from party to coffee talk

Phew, that last birthday post really did feel like a party.

I’ve never had so many of you show up in the comments at once (which only shows how willingly you indulge my pleading.) There were folks I’d never met before, and others I haven’t heard from in a while. There were the regulars too, but it was something to see them here all at once, as if they’d carpooled over together.

And I got to flit around and chat with each of you. It was like wandering around in my maxi-dress and flip-flops with a cocktail, and having it last all week.

I had such a whopping good time that I’ve decided that as long as I’m blogging, I’m going to have a virtual birthday party every year. An annual excuse to call my readers down from their fly-on-the-wall spots. Come out, come out where ever you are!

Next year there will be party favors.

Selfishly, I’ve left the post up for well over a week, so the stragglers could find us. But also because I’ve been busy preparing my conference workshops. Really, I must get back to them, so in lieu of a more extended blog post, I thought I’d leave you with a series of quotes to ponder. Let’s turn this party into a salon. Or a coffee talk.

These are some quotes I’ll be using to kick off one of my workshops. I’m not going to comment on them today, but read along and see if you can guess where I’ll be heading.

“You don’t learn to write by going through a series of preset writing exercises. You learn to write by grappling with a real subject that matters to you.” Ralph Fletcher, What a Writer Needs

“Motivation is crucial to writing—students will write far more willingly if they write about subjects that interest them and that they have an aptitude for.” William Zinnser, Writing to Learn

When kids groan at writing time, it’s usually a sign that they don’t have enough opportunities to choose what they want to write about. They don’t see writing time as their time to explore. It is lesson-driven, teacher-driven and assignment-driven. Escaping this paradigm is the first order of business.” Barry Lane, But How Do You Teach Writing?

“But if we’re serious about helping students to fall in love with literature, to get a kick out of making words fall together in just the right order, then we have to be attentive to what makes these things more, and less likely, to happen. It may take us a while, but ultimately our classroom should turn the default setting on its head so that the motto becomes: Let the students decide except where there’s a good reason why we have to decide for them.” Alfie Kohn, Feel-Bad Education

“Students now need…more informal writing, they need more exploration, and they need to do things that really matter to them—or to explicitly see how what they are doing in school can and does matter out in the world.” Jeffrey Wilhelm, Teaching the Neglected “R”

“Because I had not, at the time, experienced the power of writing in my own life, I did not understand that there is a world of difference between ‘motivating writing’ and helping people become deeply and personally involved in their own writing…We cannot teach writing well unless we trust that there are real, human reasons to write.” Lucy Calkins, The Art of Teaching Writing

“The good writers I see in college have often developed their skill in self-sponsored writing projects like journals or epic, book-length adventure stories they wrote on their own.” Thomas Newkirk, Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones

To take a phrase from Coffee Talk with Linda Richman, said in my best Mike-Myers-as-Linda, New Yawk accent, with a double-handed flourish: Talk amongst yourselves.

11 comments… add one
  • jill rogers Jul 30, 2011 @ 17:35

    Love the quotes. It’s all feeling super important and relevant as I’m about to start my first classroom teaching job. I’m a big fan of metacognitive everything, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get kids to buy into writing as an important human activity. I’m thinking we might start the year with our own classroom salon about why writing is important. As always, thanks for the inspiration!

    (See you in the sausage aisle soon, I hope!)

    • patricia Aug 1, 2011 @ 22:30

      How exciting to be starting your first teaching job, Jill! What grade will you be teaching?

      Have you read any of Jeff Wilhelm’s books? His stuff is aimed at classroom teachers, and he’s really explored the notion of how to get kids engaged with their school writing–by making it relevant to them, and by relating it to the writing they do outside of school. He’s aiming his stuff at middle and high school, but I imagine you could glean ideas for younger kids as well, if that’s what you’ll be teaching. Here’s a link to his books: Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements might be a good one to start with. I was able to borrow it through the Berkeley Library’s Link+ system.

      A salon on why writing is important sounds fabulous. I’ll be talking about that very topic at one of my workshops this weekend. There’s so much evidence that tells us that writing matters now more than it ever has. And kids are doing so much writing these days with their social networking–teens at least–but they often don’t count that as “real” writing. Wilhelm’s books are great for helping them see that school writing and personal writing can be related.

      Look forward to hearing how it goes!

      • jill rogers Aug 7, 2011 @ 20:12

        Hey there – Readign “Fresh Takes” right now on a recommendation from a previous post of yours. I love the way they articulate the reasons for reading as including “to learn about ourselves” and “to learn about others.” Those are some pretty “real” reasons to read and a great way to frame reading.

        I’ll be teaching 4th grade. I’m sure I can adapt some of the Wilhelm book. at least the overall reasons and general techniques if not the actual middle-through-high school lessons.

        PS – if you know any classroom teachers who teach like homeschoolers, my kids’ school is looking for a middle school teacher. Feel free to have them contact me via email.

        All the best, Jill

      • patricia Aug 23, 2011 @ 8:17

        Hey Jill,

        I never saw this comment of yours when you originally sent it! I usually get an email alert when I get a new comment, but for some reason I never got one this time, and I only just now noticed your comment in my sidebar.

        Glad you’re appreciating the thinking behind Fresh Takes. It’s so student-centered, isn’t it?

        I imagine you’re about to start teaching, if you haven’t already. Best of luck!

  • Carrie Pomeroy Jul 31, 2011 @ 11:37

    I love the quotes, especially the first one. My eight-year-old son and I have been talking about how to do more writing together, and we’re both recognizing that my son really hasn’t found a real-life motivation to write yet. He taught himself to read because he wanted to read Garfield comics on his own. He taught himself a great deal about math because he liked playing Monopoly and then because he wanted to figure out how many Lego sets he could afford and how long it would take him to save up for them. I am working on continuing to look for opportunities that would spark a real-world interest in writing for him, and trying to trust that when the motivation is there, the learning will follow, just as it has in the past. Wish I could attend your talks!

    • patricia Aug 1, 2011 @ 22:50

      You’re so right that a “real-world interest” in writing is crucial, Carrie. Good for you for waiting patiently for that to happen. I always tell parents that if they don’t do it sooner, kids will learn to write by the time they want to get on Facebook!

      I know you and I have written about this before, but it bears repeating: writing isn’t the only way to develop a writer. Reading, listening to books, and simply talking are all preparation to becoming an effective writer. Kids who have grown up in richly literate environments pick up the qualities of good writing by osmosis. When they come around to writing themselves, even if they’re older, their abilities are often impressive.

      I’m going to send you a list that I’ll be using in one of my workshops on Authentic Opportunities for Kids’ Writing. It certainly isn’t an exclusive list–we’ll just be using it as a start for some group brainstorming. But reading it might give you some ideas that could inspire B.

      Keep up that trust!

  • Carrie Pomeroy Aug 2, 2011 @ 12:05

    Thanks very much, Patricia! You rock.

  • CathyT Aug 5, 2011 @ 17:09

    Wish I could be at your talks. Maybe a podcast is in your future??

    My 15year old is not generally a writer for others yet though he does write on his own or for his own purposes. I am waiting for the right inspiration to come along. Last year he participated in that November writing a novel in a month internet event and he did well. He w part of a group of kids that met weekly to inspire each other on. I never did get to read his novel but he read a short section to the group and parents so that was great. So he can continue to write for himself and I will give him Ike to explore writing as it pertains to his interests… Mostly planning Dungeons and Dragon plot lines at the moment

    • patricia Aug 5, 2011 @ 20:52

      Oh, I wish you could come too! A podcast? Hmmm…

      I think my favorite quote up there is the last one, by Thomas Newkirk. I absolutely agree with him. There is nothing better to cultivate a writer than self-initiated projects! If you’re son has a few things going on his own, he’s doing what he needs to do. Has he ever looked at People post Dungeons and Dragons-influenced writing there. Check it out:

  • By Word of Mouth Musings Aug 16, 2011 @ 15:19

    OMGosh, are you STILL partying? 😉
    Since we just spent two weeks in Sonoma, and then a week in San Diego – the next trip i have to plan to say Hello!

    • patricia Aug 17, 2011 @ 9:04

      Partying morphed into a vacation. Sounds like you can relate! I’m back home now, and trying to get caught up.

      If you’re ever back in Northern California, then yes, I’d love it if you said hello!

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