ralph fletcher · Slice of Life Story Challenge · teacher of writing

How has your instruction been impacted by being a Writer?

WRITE your slice. SHARE your link. GIVE some comments to (at least three) other slicers. If you're leaving your comment early in the day, please consider returning this evening or tomorrow to read some of our evening posters' slices.
WRITE your slice. SHARE your link. GIVE some comments to (at least three) other slicers.
If you’re leaving your comment early in the day, please consider returning this evening or tomorrow to read some of our evening posters’ slices.

Ralph Fletcher recently stated:

It may seem intimidating to think of yourself as a “Writer,” but I say that each one of us can be a writer (small w)—someone who puts words onto the page for a variety of purposes. Students will notice. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’re taking the same risk they are taking.

Each person who participates in the Slice of Life Story Challenge is a Writer.  Perhaps you were a Writer before you started the SOLSC or perhaps the Challenge helped you go from being a writer to being a Writer.  Whatever the case may be, I’m interested in finding out how your teaching has been affected by being a teacher-writer.

I finished drafting my keynote for the Penn State York Summer Institute.  Now I’m revising and I’d like to include more than just my own thoughts about the way being a teacher-writer impacted the way I’ve taught writing.  I’d like to know this:

How your instruction has been impacted by being a Writer?

In addition to the link you leave to your slice of life story today, would you mind sharing your answer to this question?  (I’d like to include some of your testimonials about the power of being a teacher who writes regularly in my keynote.)

Thank you, in advance, for your help!

62 thoughts on “How has your instruction been impacted by being a Writer?

  1. I am a new teacher, who follows your blog even though I have not taken up my pen to write this year. I have been so overwhelmed with getting my classroom off the ground. I have been inspired, however, by hearing about and reading the work of teacher/writers on this site. I am fully prepared to be inspired by your keynote at the York Penn State Institute. In fact, I have already been inspired by being addressed as a “colleague” and the reminder of what an impact writing has on our teaching, teaching has on our writing. For our students, this is a winning proposal. I excitedly anticipate your challenge in a few weeks!


  2. Katie Wood Ray is the person who helped me to understand just how important it was for teachers of writing to be writers. She said that you wouldn’t take your child to a dance teacher who couldn’t dance or to a piano teacher who couldn’t play the piano. She said that teachers have a job that is doubly hard. They need to know how to do the thing – whatever it is (in this case, writing) – and then they need to break it down and talk about the doing of it so that others can understand. She called to us to hop onto the smart train to learn to write or read or dance or play better so that we could be better teachers.
    I find myself urging teachers to write alongside of kids. My own writing alongside of teachers gives me the understanding of the process, the failings, the triumphs of doing it. The power of the community, the need for feedback. The lifeblood of feedback. It makes me know that teachers can’t wait days to give back assessments. That students must feel the touch of their hand on their work each day in the feedback we give.



  3. Last Day Emotions

    Great question – impact on teaching and writing – it is everything! I don’t think I really taught writing until I began writing myself. The Minnesota Writing project got me really writing beyond short personal journal entries and that made me look at what I do in the classroom. Writing groups, editing groups, looking at authors and their writing … How long do you have?
    My writing changed everything I did in the classroom. What a gift it was! and is!


  4. I have just recently begun to realize that I HAVE to write. It is my prozac…it is what gets me through my day. If I had to stop I would probably need a 12 step program of some type. As a teacher, I love the way my recent writing has lead me to be a better teacher, and a better “understander” of what students feel when something is assigned to them. We must write because we WANT to write, not because someone forces us to. I strive to create opportunities for my students to WANT to write…for them to be so full of ideas that the words will just pour out of them, rather than having to be coaxed out of them. This past year when I gave my 7th graders the opportunity to write commercials for something we pulled from the Random Topic Box, we laughed until we cried at Connor’s commercial for Wacko’s Horsebarn, where the small print (quick talking at the end of the commercial) warned us: “Not a real unicorn and not all horses have all four legs.” When I asked who wanted to share these pieces, the hands were shooting in the air! Be still, my teacher’s heart!



  5. An old, old book discovered in our school office is the inspiration for this post…How Times Have Changed http://www.raisingreadersandwriters.com/2013/06/times-have-changed-slice-of-life-tuesday.html

    I think the most important way that my own writing has influenced my teaching is that we build a community of writers in my classroom that includes all of us…not just me and not just them. We talk together as writers, share our struggles and our success on equal footing. I also have a better understanding of what my writers go through, especially when I am with a writing group or a class where I am stretched outside my comfort zone. My mind immediately goes to my students who often feel out of their element during writing workshop. I share my writing process with my kids and I tell them when I’m having a hard time with something. We really are in it together.


  6. How does writing myself help me teach writing? There are too many ways to even begin to count them all, but the biggest impact comes from me just jumping in with my students and experiencing all of it with them–the times it flows and connects with readers, the times I stare at a blank screen wondering if words will ever come, the times the clock is ticking and the deadline is looming, the times I struggle to find the right words to match what is in my head and heart. When they struggle and succeed, I can reassure them that I know because I’ve been there, too.

    My slice today is a book review: http://kaymcgriff.edublogs.org/2013/06/04/epitaph-road-by-david-patneaude/


  7. After participating as a writer doing the SOLC with my 9th graders last year and my grad students this year, I was reminded of how doing something that you don’t normally like but can do is challenging and frustrating. Reading always came easily to me and I love teaching reading. I prefer not to write, but I taught writing. Participating in the SOLC brought out the Writer in me as well as served as a reminder for me about the teaching of writer. It taught me about the value of my voice as well as the incredibly exhausting work it is to write something decent or worthy of reading. It also reminded me about the value of the daily writing practice necessary for all Writers, but especially with student writers even if it was 1st draft writing. It also reinforced the power of feedback, knowing you an audience, and what writing in the digital world looks like for Writers. Until SOLC, I didn’t know that I would appreciate the audience or feedback so much. It also reminded me about the power of setting a goal, sticking to it, and achieving. These lessons don’t just translate to me as a Writer or my students’ as a writer, but they matter to our lives.

    After a two-month hiatus, here is my slice reflecting on the 7 weeks of proctoring I have just finished…


    I have a stack of reading and many plans to write this summer!


  8. http://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/slice-of-life-challenge/

    For me, the teaching of Literacy is a passion and I think I enthuse and encourage more than I would if I were not a writer, it is something I love – and I can also spot talent in their pens, I was a teenager when I was first published.
    I have run whole school co-ordinated poetry pushes, many children were successfully published in an autobiography and I know how special this opportunity was for them. I have created published poets!
    I have a deeper understanding of the subject and a real love of the subject. I know many of those I have taught do too.


  9. I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve always wanted to be a Writer. But I thought you had to do or be someone special to be a Writer. I didn’t think I was good enough. In first grade “writing” in the early days was copying words from the board. It was what I was taught. I hated it, and so did my kids.
    After joining this community, reading some amazing books, and writing on my blog, my teaching and ideas of being a writer changed. Every child is a Writer. Every child can Write. I realized if I could get past my fear, past my feelings of needing to be someone special to be a Writer, then I could show them how they too are Writers. So I started writing. I joined this wonderful community, I made my blog, and I share all of that with them, yes even in first grade. Because I am a Writer, so are they! It’s the best part of our first grade day. AND our tests scores have gone up in language!



  10. Being a writer has helped me show my students what words can do: how they can connect people, how they can deepen understanding, how they can speak the truths we hold deep inside us. Being a writer helps my students see that writing is not just something people do to go through the motions of school, but something people do because it holds real value in their lives. Being a writer helps me connect with my students and help them see that “doing school” is not the same as living life. It also helps them see that real writing is messy and personal!

    Your question fits my post perfectly, as I’m sharing what I wrote in the first meeting of my local Writing Project about who I am as a writer: http://ihabloespanglish.blogspot.com/2013/06/i-am-writer.html


  11. Being a Writer has impacted me as a teacher. I feel a pit in my stomach on Tuesdays when I haven’t written a slice. I feel the stress (like my students) of “I don’t have anything GOOD to write about.” Then I talk with someone and a story emerges. Being a Writer has reminded me to give my students plenty of time to talk before they write. This time gives them a chance to process their ideas and remember details.

    We’re going a bit stir crazy at home while my husband recouperates. http://readingamidthechaos.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-little-stir-crazy.html


  12. How your instruction has been impacted by being a Writer?

    I have started giving my students more time to revise their writing as I have come to the conclusion that students do want to improve their writing pieces. By spending time even with my sheltered high school English students is proving beneficial. Students who were unable to write an essay at the beginning of the year, are now writing multiparagraph essays. So, revision, revision, revision!

    School year is coming to an end…..


  13. My instruction has changed in that I now think of writing from the perspective of my students. I’ve grown, learned, laughed, struggled, cried, and rejoiced in all my writing and every other slicer’s as well. Some things I expected my students to feel before but found some newly discovered feelings as I went through the challenge and continue to try to live my life as a writer. But, I think the biggest change hands down has to do with the response of other writers about your work and my response to theirs in return. Handing that on to my students has been a gift that I hope they take in to become more reflective writers and feel comfortable jumping into a writing community just like this one.

    and here is my slice for today. A tale of two summers…



  14. I think the biggest shift for my instruction was admitting that I am a writer. We are all writers. Sharing my journal with my class (not everything!) my lists, my notes, my stickies, my sloppy sketches, has opened up our conversation as a community of writers. I am not the best writer, but I write and I write often and I write anywhere about random things. It is pretty authentic and that is what I want my first grader’s writing to be as well. It felt really good to type that.

    My goal for next school year! http://www.mymommyreads.com/2013/06/reflecting-on-school-year.html


  15. Oh my goodness! These responses are poignant. I’m going to have to direct the audience towards ALL of the comments in this post for lots of inspiration. (AND repost them in a post in August as inspiration for other teachers.)

    Here’s my slice, which is about a butterfly phobia (which I’m hoping is just a toddler phase). It is also the story of how I get myself into trouble by not being explicit enough with my daughter. (Didn’t I just write a post about language last week? Hmmm… Interesting.)



  16. http://theamyrudder.blogspot.com/2013/06/noticing-fortunately-and-unfortunately.html
    A fortunate and unfortunate reflection on family time last night. Tuesday’s Slice of Life…

    How has writing impacted my instruction?

    I think it has made be a better teacher of writing. It’s helped me to “walk a mile” (or a little more 🙂 ) in the shoes of my students and set expectations for what I want them to do when they write…writing and blogging also helped me to carry the concept down to the little people I teach-first graders-who’ve amazed me with the progress they’ve made in a short period of time as they have also become bloggers and commentors of each other’s blogs and blogs of other kids just like them in the United States and Canada. I never would have had the courage to even try this with them if I hadn’t done it myself here first. So thank you for providing a community where writers can come and try it out and seek support from other writers who are all doing the same!


  17. Joining SOLSC and writing has made an immeasurable difference in the classroom. Students notice and are encouraged when their teacher is writing and sharing with them. Writing has become part of who I am, too- I love being part of this community!

    My slice this week is a fictionalized account of a real event a friend told me about. Something I wish I had thought of doing for someone special on their birthday… though I probably could only have rented a convertible…


  18. As the one who posts my mom’s entries, I am going to answer this question about the impact of being a writer on my mom. While she is no longer “instructing” in the classroom, writing for this blog has definitely been something I would include on something titled “Instructions for Living a Good Life.” Writing gives her a weekly focus, a way of connecting to family that is far flung and a way of processing her life. Amelia, daughter of Fran



  19. The biggest thing I recognize when working with my son on writing is that sometimes the mind needs extra time to formulate what it is trying to say. I can sit at my computer and stare at a blank screen and get nothing. But go outside or head to a pool and my mind sees all these little things that prompt writing. Forcing my son to write at the kitchen table for a set amount of minutes doesn’t work for him, and that is okay. He is creative when the creativity hits! And here is my slice. It is my annual wrap up of our school year: Closing out Third Grade and Preschool http://jessicawhitmore.com/blog/2013/06/04/closing-out-third-grade-and-preschool/


  20. I’ve been thinking about Stacey’s question all day. I think being a writer and a teacher of writers goes hand in hand. I am much better at working with writers now than I used to be. We all struggle to get words on paper together. I don’t ask students to do any writing that I haven’t tried myself. I often writer under my projector so they can see my process and hear me talk about it. I’ll also write as I walk around the room. I show them my blog posts. They know I am a writer (and a reader) and that I will understand their struggles and sometimes, their procrastination 🙂

    Today is our next to last day of school. My post is a little glimpse into what I will miss


  21. The connection between teaching and learning is so obvious but is not emphasised in our profession. When I started to examine my life as a reader I became a better teacher of reading. It wasn’t until much later when I started writing here and started seeing myself as a Writer that it dawned on me the same correlation exists. This is what keeps me in the classroom after 32 years. There is always ao much to learn.
    Which brings me today’s writing about what influences we take in:



  22. My students sometimes say they don’t have anything to say. I feel that way right now. What a treasure in comments today. What could I possibly add? I came by to post a quick link and reconnect. I haven ‘t sliced in a few weeks–stampeded by my school schedule, writing got pushed to make way for scheduling or packing and moving teachers or conferencing with students or reading. I feel writer’s feelings. I face writer’s questions (and doubts). Being all in as a writer in the classroom helps me anticipate and meet students at the point of need. If I struggle with narrowing my focus, or finding an ending or zooming out from an image, students likely struggle too. Learning is in the experience. How could I lead without it?

    Stacey, I wish I could sit in on your keynote! It’s going to be fantastic. Thank you for sharing so much of your process with us.



  23. Repeat to self – I will make this quick, I will not obsess about my response. . .
    I get in my gut that writing is hard, but I also get that writing is fun. I love reading responses of others to my writing, so I’m starting to understand how important the sharing part is for all writers. Resolution for next year’s writing workshop: Carve out more time for sharing.
    Today, my quick post is a gift to self –


  24. I’m absolutely a better teacher of writers for having become one myself. I know how hard it is to think of ideas, meet deadlines, stare at a blank page. I know how scary it is to share my own writing with an audience and what it feels like if no one responds. I know what it is to put yourself out there, which is what we expect of our students without realizing it. I am grateful that I finally took the leap into writing so I can help my students by understanding more of where they are coming from.

    My slice today has to do with reading and how it is intertwined into my life.


  25. I thought I taught writing well until I became a Writer and experienced the struggles and the joy that this exercise brings. Now my instruction is more authentic and less mechanical – more real. I said earlier that writing helps me find myself, and now that is what I want to help my students to do when they write.

    today’s slice is about brief moments in time and the ways our actions affect others:


  26. I’ve thought about this question since the first day of the SOL challenge back in March. I’m an administrator who oversees district curriculum. I never considered myself a Writer. I cringed at the thought and avoided it whenever possible. But then I started writing everyday with 18 teachers in my district. We bonded as a group. We got to know each other better….as real people……as Writers. I feel like, at least I hope, these teachers were happy that I joined them on this journey. I hope they felt like I could understand what they were experiencing with their students because I was right there with them. Just as a teacher shouldn’t expect students to do something they’ve never done, I believe administrators should “live” what their teachers are asked to do whenever possible. My experiences with this challenge have guided every curriculum decision I’ve made since I began Writing. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done both personally and professionally.

    My slice on a small moment in time that I noticed last Saturday:


  27. My classroom size is small. I have one student. She wakes up to me writing as I write every day at 5:00 in the morning. She sees me reading books on writing.
    We talk about story ideas and how to make the characters come alive.
    My student, my daughter has her own blog, http://www.timberhodges.com. She is writing a book and making comic strips about her dog.

    My post today is about the power of positive thinking, or what do you do when you get a flat tire, or two flat tires.


  28. Such a thoughtful post, Stacey. I have been thinking about my own writing habits in the context of teaching writing workshop so much these days, as we wind down our school year and I assemble writing portfolios. For my part, I don’t think I became a real writing teacher until I began writing everyday, myself. Now that I can show my kids my own writing process and describe how I make choices to improve and fine tune my own drafts and sketches, my writing instruction has gone from “here’s a mentor text, now you do it” to “here are some writing moves I’m working with, and let’s talk about how it works.” My kids see me as a fellow writer, struggling with the very same writing issues they have. I believe that’s empowering. Kate and Maggie wrote an excellent piece on their blog Intent yesterday (http://kateandmaggie.com/2013/06/03/the-do-re-mi-of-writing/) likening the practice of writing to the practice of music – running through scales, perfecting the moves. When my kids see how I practice, how I go through the scales in order to play my instrument (in this case my writing) better, they know that this is meaningful work and that our writing conversations are informed by the fact that we practice together. Thanks for giving me the chance to do a bit of reflection before my teaching day, Stacey. Here’s my slice:


  29. I can’t imagine being a writing teacher without being a writer myself. The same goes for reading. Even if you don’t love to read or write you should at least attempt writing with your students in class so that you can experience first hand what might be some of the difficulties they are experiencing; writers will experience similar challenges and victories, no matter what their age. How can I identify with my students’ challenges when I don’t face them myself? How can I offer advice or suggestions and plan appropriate instruction if I can’t identify what my students need at any particular point in time? And, the best way to identify their needs is to recognize them as those I’ve experienced myself. Yet, I think the same can be said for just about every subject that is taught in schools. So, it might be better to say that what’s important is to be curious and inspired and to want to express that in some way. To want to learn is, in part, what writing and reading are about, but it’s also the meat of other topics and engagements.

    Here’s my slice for today http://ateachersruminations.blogspot.com/2013/06/esl-ruminations-3.html


  30. http://reflectionsontheteche.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/the-habit-of-generosity/

    Today my Slice is the first in a series I am planning this summer to respond to the book “8 Habits of Love.”

    Like others, I was planning to plop in my link and go. And you are making me think before I’ve had my coffee!

    Writing has become so much a part of me as a person that it is difficult to even remember how I could be an effective teacher without being a writer. I took the Writing Project 18 years ago, so being a writer/teacher is who I am. An example of how not only does writing inform instruction, it also builds relationship is my Poetry Friday post: http://reflectionsontheteche.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/what-if/ One of my students is moving on to middle school. In her gift to me, she wrote a poem. I wrote a response to her in the same form.

    The Slice of Life challenge entered my classroom full force this year and made my students feel like Writers. With my students I build a community of writers. We write together and talk about writing together. Being a writer myself makes this community possible. I am with them as a participant and a coach. Yes, a coach is a good metaphor because a coach has to know the game. A coach leads by example and encourages his team.

    I know you know that this blogging community is important. Looking forward to my weekly slices makes me reflective of my life and my teaching practice. Reading other blogs gives me support in the work I do and new ideas to try. I also feel connected to a wider audience. Having a real audience makes my writing meaningful and better. Thanks for asking the question and all my best for your presentation.


  31. I wish that more English teachers saw themselves as writers. Can you imagine? I know that the September I returned to the classroom and announced to my brand new 8th graders that I was a writer and that they were writers as well and that we were about to start writing together, one kid raised his hand and asked ” You mean we aren’t getting a new Warriners book this year?” And my teaching was never the same again.
    But for me as a writer, I need a community. I have it with the Hudson Valley Writing Project when we are face-to-face in different institutes but this writing community, lives forever, for as long as Two Writing Teachers lives. We are a community and it only seems to grow. And it has moved to our own blogs. I could just not sustain a pen and paper journal with only my eyes. Once I was opened to the world, I was in!

    And for this week, I’m sharing my Pluck guitar community. http://blkdrama.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/playing-with-pluck/


  32. What a way to wake up! Your thoughts and reflections about my question are profound. Thank you for answering with such depth! I have a feeling choosing a few to share is going to be tough. (I’m up for this tough task.).

    I know folks usually come by to drop of a link and click on other ones. Perhaps that’s why I’m so humbled by the thought you’ve put into these responses. Thank you so very much!


  33. I used to be an “avoider” when it came to writing. When I decided to become a teacher I realized it was unfair to teach writing and have expectations for my students if I was not a writer myself. I began to use a journal to write about moments in my life. It was not until I joined the Slice of Life Challenge that I truly felt like a writer. It is so empowering to receive comments about my writing from complete strangers. The encouragement gives me confidence and inspiration. It has been a life changer for me.


  34. I wrote my post last night planning to do a quick link and run but your question is the essence of why I do this every week. I write, now, because I see that it helps me organize my thoughts and save memories; however, my writing is better, stronger and encouraged by this writing community filled with models and the ever important feedback. I’ve taught writers for many years, but now I know that if you want kids to read, you must read to them, with them and for them. If you want kids to write, you must write to them, with them and for them. We are their models of literate lives – a daunting challenge!

    Today’s post is about my family challenges this week – hoping to save the words and memories of even the most daunting situations.


  35. My post today is about how reading and my “reading place” dramatically altered my life as a teenager. As summer is approaching, I am thinking not only about what I want to read, but where I want to read.


    Viewing myself as a writer has single-handedly altered my view on my teaching of writing. I have struggled with what my students’ struggle. I have celebrated my successes, as do my students. My looking at my own writing has allowed me to co-author my classroom environment with the students that I teach. (This is true for both the children I have taught and the adults I have taught.) My writing, along with a growing knowledge of writers’ workshop that began in 1989 when I attended my first National Writing Project, has been the impetus to all I know about student-centered instruction.


  36. Can you imagine choosing a doctor, say, — a neurosurgeon who really hasn’t done much actual brain surgery. Or would you take tennis lessons at $50 a pop from someone who is not a tennis player? How about an auto mechanic saying your car really needs an overhaul — that much he can see on the diagnostic machine, but he will be unable to perform the work because he doesn’t have the tools or the requisite skills?
    Only two places I can think of where this lack of training is acceptable. The first is, well, unavoidable and that’s parenting. You can’t be one until you are one, and then it’s on-the-job training, sink or swim. The other is writing instruction in our public schools. Just assign it and maybe mark a grade on it. No preparation in teacher ed classes. Many of the teachers who give writing “grades” could not write the assignment or the assessment with a passing grade on the rubric. But they can hide behind their office.
    Writing is personal, revealing. Hard. It takes time to learn. It is not intuitively obvious how to teach it…and yet, in my experience, there are few things that are more rewarding in a classroom than a vibrant writers workshop. Does a teacher need to be a great writer? No. Those get published and leave teaching.
    But is it important to write along with your students? Absolutely. Try the tasks you are asking them to do? Show them the fear and awkwardness of revising on the document camera? Read revealing memoir about your fifth grade life? Yes. It is essential experience. The personality and writing life of the teacher is, I think, vital to the workshop. Otherwise it may become a program and gawd knows we have enough of those in public education.


  37. It’s not an easy answer to say quickly, Stacey, but I guess I would say that the impact of writing with my students means that it erases the ‘us and them’ scenario of our workshop. I am right in there both groaning and glowing at my words, at the challenges and successes. When I began this, a long while ago, but not at the beginning, I began to see a camaraderie among us (me too) that was never there before. Best wishes for your address! http://teacherdance.blogspot.com/2013/06/i-could-write.html


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