapter 3:
When I create characters I usually use people who are close to me. I never consider their personalities. My students usually use their friends and families, but I wonder if it would become easier for them if they thought about their person's personality and how they would react to the situation.

Vickie Cox said...

Jennifer: You said, "You must write yourself to become a better writer". I tell this to teachers all the time...model, model, model. Assignments I give 5th grade I often do, too. It helps me help them. So then, when I model, I have some experience backing my instruction and I am more confident. I also thought about our characters personality. It would be fun to work on this character trait. Example: If a student is writing about his mother, ask "what is your mom like"? Is she soft spoken, humorous, etc. This would help children with "voice".

Mrs. Dunston said...

For me, becoming a more confident writer is the challenge. Modeling isn't so easy if you aren't sure that you are modeling effectively. I am enjoying this book. I definitely want to read like a writer and pay closer attention to details as I read instead of just what happens next. Also, it is encouraging to hear the author talk about how writing isn't perfect everytime you write. We often expect the right words to hit the paper immediately. I tend to be a little impatient. The advice to slow down and practice is good for me as a teacher,

Vickie Cox said...

Kelley: Becoming a confident writer will come with modeling. The more you write, the more exciting it will be to model writing for your students. The right words won't hit the paper everytime. Writing a piece takes time and thought. I call it "tweaking". When we need to change writing or have to correct writing, we "tweak" our paper.

Miss Taylor's 3rd Grade said...

Chapter 1:
Ladies, you have such wonderful thoughts!
One part that I really connected to, while reading the first chapter, was where Fletcher said, "As a writer you have to be willing to strike out more times than you get a hit." Furthermore, he wrote to "feed yourself on the sparks that you do have". I feel that sometimes, if not most of the time, we worry about every little thing sounding 'just right', yet we need to realize that some writings will only have one or two great parts. This takes me back to high school when we had to write "in-class essays" that were timed. Of course, back then, I wanted to be a perfectionist, and I was really hard on myself. My English teacher was also my professor for dual enrollment (and he was WONDERFUL). He would literally write tons of notes/suggestions on our papers. Although I think I learned most of my grammar conventions from him, I feel that sometimes, I was so worried about the organization and conventions that I would leave out so much of my voice. Yet when I arrived to college, I had a professor that loved when her students used creative voice, and her encouragement made me want to write more in her class. As the person on the other side now, I want to find that balance that encourages my students to write, while not making them feel pressured to make everything just right. Already, I have eight and nine-year-olds that want everything to be approved. Hopefully, this book will give me some suggestions on how to instill confidence in their own ideas! ~Kristy

Vickie Cox said...

Kristy: Celebrate the small steps! I like the quote "strike more times than you hit". An analogy tied to baseball and then to writing might explain to students that "doing and re-doing" is part of the process. This might help them realize that it is OK if it is not perfect. Building motivation and confidence leads to competence in writing!~Vickie

Shannon Hill said...

I love what he said when he wrote, Its hard to fix anything without the right tools!! I started to think about everything I do and what if I didn't have this or didn't know how to do that..... I couldn't do it. PRACTICE MAKE PERFECT!!! I feel that in order for me to be a successful writer/teacher I have to practice. I need the tools. I am that kid that it takes forever for me to write something. I have to revise, reread, add to, edit, and reread again. RESEARCH... I know that sounds silly. Then, I second guess myself. I have to work at writing. I need me a toolbox!!!! I never had that teacher that impacted my life with writing. That was an area that was put on a back burner. Other subject areas were more important. Here I am a teacher and having to teach myself how to be a writer.
When I got to chapter 3, I thought is he writing about me!!! So far what I am reading sounds like me. When I read, I always put myself in the characters shoes either as a text to self connection or imagination!!! However when it comes to writing a story, I don't think about the characters traits or plot being connected. I am writing them separately. Right now in class we are discussing character traits. We are identifying their traits and why they think this. This is a great way to connect those lessons to what we are writing. There are some wonderful tips on how to create your character in this chapter.

Vickie Cox said...

Shannon: I have thought about "tools", too. For every subject, I wonder, "Are we giving students all the tools to help them be successful?" In writing I know that you must write yourself in order to teach writing to others. It is a connection we must make. I like you never remember a teacher focusing on any kind of writing except handwriting! They always wanted me to "write neatly" and practice my letter formations. ~Vickie

aljones said...

I am really enjoying this book! I am very glad that you suggested the study. I agree with Flecher when he said that he wanted to throw up when Rylant said she did not revise much, that is just comes out right the first time...Are you kidding me? I spend a lot of time going back and forth changing words, phrases, and sometimes a whole idea. I feel like I have a pretty good imagination and I can spin a yarn pretty quick but I am like Fletcher I still need the tools to make it all work. I really struggle with making it all develop correctly. I was glad to read about character development. As a writer this is very tricky for me and my students. Think about how many actions/evets it takes to really develop a characters traits in a story...that is hard to do! I actually started reading this book aloud to my class because these are things that they need to hear! Writing isn't easy, but with the right tools it can be a lot of fun!

Alisa Huffaker said...

The mode of writing that I use most frequently is expository writing. When I write, I want to be allowed to put my entire focus on the process without any interruptions or someone standing over me watching me. I want to be able to write down my ideas and then reorganize, revise, and/or reword the piece until I get it just like I want it before allowing anyone else to read it. When you share your writing with others, you are opening yourself up for praise or criticism. No matter how supportive a teacher tries to be, there are going to be time when she has to say, “there’s a better way to say that or “that wasn’t quiet right” and that can be painful for some people.
It was comforting to read that Ralph Fletcher has to revise and “work at” his writing like I do. As I read nonfiction pieces, I haven’t been reading them like a writer. I’m just reading for information but maybe now I will start thinking about it differently. In doing so, I can add some tools to my writing toolbox.
I think the “Book Flood” for the introductory paragraph, the Take-Away examples, and providing examples of figurative language for children to use are all great ways to provide children with tools for their writing toolbox. The more they have, the better their writing will be, in my opinion. In third grade, the students may only be able to focus on one part at a time. I mean that if you are providing instruction on Introductory paragraphs, their introductory paragraphs may be great but everything else might be awful. Then when you work on great Take-Aways, their Take-Aways may be great but their introductory paragraph may not be so great. Hopefully this will lead to students pulling it altogether by Fifth Grade.