"Celebration ought to wrap around many moments in writing workshop - not just the final product." - Ruth AyresBring out the streamers. Blow up the balloons. Set out the party food. Celebrate! I feel like my blog needs to flash, throw confetti, and make sounds of cheers for this new - and much needed - book by Ruth Ayres: Celebrating Writers: From Possibilities Through Publication. Schools need celebration. Children should be celebrated. Their stories should be captured and their "tiny steps toward a writing life (p. 4)" should be noticed and rejoiced. In her book Ruth reminds us this doesn't always mean punch and cookies, but instead "Celebration is is so much more. Celebration ought to wrap around many moments in writing workshop - not just the final product. (p.5)."
When Ruth Ayres visited Ohio in October I was so excited to hear about her new book. She came to talk with the members of the Literacy Connections about celebrating young writers in our workshops. Her talk was energizing, inspiring, and positive. After listening to her speak I could hardly wait to get started reading it. When I received my copy I couldn't put it down. I was thrilled to be asked to join the Stenhouse blog tour for her new book: Celebrating Writers. No matter your grade level, if you are a teacher working alongside writers, you'll want to read this book. Ruth's book had me taking notes and planning changes for our workshop - changes to bring joy into the time we work as writers.
Today I'm so excited to have Ruth stop by Reflect and Refine to answer a few questions about Celebrating Writers.
Me: How does your work as a writer carry into the way you celebrate the work of young writers in classrooms?
Ruth: It is this – writing myself—that has had the biggest impact on my craft of teaching. Even when working with preschool writers, my own writing life helps me be a better teacher. I understand the importance of individualizing the process, as well as the importance of having specific direction. It’s this balance of choice and structure that I’m able to provide because I write myself.
Me: You share with readers how your thinking has changed about celebration, and talk about celebrating the small steps along the way. What do you try to notice and celebrate in the daily process of writing?
Ruth: Risks. I try to notice and acknowledge the risk it takes to put words on the page. I’m always looking for what a writer is almost (but not quite doing). Then I celebrate this small thing. Recently, my seven year old son shared a story with me. He is an experienced second grade writer, but as I read his writing, I realized his capital letters were out of control. The only place he used them accurately and predictably was with proper nouns. Character names, towns, months, and street names were all capitalized in his writing. However, there were a lot of other capital letters loitering in the middle of sentences and the middle of words. They were also missing at the start of sentences. So we celebrated what he knew and I nudged him to expand his use of capitals. This is the perfect kind of daily celebration. Building on what you almost know is a great way to grow as a writer.
Me: I’ve always wanted to take the steps to teach primary writers how to confer with one another. In your book you share many suggestions for creating partnerships and helping students learn to give helpful feedback. What considerations or suggestions do you have for those working with youngest of writers to create meaningful partnerships?
Ruth: This is a great question. I’ve spent a lot of time working with a kindergarten and first grade teacher in supporting their students to build strong partnerships. We do our best to make the process concrete. One way we do this is with checklists. The check list shows a picture of each of the steps. We start simple with these four steps:
- Sit side-by-side so both people can read the book.
- Read the book aloud.
- Make sure the book is finished with words and illustrations on every page.
- Tell your writing buddy something you value about the book.
Then we add things like this:
- Touch the main topic on each page. Is it the same for the entire book?
- Check that the words and illustrations both help tell the story.
- Look for Word Wall words.
- Help your writing buddy think of something to do next as a writer.
By making the work of partnerships concrete, we’ve found our youngest writers are often the best writing buddies.
Me: What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Ruth: I hope they feel energy for writing workshop and are inspired to teach with joy and purpose.
Other blog tour stops:
November 11th: A Year of Reading
November 12th: Kate Messner's Blog
November 13th: HERE!
November 14th: Read, Write, Reflect
November 15th: Nerdy Book Club