At the end of last month, we had Ralph Fletcher visit for a week. It was the first time we have had a visiting author whose books were all over my shelves: novels, poetry, and professional development books- he writes them all!
He had a session with each classroom and held the attention of students from grades KA-5 with ease. Ralph shared with students some of his original writing in his notebook and talked about the process of moving ideas from the notebook into publication. He helped students see the connection between the events in his own life and how those events show up in his writing.
He also captivated an audience of over 100 parents and children on Family Night.
He shared tips for supporting young writers, including letting children write about what they feel is important, responding first to the idea and intention of the writing, and not correcting every last error we see.
One idea he offered that resonated is that as teachers and parents, we want to help children develop a sense of identity. We want them to say “I’m good at soccer” or “I love to draw”, not because someday they will be famous soccer players or artists. We want them to develop skills and confidence in these areas, and they are more likely to do so if they see themselves in that role.
For this reason, we want students to think of themselves as writers for as long as possible. The longer they hold on to the idea that they are an author, the more confident they will be at expressing themselves in writing, and the more willing they will be to develop their skills.
Cultivating this idea in children is one of the reasons I love to use the writer’s workshop model to teach writing. At its core, the workshop is promoting the idea that all children are writers. Ralph’s visit really reinforced this idea for children, parents and teachers throughout the week.
Above all that, Ralph was a delight to hang out with for the week. He was warm and funny, very approachable, and a lot of fun.