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!
12 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: A Writing Kind of Day”
What a lovely poem this is, not only its message but in the way it incorporated the rain into the action of writing poems.
I remember my mother giving me one of his books called A Writer’s Notebook. That started me in keeping a journal and I have been doing so for the past 20 years of my life.
It’s a wonderful book, I agree, Catherine. Fun to hear about your day. You’ve had two weeks in a row of this kind of inspiration-wow!
What a treat to hear Ralph Fletcher speak. I’ve loved his work for a long time, but have never heard him present. The Squished Squirrel Poem is delightful.
I love, love, love the squished squirrel poem. I want to share it with everyone.
Catherine, I am so glad that you captured the essence of what Ralph Fletcher presented in your post. I have heard him speak several times and am always in awe of his writing style. He is one of the literacy luminaries in the field of writing. You reminded me of his book that I need to find in my collection.
Thanks, Catherine, for shining the spotlight on Ralph Fletcher and his poetry and philosophy about mentor texts. I love the idea of “expanding kids’ vision of what’s possible.” =)
I have a friend who wrote a poem about a dead armadillo. I must share Squished Squirrel Poem with him! Personally, I love the drops of trembling feeling rippling outwards.
Catherine, you and I must be thinking alike. I had planned to post about Ralph Fletcher’s “Writing Kind of Day” also, but time ran short and I went with something else. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear Ralph speak twice. Once was at the beginning of his career, and then again about three years ago. He is so inspiring and one of my favorite poets!
This is one of my go to books, Catherine. I last saw Fletcher at TC two summers ago, and came away feeling so inspired. That is his special gift, isn’t it, to keep inspiring us.
It sounds like a lovely day. It’s always inspiring to listen and learn from authors like Ralph Fletcher. You are right; “every day is a writing kind of day.”
Ralph Fletcher never fails to inspire!
Ralph’s been a favorite of mine for a long, long time, and I’ve owned WRITING KIND OF DAY for several years. I used “Squished Squrrel” for several years, then kind of forgot it. Your post made me want to go back and revisit the poem and share it with kids. And I loved hearing Ralph read his work! Thanks so much!