In this episode, Ralph Fletcher talks about how writing is a process for self-discovery, how the writer’s notebook is a place to honor students’ voices, and we also talk about treasure maps. Wait a minute, treasure maps? Yep, treasure maps.
What an honor to talk to Ralph Fletcher, a lifelong champion of writing! In his memoir, Marshfield Dreams, Ralph writes about his father's last kiss. No, not because his father died, but because when he was around seven or eight his dad decided Ralph was too old for kisses. Not a glowing parenting moment for sure, but Ralph assures listeners that his dad redeems himself later on in the book.
Funny enough, the same week I interviewed Ralph, I was revising my middle grade novel, and I realized that the whole story is about needing to ask for help. So, Ralph and I marvel about how one of the magical aspects of writing is that it's often not clear why the author needs to write certain words on a page until the project is well under way. But when the words appear, we will have uncovered a truth about ourselves that we didn't know we were searching for.
We also talk about using writer's notebooks in the classroom to honor student voice and choice. A newly revised version of Ralph's A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer within You published in January and it offers a plethora of varying ways to use a writer's notebook, including collecting photos and ticket stubs.
If you're looking for even more ways to incorporate student voice and choice into writing, be sure to check out Ralph's inspiring book, Joy Write. After I read it two years ago, I incorporated joy writing into our classroom job chart. My students love it when they get to take one of our two classroom notebooks home and write whatever they want in its pages. I love reading about what brings them joy.
As writers, we all know one of the hardest parts of the process can be getting started. That's the case for our students, too, which is why Ralph suggests having students draw a map of their neighborhood. Then, ask students to mark their favorite spots, dangerous spots, and their secret spots. When they're done, they'll have a story treasure map they can mine any time.
Ralph recommends that elementary teachers have the following books:
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Ralph loves how Cynthia takes ordinary experiences and writes about them in beautiful ways. He also recommends Night in the Country, which Rylant also wrote. I, too, love The Relatives Came and I'm also a big fan of her book, The Great Gracie Chase.
Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka
Jon gets at the absurdity of life. Plus, Jon is one of six brothers, like Ralph.
Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield
Poetry is important because kids need to see that language is concise and can pack a wallop.
If you'd like to be entered to win one of Ralph's fabulous books, leave a comment below or share this episode on social media and be sure to tag Ralph and me.
Finally, as always, special thanks to Sarah Brannen for creating our Chalk + Ink art.
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