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Joy Write Question 10

The series of posts for “Joy Write” refer to the title of the text our new Summer Institute participants are reading. This is a fabulous book that examines writing instruction, published in 2017 by Ralph Fletcher. Our SI participants are going to comment on the questions, but any reader is welcome to contribute (whether you have read the book or not).

Chapters 11-12: Ralph interviews himself in the final chapter. If you could add an interview question to ask him, what would you want to know?

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tammy #

    • What percentage of time should students spend engaging in greenbelt writing in and outside of class? Do you have a suggested schedule; end of week, beginning of class period, 3-4x a week, etc. How can teachers encourage students to see themselves as writers and to partake of greenbelt writing outside of class at home? Many students opt out of regular homework completion…Can they be encouraged to do so without monitoring their progress or establishing a level of accountability?

    • How can I engage 12th graders and get them to buy into the idea of joy writing? Tough campers who are perhaps corrupted by the system- of formally structured graded writing/formal workshop model and are unfamiliar with building a greenbelt community and doing informal greenbelt writing? The cliché, “its hard to teach an old dog new tricks,” comes to mind here…or “better late than never…” Students who may have never been encouraged to “joy write…”

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    June 1, 2019
  2. Mark Schmidt #

    Id like to ask Fletcher if his ideas were born of his own personal frustration with a system of teaching that was not engaging students, or if they are a result of life experiences that allowed him the freedom to go beyond the bounds of an institutionalized system. How long was he a teacher for? What caused him to leave the classroom? In doing so, does he consider that he may have lost sight of the daily reality that teachers face in negotiating the competing interests of the stakeholders in education?

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    May 31, 2019
  3. Dan Provence #

    I’d ask him the question that I’d like to ask every politician who makes educational based decisions (yeah, you too, Betsy DeVos). How do we do what we know is right, and what we know is best for kids, when the disparity between education, poverty, and wealth, in this country puts kids at a disadvantage from the start?

    Maybe Betsy could have Fletcher and I on her yacht to answer the question… did she ever get that back?

    Like

    May 31, 2019
    • Mark Schmidt #

      I love the tack youre taking here; there could be no one more poorly suited to be involved in public education than the current Secretary.

      Like

      May 31, 2019
  4. Abigail #

    I would love to get his perspective on applying these approaches in secondary schools. So much of what he says about young writers resonates with me as a high school teacher. After all, my students are often little kids in big kids pants. But there must be some ideas he has for how high school writers and high school pedagogy differ or are approached differently. Or not? Also, let’s say a kid goes through K-6 or K-8 with teachers who are embracing these ideas about writing and writers. What would their high school writing classrooms look like? How would we be building on everything they have leavened about writing and about themselves as writers?

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    May 31, 2019
  5. Meg #

    I love the question about greenbelt writing as a main course or side dish – I think this is a great comparison to what many of us feel about the time. I don’t honestly know what additional question I would want to ask, because every question I think of keeps coming back to time. I would love him to tell me how to fit everything in. (I eagerly devoured 180 Days looking for the same answer). I know what he would say…it depends, I have to figure it out — what would be right for me and my students.

    Other than that, I would like to know if he is as cheerful all the time as he seems, and how to keep that level of positive energy going when sometimes the people around you don’t share the same outlook.

    Like

    May 31, 2019
    • janiceewing #

      Meg, I wanted to comment on the last part of your question. I think it’s so important to find or build a network of supportive colleagues. Unfortunately, they’re not always the people next door or in the faculty room, but they’re as necessary as food and water to keep your energy going! I think that building a PLN is a great area of inquiry to pursue.

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      May 31, 2019
  6. When allowing students to do greenbelt writing, the idea is to give them choice. Not only giving them choice in what to write about, but also whether or not to write anything at all. Fletcher mentions that participating in this type of writing should be optional. I totally understand this idea, but then what should the students who choose not to participate be doing in the mean time? I know it was mentioned that you can give them the option to draw as well, but there is always going to be that kid who is resistant to any option you give them, especially if it is not a requirement. This may seem like a “what-if” scenario, but it is something teachers will regularly encounter. I don’t want these students sitting around doing nothing, which will likely result in them causing unnecessary distraction for the other students.

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    May 30, 2019
    • Meg #

      I love love to hear that answer too!

      Like

      May 31, 2019
  7. My question would be how to convince the powers that be in the district, state, nation to invest in the value of this type of writing, or in any authentic writing that is not tied to an on-demand prompt or a state test. These things become the entirety of writing and that creates the fear that they are “no good” at writing. How can we show kids that we are here to help them grow as writers, not prepare them to take a test?

    Like

    May 29, 2019
    • This was going to be my original question as well, Jen. As a teacher reading this book, I felt both inspired and confined. Although I am very much a proponent of more greenbelt writing, I still feel a bit powerless in a sense. I agree that it is these “powers that be” who may benefit from a book like this. To a degree, there are ways to work around this, but I am still trying to figure out how manageable that is in a high school classroom where the idea of ” creative play” is not necessarily always encouraged.

      Like

      May 30, 2019
      • Tammy #

        I ditto that! As a teacher at the high school level also I agree- the idea of creative play is not encouraged. How do we change this? Is it possible?

        Like

        June 1, 2019
    • Tammy #

      Excellent question, Jen. Seems like a non-winning battle. It stems I think from the mindset of educators at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary level who have not been taught nor trained in the importance of teaching writing and in teaching writing in this informal manner. I feel change can and will occur from the grass roots up…When this approach implemented at every level of the educational process begins to make strides in shifting the achievement gap and causing all students to truly not be left behind. Perhaps then the powers that be will take notice and stand up and listen…Just a thought…

      Like

      June 1, 2019
  8. Jason #

    I really want to know how Fletcher views sustainably undoing writing trauma to reclaim the joy within writing. While I loved this book, an implicit assumption is that his audience is working with young writers who have no formal writing experience or who have a blank slate with writing.

    In my classes (and even in my own identity as a writer), I see so much dissociation with the identity of writer. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard students say, “My high school English teacher said I’m no good at writing. I am a sucky writer,” or some variation of this that is typically tied to assessment. We can give students greenbelt spaces to write, but how do we therapize their inner writer so that they view themselves as capable of producing great writing?

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    May 29, 2019
    • Sandy Shacklady-White #

      Perfectly articulated. I agree and is what I was trying to get at, in part, in my entry. Kids beaten so to speak, before t hey even get to you. How to undo the damage in a thoughtful and individualized manner that leads to letting kids/young adults see they are indeed, writers.

      Like

      May 29, 2019
  9. Kelly #

    Ralph writes that including both greenbelt writing and writing workshop will allow the two kinds to “cross-pollinate” and allow for the transfer of skills to appear in more informal writing. I agree that it would be exciting to see the ideas really stick and know that the students “own them.” My follow-up question would be, what if you don’t see the ideas and techniques from writer’s workshop transfer? I’d imagine you’d intervene during writer’s workshop and follow up on what’s missing or what could be improved upon, but can you use a greenbelt writing piece as a talking point? Or are those pieces totally off limits for “improvement”?

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    May 27, 2019
    • Sandy Shacklady-White #

      Excellent questions. I was wondering about generalization of skills as well, including into other content areas and for middle/high school students generalizing into other classrooms with different teachers who may or may not be aware of the 2 types of writing processes that would be occurring in ELA classes.

      Like

      May 28, 2019
  10. Sandy Shacklady-White #

    I loved this part of the book. I happily admit I love the entire book and Fletcher’s engaging voice and metaphors. I especially enjoyed this part though. How different and refreshing to find something like this in a PD book.

    Pondering… how would Fletcher suggest middle school and high school teachers of students with disabilities (IEP or 504) and/or whose primary language is not English approach the greenbelt environment? What about those students who are gifted who may resist writing as often occurs? In many cases, the students are lagging in skills that are so emphasized in the elementary grades, the GUMS as was referenced in one of the chapters. The acquisition and retention of those skills are those with which the kids failed miserably. They are a bit beaten down by time they reach middle school and developmentally as human beings they are being highly sensitive to peer pressure and how they “appear” to their classmates. As for those who are gifted academically, writing may be too sow for them due to being quick and deep thinkers. Use of computers can assist with this (as well as for any of our learners) but by time they get to middle school, there can be a sense of frustration in getting their words out to readers, whether that is to themselves or to others.

    It is a fascinating time of development yet we all likely recall how geeky and out of place we felt at that time of life. For those who are not fitting he traditional ‘box’, the writing process in any form by middle school may be a hurdle or solid barrier as it may be another area of defeat. I guess part of my question is ho wot meet the emotional needs of the students who resist and abhor writing? In a perfect world, the balance of greenbelt and formal writing would exist from pre-k on up so that such risk taking by middle school would not be so hard to do. In fact, maybe the balance would help some of our identified students not be identified as need special ed services. It may also allow EL to develop in the language at their own pace with appropriate supports. What’s the way to balance the teaching and opportunities for writing for all students as individuals? What is needed for one student is not what another one needs. Our job as educators is to help each of our learners to become competent and confident in the realm of literacy. Any words of advice from the hot air balloon navigator would be highly welcomed.

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    May 26, 2019
    • Jason #

      Sandy, I have basically the same question about how we can mitigate previous traumatic writing experiences with writers. I love your string of questions! I have students in my class from all over the world with any number of skillsets, backgrounds, and writing experiences, so how do we differentiate these kinds of writing instruction for students in meaningful ways that last beyond our classroom?

      Like

      May 29, 2019
    • Right now I have two students who are writing a book in Greek and English. They both come from Greek families and attend Greek school. I think allowing them the chance to write in both languages validates that part of their identity.

      Like

      May 29, 2019

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