It was raining yesterday morning when I arrived at the the Connecticut Reading Conference. But Ralph Fletcher’s inspiring keynote address and break-out session about the importance of narratives and mentor texts quickly drove away the day’s dreariness.
Fletcher told the ballroom full of teachers that “mentor texts breathe new life into the classroom; they expand kids’ vision of what’s possible.” He demonstrated this by asking us to use his poem, “The Good Old Days,” as a model for our own writing. A hush came over the room as everyone wrote feverishly about childhood memories. If anyone in the room doubted the importance of giving writers choices about their writing, this activity dispelled that notion.
He encouraged us to share powerful mentor texts with students so they can be “showered by the pixie dust” that comes off these books and poems and write their own powerful texts. He urged us to leave room in our curriculum for personal narratives so our students can learn to write with voice. “Kids find their stride as writers by writing about themselves,” he said.
After his session, Ralph graciously stayed to sign books and answer questions. When he signed my copy of his poetry collection, A Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young Poets (WordSong, 2005) he told me his favorite poem in this book is “Squished Squirrel Poem.” I love it, too. I can picture a student (or two) of mine who would be inspired by this poem. This is a poem they could go into and find exactly “what they need” to create a poem of their own.
He also gave me permission to share this poem from the collection, the perfect poem for a rainy autumn day.
“A Writing Kind of Day”
It is raining today,
a writing kind of day.
Each word hits the page
like a drop in a puddle,
creating a tiny circle
of trembling feeling
that ripples out
and gathers strength
ringing toward the stars
Then it hit me,
Ma was my first word.
As if the word swam back
to where it all began.
I want my students to think every day is a writing kind of day. Thank you, Ralph Fletcher, for sharing your wisdom with teachers and inspiring us to create classrooms that will encourage our students to create “tiny circle[s] of trembling feeling.”
Please be sure to visit Cathy Mere at Merely Day By Day for the Poetry Friday Round Up. Thanks for hosting, Cathy!