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A Writing Greenbelt + a Giveaway

I am using two of Ralph Fletcher’s books (i.e., A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You and Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide) with my graduate students this semester. My students finished A Writer’s Notebook last week and began sharing their own writer’s notebook entries on our course wiki. In addition to sharing their writing, I asked my students to:

[S]hare some thoughts about your teaching and experiences with writer’s notebooks. Type these thoughts into the “Comments” box at the bottom of your wiki page. Do you use writers’ notebooks with your students? If so, how do you use them? Were the exploratory prompts you used this week different from prompts you use (or used in the past as a teacher or student)? Explain. Did this activity raise any questions for you? If so, don’t hesitate to ask them. Where appropriate, refer to specific pages and excerpts from Fletcher’s book A Writer’s Notebook to support your answers.

A handful of my students had experience with writer’s notebooks. However, the majority of them have more experience with journals and prompt writing. Some of my students said they had little time for writer’s notebooks due to the demands put on them by state testing, the way their district has interpreted the Common Core State Standards, etc. As a result, I found myself recommending — over and over again — Ralph Fletcher’s new book, Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing, which debuts today.

Greenbelt writing is raw, unmanicured, and uncurated. In other words, it’s the kind of informal, low-stakes writing kids are comfortable composing, but rarely get the chance to do in many writing workshops. Ralph wants kids to get back to powerful writing that is personal, passionate, joyful, whimsical, playful, infused with choice, humor, and voice, and reflective of the quirkiness of childhood. The whole idea behind greenbelt writing is to infuse energy into students; to spark, engage, and help kids gain their stride as writers.

In part one of the book, Ralph reminds us that writing workshop is “both elegant and stunningly simple” (4). He reminds us that writing workshop works when kids have choice, they’re engaged, have a sense of ownership, a real audience, and have teachers who value invention, originality, and voice (5) However, a lot of “stuff” has been added to writing workshop in the past decade or so and therefore, in many places, it has lots “its spark and sizzle” (7). [There are the demands of the Common Core State Standards and an increasing reliance on programmatic instruction, rubrics, and anchor texts (30).] Through the years, student ownership has been missing from many writing classrooms. Therefore, it is key to find ways to engage students in writing workshop, which will breathe new life into it. Ralph asserts that play attitudes, like having abundant time, an open heart, flexible thinking, an expectation of pleasure (30), are essential to helping kids love to write.

In part two of the book, Ralph shows us how greenbelt/feral writing will make a difference to students in ways that will help them “develop into passionate, capable writers” (70). Ralph asserts that the writing workshop has become more domesticated and therefore students are actively searching for opportunities that allow them to “(re)discover the raw, untamed power of writing” (63). Some of those ideas include: The Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge, a classroom notebook, wonder notebooks, class blogs, Poetry Fridays, writer’s notebooks, spy notebooks, independent writing projects (sometimes referred to as backup work), and opportunities to write in service of figuring things out. [By the way, Ralph argues that greenbelt writing should be 75% of all the writing kids do in school (77).] Anyone who needs new ideas to reinvigorate their students’ love of writing, will find a buffet of ideas in part two of Joy Write.

Chapter ten talks about reluctant writers, which all of us deal with  as writing teachers. In that chapter, Ralph suggests giving reluctant writers more freedom and less structure. For anyone that’s worked with a reluctant writer, this may come as a surprise since too often teachers try to help reluctant writers by handing them graphic organizers or focusing on their conventions. Instead, Ralph encourages teachers to give reluctant writers more opportunities to free-write, journal, write in their favorite genre, or engage in collaborative writing (85-86).

Ralph concludes Joy Write by stating:

A writing greenbelt plays the same important role in the classroom. It opens the window and lets in a wave of fresh air — something that’s sorely missing in too many writing classrooms. A writing greenbelt creates an environment where young writers can flourish, have fun, produce both quantity andquality, and discover for themselves the myriad pleasures of writing (98).

I’ve been working in education — first as a classroom teacher, now as a literacy consultant and adjunct professor — for almost 15 years. Now, more than ever, I see a need for a book like Joy Write. If you’re noticing diminished joy around writing, then you need to get your hands on a copy of Joy Write right now. Read it this weekend… or over your spring break. Don’t wait until summer vacation to get your hands on this book! Honestly, Ralph will show you how to give your students what they need right now. And if right now matters just as much to you as preparing them for next year, then it is imperative for you to read Joy Write.

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing. Many thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing, please leave a comment about this post by Saturday, April 15th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Monday, April 17th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at Heinemann will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – JOY WRITE. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Comments are now closed.

Congratulations to Tracy Mitchell whose commenter number was selected with the random number generator. Here’s what she had to say:

Like most I too am strapped for time. My students enjoy writing. They actually get excited. Which is refreshing. I use our notebooks for a variety of things, brainstorming ideas, free writes, we will use for parts of writing mini-lessons. I do that just so all of it is right there together for reference purposes. I don’t look at their spelling or grammatical errors. I spend most of our time focusing on elaborating and generating ideas. I’m sure I don’t use writing notebooks the way others do. I would love to use Ralph Fletcher’s ideas with my students.

 

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

175 thoughts on “A Writing Greenbelt + a Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. We are trying really hard to make sure writing is joyful in our classroom. My amazing educational assistant has inspired our kids to carry notebooks wherever they go and to write/draw anything and everything.

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  2. I love all his books. I am sadden and proud that my students are using notebooks for the first time ever in my class. I hope to change their feelings about writing in my classroom. This book would help!!

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  3. I started using notebooks with my writers years ago thanks to Ralph’ inspiration. But, sadly I have felt the joy of writing slip away as I try to fit in so many must-dos. This book sounds live a helpful remedy!

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  4. As the writing teacher for 72 students grades 1-5, I struggle to find that balance between providing ample time for self- selected joy writing and ensuring preparation for the state testing. I have several of Ralph’s books. I am excited to read his current book and learn how to provide more time for joy writing.

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  5. I’m just starting to use writing notebooks with and alongside my Kindergarten students. We are all loving them! I truly believe we need to make space and time for students to JUST WRITE! When students make choices about their learning, they are much more engaged. Thanks for the wonderful review.

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  6. Ralph Fletcher’s A Writer’s Notebook helped me inspire kids that I never thought would be inspired to write. His new book looks amazing!

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  7. I am really hoping to get a copy of this book. There are so many great professional books that I can never seem to find in Canada.

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  8. Like most I too am strapped for time. My students enjoy writing. They actually get excited. Which is refreshing. I use our notebooks for a variety of things, brainstorming ideas, free writes, we will use for parts of writing mini-lessons. I do that just so all of it is right there together for reference purposes. I don’t look at their spelling or grammatical errors. I spend most of our time focusing on elaborating and generating ideas. I’m sure I don’t use writing notebooks the way others do. I would love to use Ralph Fletcher’s ideas with my students.

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  9. This would be great to read and be able to share with my teachers!! Many of them will not let go and give the students the choice or chance they need to be successful!

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  10. I attended Ralph Fletcher’s session on the greenbelt idea for writing at NCTE in Atlanta and absolutely loved it! It really affirmed a lot of things I had already been thinking about with regards to writing workshop.
    I can’t wait to read this book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m one of those graduate students in the class that you shared this title with….it’s already on my wish list, so thanks for the recommendation!

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  11. I love Ralph Fletcher’s books! The last one I read was Boy Writers, which gave me so many ideas for helping the boys in my classroom who struggle with writing, as well as my own son. Can’t wait to read this new book.

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  12. This sounds great! I have never come across a book of Ralph Fletcher’s that I haven’t loved to pieces. Every title that I own has made a great impact on me as a teacher and on my studetns as well!

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  13. I have heard Ralph speaking several times. He is wonderful. I also have many of his books. This looks like another gem! Can’t wait to read it!

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  14. I saw Ralph Fletcher present last summer and he is amazing! I have used many of his resources to improve my teaching and my own writing – this book will be another one to add to me collection.

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  15. Thank you for giving us a peak into Ralph’s new book! It’s a little sad that a whole book is needed to remind us that writing should be joyful work, but I agree with you that, now, more than ever, this book is needed! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy!

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  16. Because I’m always thinking of audience and the end goal, I don’t think that low stakes writing comes naturally to me. If that is true, then I doubt I would be doing well to try and implement/teach about it. I look forward to this book.

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  17. Joy Write sounds like just what I need to help the teachers I work with rediscover Writing Workshop! We have moved so far from a true workshop model – whether it be from fear, feeling incompetent, too reliant on the standards – and it breaks my heart to hear kids (and teachers) say “I hate writing!” Can’t wait to get my hands on another great resource from Ralph Fletcher.

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  18. I think it sounds like Donald Graves has been looking over his shoulder and inspiring him with this wonderful concept. I know that “joy” and “write” do belong in the same sentence. Kids deserve a chance to have this feeling.

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  19. This absolutely sounds lik the right resource for the moment….especially reluctant writers. I have one, but also am thinking how freeing this would be to very capable writers.

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  20. Would love to use Ralph’s suggestions with writers. Thank you for another excellent post. Thank you to you and Heinemann for offering this giveaway.

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  21. Wonderful! I have read several of Ralph Fletcher’s books and love them. I am so excited about reading Joy Write, not just because my last name is Joy, but mostly because the topics you’ve shared have already got me thinking and ready to read more. I hope I win! If not, I’ll buy the book anyway. Thank you for this post and I’m a new subscriber to your blog.
    My name is Stacey Joy, 5th grade teacher and writer.

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  22. There is such a need to return JOY to writing…and discovery to all curricular areas these days, I look forward to taking in the advice of this book, and Ralph’s wisdom.

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  23. Your students are speaking the truth! Time is being sucked from the classroom and teachers are reduced to robots. When will decision makers listen?

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  24. I started Sacred Writing Time in my classroom this year and it has changed the way I teach writing. I went from having reluctant writers at the beginning of the year to ones that love to write. My students participated in the Slice of Life Challenge this year but using a notebook. They were to write at home each night. I had 15 of 27 students write for 25 days or more. They loved it! I would love this book to find more ways to help keep their love of writing.

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  25. This sounds like the perfect solution for getting my fifth and sixth graders excited about writing again; especially so close to the end of the year! Thank you for the opportunity, I can’t wait to get a copy and dive right in!

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  26. Ralph Fletcher’s latest work sounds like the perfect solution to getting my fifth and sixth graders excited about reading again! Thank you for the opportunity, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and dive right in!

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  27. This is perfect and coming at a time where the joy really IS being taken out of our kids’ writing! I love Ralph Fletcher and this would be a great addition to my learning library! Thanks for the opportunity!

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  28. I am struck by the use of the words “play attitude” in connection with writing. In our hurried classrooms I fear that playfulness is often held suspect. Observing in a first grade classroom today, the teacher and I noticed how little some children seemed to know that actual unstructured play often requires sharing. It was amazing how a bit of TLC (teacher’s loving comments) helped to redirect two most distressed children. I do think that playfulness during writing would generate a more positive attitude toward writing. Will be putting this book on my list of ‘Must Reads”.

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  29. Ralph Fletcher’s Craft Lessons were the first books that I connected with as a teacher of writing. I’d love to read this book.

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  30. I have loved everything I’ve read of Fletcher’s so far and I have been waiting to read this! It is so easy to get hyper focused on what the students need to learn and loose sight of the enjoyment that writing should bring them.

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  31. I’m new to Ralph Fletcher – thanks for an exciting and comprehensive introduction! I’m adding this to my “next” list!

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  32. I love the idea of more freedom and less constraint during WW! I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately. As a coach, I see my teachers complying with the curriculum restraints with little time given to student choice in writing. They share that students are bored and unmotivated. I love Ralph’s thinking around keeping writing “personal, passionate, joyful, whimsical, playful, infused with choice, humor, and voice, and reflective of the quirkiness of childhood.” AMEN!

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  33. I am a true believer in giving students opportunities to “own” their writing! Sounds like a great resource for getting students there!

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  34. This sounds very interesting. I teach middle school ELLs and while their listening, speaking , and reading is at or approaching grade level, the domain that is low seems to be their writing. I think that the motivation piece, I.e the joy is the key to getting them hooked on writing to express themselves. I will have to read this book to find out more. Very intriguing.

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  35. The focus of our professional development seems to focus around math or reading. This resource looks like a much needed one for me!

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  36. Ralph is one of my favorite authors. His book Boy Writers help me learn how to engage the ones who needed more support from me in a way I hadn’t done previously. I’m so excited about this new book!!!

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  37. The book sounds intriguing.

    I’m so frustrated with the way some are interpreting the CCSS and what they mean for writing instruction in our classrooms. Very disheartening.

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  38. I love that you’re starting those college students out right. I bet they really love your class! I read Ralph’s book about Boy Writers and loved his perspective on letting them have their voice.

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  39. I love Ralph Fletcher’s work. I truly believe in his philosophy and am considering doing my doctoral research on the value of authentic writing.-Maria K.

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  40. I think Ralph Fletcher is a great thinker for today’s educational needs! I learned about Fletcher while I was attending the San Marcos Writing Project ten years ago. I would love to read his newest book to see how he believes writing in the classroom has changed and how we can put writer’s workshop back into the classroom!

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  41. If I win this and have already bought one….I will gift it to a teacher who needs it. This sounds both important and useful. I wish Don Graves were here to share his brilliance, but literacy leaders like Ralph Fletcher can help shoulder the burden of doing “write” by our kids. At IRA (now ILA) in San Antonio a woman at a session saw my flyer where I advocated for my poetry “program” and had put, “Bring joy into your students’ literacy lives”. She told me if I ever wanted to work as a consultant I had to take out the word JOY! No one, then, ie 4 years ago wanted to discuss joy! Only CCLS, rigor and testing. Read William Glasser. When you enjoy what you are doing…it is much more likely you will commit, put yourself “into” it and truly grow. Can’t wait to read this!

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  42. Thanks for introducing me to Ralph Fletcher and his new book. Am not familiar with him and his work, but his new book sounds intriguing.

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  43. This time of year my students need new motivation in writing. Fletcher’s book sounds amazing! I can’t wait to begin reading and using his ideas with my middle school kids!!

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  44. Ralph has been influential throughout my 25 year career as a teacher! He along with Murray, Graves, Ernst daSilva, Newkirk pushed me to engage in my own writing – in that experience I have learned the power of play, flexibility, discovery as a writer which naturally influences the conversations I have with writers here at school! Can’t wait to read Joy Write!!!

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  45. This looks so relevant to writing instruction in our school. I can’t wait to dive into this resource and share the ideas with my colleagues. Thanks for always highlighting quality sources like this on your blog!

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  46. I JUST had this conversation with my 5th grade students yesterday. They are begging to write fiction stories! The Slice of Life Classroom challenge definitely lit a spark that turned into a bonfire!

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  47. Choice is critical when kids write…it’s the driving force behind individual writing growth! I love the suggestions in the post above and would love to learn more of the specifics from JOY WRITE!

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  48. As an Instructional Specialist, I am always looking for ways to inspire and motivate my teachers to have their students write more. This is definitely on my must have list.

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  49. Can’t wait to read this book! I’ve been doing some work as an academic coach with writing this year and I love the idea of giving reluctant writers more freedom and less structure! I’m excited to read Ralph Fletcher’s insights on this!

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  50. I would love new ideas to light a spark under my reluctant writers. I am glad that Ralph Fletcher has a new book with fresh ideas.

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  51. Excited Ralph has a new book out. I still refer to his books when I am writing. I share his books with young teachers all the time. It will be fun to explore this new book and think about how to free up the writing workshop. Unfortunately it is easy to fall back into writing prompts and structure for some teachers.

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  52. A new Ralph Fletcher book!!! I’m so excited! I’ve used many of his other books to guide my writing instruction and even my own writing. I would love a copy of this book! Great write up Stacey!

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  53. I would love to have a copy of Ralph’s latest book to discover additional strategies! I’ve tried this idea two ways in fifth grade: first, protecting as best as I can one-45 minute period a week for that kind of free choice creative writing, and second, launching my school year with a quick overview of the purposes of writing and the various text structures and modeling how one scenario can be written using various writing types, and then giving kids opportunities during a six week period to build their writing notebooks and blog writing that has worked its way through the writing process.

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  54. This book sounds wonderful, and Fletcher’s ideas make sense. It is easier said than done for many of the reason listed. If you are not tenured teacher you may not have the job security to try these ideas out without very negative consequences. I learned writers workshop the way he seems to describe it. I miss doing that type of writing in my position as a reading specialist. Can’t wait to read the book.

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  55. Thanks for this post, Stacey! I agree with Ralph Fletcher about the value of student directed writing time. I’ve tried this idea two ways in fifth grade: first, protecting as best as I can one-45 minute period a week for that kind of free choice creative writing, and second, launching my school year with a quick overview of the purposes of writing and the various text structures and modeling how one scenario can be written using various writing types, and then giving kids opportunities during a six week period to build their writing notebooks and blog writing that has worked its way through the writing process. Both structures were/are very successful, and everyone has been motivated … even reluctant writers.

    I would love to have a copy of Ralph’s latest book to discover additional strategies!

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  56. I’m not a writing teacher but an amateur writer. I wrote short stories when I was younger and always wanted to be the “next great author”. Then life got in the way; and it wasn’t an easy one. I’ve recently gotten back in to writing, again starting with short stories. I think this would be a great book to help me get back to basics and give me confidence to persue my writing goals.

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  57. I would be honored to be selected to win a copy of Joy Write. I feel that I personally need to continue growing in this area so that I can then model it with my students. The more resources and tools that I utilize help with this process. I’m excited to dive into this book.

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  58. What about the opposite end of writing workshop–reluctant writers because this is brand new for them? It’s our first year and the older students do not like workshop, still lean very heavily on teacher approval, and their writing is just not good! Would Fletcher’s books address some of these issues?

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    • I started writing workshop with fifth graders multiple years in a row. It took awhile for their mindset to change since it is so different than other methods for teaching writing. Over time, your teachers will find ways to help their students rely more on each other and less on them (the teacher).

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      • I’m with Stacey…I’m usually the first teacher using writing workshop with my students. At first, they really balk at not having a prompt to follow. However, as soon as they figure out that what matters is their interests and their voice, they are hooked. When I start giving them prompts at the end of the year in preparation for provincial testing, they always say, “But that’s not what I want to write about!”

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