Celebrating Writers: A Spotlight on 95th Street Preparatory School

Welcome to our new spotlight series. We hope to highlight and celebrate innovative schools and educators with whom we are privileged to work alongside in this series.  We feel the energy and passion these inspiring educators bring to their schools and we want to share this energy with you to inspire your practice.  We hope to spark some ideas you can take back to energize your school.

Here we are celebrating an inspiring school in LAUSD, 95th Street Preparatory Elementary School.  Along with the amazing 95th Street Preparatory School principal Carlen Powell, Growing Educators hosted a recent event with the prolific writer Ralph Fletcher.  During this event, both the 95th Street Preparatory School leadership and teachers were incredibly welcoming and made us all feel the energy of their school.

Writer Ralph Fletcher, Growing Educators Co-Founder Renee Houser, and Principal Carlen Powell

Writer Ralph Fletcher, Growing Educators Co-Founder Renee Houser, and Principal Carlen Powell

During our visit to the school, it got us thinking about this question: What message does your school send to visitors about your writing beliefs?  95th Street Preparatory School’s message about writing was loud and clear to all visitors: they believe in the power of process writing, writing workshop, and celebrating their writers.  Energized by their passion for writing, here are our three innovative ideas on how to celebrate writing at your school to send the message: writers are celebrated here!

1. Celebrating Writing in Public Spaces

  • Consider creating wall space in your communal school areas, like your auditorium, cafeteria, media center, or library to display student writing.
Sending a Message about our Beliefs in the Power of Writing

Writing Process Walls in Visible School Spaces

  • Also, consider not only displaying published pieces from all grade levels, but also writing in various stages of the writing process. Notice the images from 95th Street Preparatory School below include displayed writing from the collecting, drafting, and editing stages of the writing process.  What a powerful message to send to students and visitors: the journey through the process of writing is as important as the final product.
95th Street School Writing-Collecting Stage

95th Street School Process Wall-Collecting Stage

95th St Blog 6

95th Street School Process Wall-Drafting Stage

95th St Blog 3

95th Street School Process Wall-Editing Stage

95th St Blog 4

95th Street School Process Wall-Celebrating our Emergent Pre-K Writers

95th St Blog

95th Street School Process Wall-Celebrating our Emergent Kindergarten Writers

Celebrating Process Writing In Your School

Celebrating Process Writing

2. Celebrating Writing Within the Classroom

  • Consider making your writing celebration a special experience for your writers.  Kindergarten teacher, Mindy Wise, created an unforgettable experience for her Kindergarten writers: they celebrated their published pieces around a campfire in their classroom.  You’ll notice in the picture below that she dimmed the lights, handed out flashlights, and her writers shared their published pieces around a “campfire.”  Of course, your writing celebrations don’t need to be this elaborate, but you know her writers will remember this experience for years to come.  Thanks for sharing this inspiring idea Mindy!
Celebrating Writing Campfire Style

Celebrating Writing Campfire Style

  • Consider reading a poem to begin and end the writing celebration.  Photocopy the poem on colored paper and have one of your writers hand out the poems to any celebration visitors: parents, guardians, school support staff, other students, etc.  To begin the celebration, all writers and visitors read the poem aloud to participate in a shared experience.  To end, everyone reads the poem again.  What a great tradition to begin with your writers.  One writing celebration poem might be: “Catch a Fall Star, Put it in your pocket, Save it for a rainy day. Catch a Writing Moment, Put it in your notebook, Save it for a writing day!”
  • Finally, consider creating writing business cards for your writers to celebrate their new status as a published writer.  Sites like Vistaprint.com allow you to make free business cards and only charge a nominal fee for shipping.  Writers feel professional and can share with their families their new status as an author of multiple genres.
Writing Business Card

Student Writing Business Card

3. Celebrating Writing 2.0

  • Consider a digital celebration of writing using multimodal composition.  Create a classroom blog and have your writers publish their final writing pieces online.  Free sites like Blogger.com, Shutterfly.com, or Weebly.com can get you started and are user-friendly.  Sites like our host, WordPress.com, come with a nominal fee but offer more customization and might be perfect for your classroom blog.
  • Also, consider using the web tool Glogster, a graphical blog, to create virtual posters to celebrate student writing.  Writers can develop virtual posters that include audio, video, text, hyperlinks, and images that support their published pieces.
  • Finally, consider a podcast to celebrate student writing.  Invite family members, other school staff, and friends to join in a celebration of writing virtually.

However you choose to celebrate writing, remember the message you are sending to your writers, their families, and your community: we believe in our writers and support their successes.  We are proud of the writers in our school!

We’d love to hear from you. How do you celebrate writing in your school?  What traditions do you have during a writing celebration? What are your writing celebration rituals? Leave us a message to inspire other educators!

Primary Writing Process

Primary Writing Process

To find out more about the prolific and inspiring author Ralph Fletcher, visit his website here and follow his blog here.

To find out more about 95th Street Preparatory School, visit their school website here.

Written by Growing Educators Staff Developer Courtney Kinney

Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices

In his intriguing new book Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices, renowned author and educator Ralph Fletcher challenges educators to think about creating boy-friendly classrooms so their voices can be heard.  We were honored to have Ralph as one of our keynote speakers at both our 3rd Annual Summer Conference on the Teaching of Writing and our 2nd Annual Summer Conference on the Teaching of Reading and Balanced Literacy, as well as our guest speaker at our recent conference: A Day with Ralph Fletcher.

Author Ralph Fletcher and Growing Educators Co-Founder Jessica Martin

In both his keynote addresses, Ralph Fletcher discussed working with apprehensive writers and how to create classroom environments that are safe places to write where risk-taking is supported and encouraged. He also discussed what subjects our boy writers are passionate about, what motivates them as writers, why they like to incorporate violence into their stories, and how much violence should be allowed. He challenged us to think about why we so often misread and misunderstand the humor boys include in their stories and to revisit writing genres that are more boy-friendly, including graphic novels, fantasy, and true fiction.  He suggested that parody and satire are a central genre that motivates boys to write.

Ralph also discussed other differences between girl and boy writers: girls draw in nouns, boys in verbs. They essentially live in the action of a writing piece, hence some key elements of boy writers include forbidden objects, chases, danger, and a social nature to their writing: boys show connection by what they do (action) together (research from Newkirk).

Ralph Fletcher at our 2nd Annual Summer Conference on the Teaching of Reading and Balanced Literacy

Growing Educators: A Day with Ralph Fletcher

Ralph also discussed the role of mentor text in supporting all our writers, urges us to give students an opportunity to react to text, and cautions us not to “squeeze all the juice out of a mentor text.” He also supports the idea of boy writing clubs to foster a sense of connectedness our boy writers crave. Below is a list of mentor text Ralph suggests will support our boy writers:

  • Couple of Boys Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
  • Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile
  • The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri and Jesse Joshua Watson
  • How They Croaked: The Awful Ends to the Awfully Famous
    by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O’Malley
  • The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  • A Tale of Dark and Grimm Adam Gidwitz
  • Ice Drift Theodore Taylor
  • Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
  • King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher
  • Lunch Lady by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • Bad Island by Doug Tennapel
  • Guy-Write: What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know by Ralph Fletcher

To learn more about Ralph Fletcher and boy writers, check out his Blog or Website.

Written by Growing Educators Staff Developer Courtney Kinney