Lately, my focus of attention has been on our writer's workshop. Digital media, conversations about celebration and publication, changes with the Common Core and a new student teacher (a fabulous one!) have me thinking a lot about writing. Interestingly when I reflect back on times I have felt the writing in my classroom was at its best, it was during a time I was writing myself. Katie Ray in What You Know By Heart comments about a conference she had with a student, "My response to Jennifer in this conference was clearly and simply driven by what I know about writing as a reader and a writer, not as a teacher (p. xiii)."
Trying to write, teach, and live isn't always an easy balance. However, I know I am a better teacher of writing when I am living the life of a writer. For this reason, I joined Two Writing Teachers, Ruth and Stacey, in the Slice of Life Story Challenge. My slices live on my other blog, Merely Day By Day. In conjunction with this event, I am going to focus a few posts on this blog to the teaching of writing.
If writing is the best way for me to be a better teacher of writing, reading the thoughts of educators and writers on the teaching of writing is a close second. With a student teacher in my classroom and a daughter who is student teaching in a high school classroom, I think a lot about the books I hope they will read. There have been so many books that have shifted my thinking, but I want to narrow them down to the five I don't think we should live without. (Picture me on my couch with a narrowed stack of at least 15 professional book about writing. Some are about the structure of the workshop, some specific to an age range of students, and some just about the craft writing. Now picture me getting up to grab chocolate to help with this impossible task.)
Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi This book is a great book for getting started in a Writer's Workshop. Ralph and JoAnn give the basics for setting up a workshop and beginning with writers. It is a relatively quick read that is well organized for daily use and reference.
Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray
Once a workshop is running this is the perfect book for thinking about how to deepen the work that is happening within it. This book helps consider ways to build a community of writers that talk the talk of authors. It also helps to take a closer look at the side by side work we do with young writers. This is my favorite book for thinking about the books I use as mentor texts for budding authors. In her chapter titled "An Invitation to My Library: The Craft of Text Structure," Katie shares how to look at books to find mentor texts that support the work of writers.
What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher
Perhaps I should just say, "Make sure you read everything by Ralph Fletcher." I think Ralph is just good at getting down to what is most important. This book has really helped me look at student writing through a closer lens. This book takes a look at the actual components of writing: beginnings, endings, small moments, voice, creating a sense of place, moving a story through time, etc..
The Digital Writing Workshop by Troy Hicks
You might be surprised to find this book here. Digital and workshop? When I think of books that have radically shifted my thinking, this book is one of those. When I first read the book I read it to find out more about the ways to use new tools of technology in my classroom. (Read more here: Confessions of a Not-So-Techie Teacher) The book turned out to make me think far differently about the entire of process of writing. Troy made me rethink my definition of writing. I found myself thinking more what it means to compose a message for an audience.
While you are reading everything by Ralph Fletcher make sure you read everything by Katie Wood Ray. If you're a primary teacher, you should own this book. In this book Katie talks about the word that writers do in a writer's workshop. Using examples from Lisa's classroom, Katie walks us through setting up, and living in, a writer's workshop. Katie shares some of her units of study and the mentor texts she uses alongside of this work. Katie shares much of the language she uses in her workshop with readers.
That really wasn't very easy. Which professional books about writing do you find yourself returning to again and again?