Pyrotechnics on the Page: discussion wrap-up

August 9th, 2010

Ralph and a spectacular hanging basket of Petunias outside the Tasty Thai restaurant in Kittery, where he and his editor, Philippa Stratton, met for lunch Friday to celebrate the completion of a very successful Ning discussion

We just wrapped up four weeks of lively discussion of Ralph Fletcher’s latest book, Pyrotechnics on the Page: Playful Craft That Sparks Writing.

Moderated by middle-school language arts teacher Amanda Villagomez, the discussion touched on using observation to benefit writing; noticing word play in oral language; mentor texts for word play; and creating classrooms where word play can flourish.

Teachers shared many ways they encourage their students to play with words as well as how they collect interesting pieces of conversation for use in their classrooms. “I love to people watch-whether it’s at the bookstore, mall, or watching people walking in town. While people watching or actually, eavesdropping on their conversations, I get a chance to jot down bits and pieces of their conversations,” wrote Linda Bondi. “Listening to language is as important to a writer as seeing is to an artist,” said Margaret Simon, who added that she takes her writing camp students on a “writing marathon” where they get to listen and observe the conversations around them.

Others noted that they collected great sentences and word combinations from their favorite books, including Tammy Miles, who started such a “craft collection” with her students. “Often times, we’d add to the collection during writer’s workshop. I encouraged the students to mimic other authors and try something new in their writing,” Tammy shared.

Freida Hammett observed that playing with oral language is a bit different than playing with written language. “For young children and for reluctant writers, I would think oral lanaguage play would be the first, and very important, step. Oral language sends a message, too, that you like to have fun,” Freida said.

During the discussion thread about playful classrooms, Jean Marki noted that Ralph’s book was an eye-opener to her about the way she introduces word play to her students. “Yes, I was introducing word play…but as a task not play. I never gave the kids time to play — to try out the word play on their terms.”

Later, the discussion turned to how to deal with students who are excited about a new skill and so they “crowd” their writing with that particular craft. ” I guess I believe that realistically kids WILL overdo whatever craft element we teach,” responded Ralph. “That’s the nature of learning anything new. Given time the strategy will no longer “stick out” or be over-used but will become integrated into the student’s repertoire of writing strategies. It might be wise to use one mini-lesson to introduce a kind of wordplay. Then, after the kids have tried it out, do another mini-lesson showing an example of a writer who really over-does it. The kids will be able to see it, I bet.”

To revisit the entire discussion and read all of Ralph’s responses, you can still visit our Ning page for the archived version. You can also read an excellent interview with Ralph on A Year of Reading blog.

Entry Filed under: Author News,Writing

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