Monday, November 13, 2017

Winner of Ralph Fletcher's new book, The Writing Teacher's Companion


The winner of Ralph Fletcher's new book, The Writing Teacher's Companion is my first commenter.  Congratulations, Susan!  Please leave your Email in the comments below.

Everyone else, thanks for reading.  I'm working on my next book review and I hope to have it up in a few weeks.  Stay tuned for another giveaway!







Disclaimer:  I had to choose another winner because the original did not contact me within 2 weeks.  I'm sorry for any inconvenience! 











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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review of The Writing Teacher's Companion by Ralph Fletcher


When I was asked to review the newest book by Ralph Fletcher during Back to School season, I couldn't resist.  The man is a legend when it comes to Writer's Workshop.  And I feel like ever since our district adopted Journeys, I've been floundering a bit in terms of refining my writing instruction.  So I forced myself to take a break from my Back to School to do list and crack open The Writing Teacher's Companion.  Suddenly 45 minutes had passed and I was halfway through it.


For a professional text, this book is a super easy read.  Fletcher's voice is strong, and as the title suggests, it's companionable.  It really does feel like a naturally flowing conversation you might have with someone who enjoys their topic and feels so comfortable with it that you feel like you want to hear more, and then go try it yourself.  He doesn't claim that writing instruction is easy, but all his talk of "student choice," "building interest" and "less focus on high stakes testing" is infectious.

The only drawback to this book is that it feels a little unorganized.  I found myself laughing a little because he says himself that he doesn't like graphic organizers, doesn't use them, and values voice over structure.  Mission accomplished then!  Even some of his Table of Contents headings fail to help you find what you're looking for:  "The Burnt and Broken Cookie Plate" and "Something for a Rainy Day" are hints that this book is not primarily about actionable steps, but more about piquing interest.  And he does explain he was purposeful he chose the word "companion" for the title.  The book does what it says, and even as one who appreciates organization, I enjoyed it.

So if you're already familiar with Writer's Workshop, but need a refresher, or need to feel that excitement about launching it again this year, it's a good choice.  And don't get me wrong, it's not JUST a feel good book.  I did learn some new things.

One of the most valuable sections for me was on "Engaging Boy Writers."  This is something I have always struggled with.  Not EVERY boy, obviously, but those 2 or 3 every year that shut down and say "I can't think of anything to write."  And will not write.  And will either disrupt the whole class, haunt the nurse/bathroom/water fountain like clockwork during independent writing time, or just suck all your conferring time needing his hand held and still not produce anything other than direct answers to your most basic questions.  Fletcher has 2 other books devoted to this topic (as I learned in the appendix) so I now know what to read next to further my own development. And really, the appendix has a variety of "next steps" once you finish reading and realize, "I need to troubleshoot THIS part of Writer's Workshop."  Again, just as a knowledgeable companion would do. 

So if you're interested in this book, I'm having a contest to give a copy to someone!  It's open from now until Sunday 11/12/17 at 12pm EST.  That way you should receive your copy in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.  In the comments below, write something you love or struggle with when it comes to teaching writing.  You may even enter with TWO separate comments (one with your love and the other a struggle) because I'd love to have a balance.  Since I already wrote about my struggle, I'll write about favorite part of Writer's Workshop as well.  I love reading those stories with strong voice, where it sounds like the child is telling me something funny that someone said, and the circumstances around it.  When I start getting stories like that, I know I've "arrived" in terms of making the class a place where kids are comfortable enough to share authentically.   

Disclaimer:  I received two free copies of this book from Scholastic in exchange for a fair and honest review.





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