What makes a fire burnis space between the logs,a breathing space.Too much of a good thing,too many logs packed in too tightcan douse the flamesalmost as surelyas a pail of water would.So building firesrequires attentionto the spaces in between,as much as the wood.When we are able to buildopen spacesin the same waywe have learnedto pile on the logs,then we can come to see howit is fuel, and absence of the fueltogether, that makes fire possible.We only need to lay a loglightly from time to time.A firegrowssimply because the space is there,withopeningsin which the flamethat knows just how it wants to burncan find its way.--Judy BrownFire
"CatchingFire"Using Inquiry toIgnite Learning ina WritingClassroom
Juanita Ramirez-RobertsonDenton ISD,Texas Womans UniversityMarla RobertsonTexas Womans UniversityJennifer SmithTexas Womans UniversityPolly VaughanLewisville ISD,University of North Texas
Writing is LearningWriting is learning quoteDonald Murray:"meaning is not thought up and then written down.The act of writing is an act of thought" (1985, p. 3)."use writing as a way of learning, a way ofdiscovering and exploring, of finding what you mayhave to say and finding ways in which you may sayit" (p. 6).
Think of your classroom/workEveryone write:What are my wonderings?What are my questions?What am I struggling with?Why am I here?Inquiry
Students Avoid Writing Because...10. They struggle to organize and use themechanics of writing.9. "The teacher didnt give me a pencil."8. They struggle to retrieve the right word or words toexpress an idea.7. "I had some maverick ideas but I did not put themdown on paper as I feared they would be toorevolutionary for you to understand!"6. They feel the process of writing on paper is slowand tedious compared to the fast paced world oftexting, tweeting and emailing.5. They are environmentalists who believe writing onpaper encourages lumber-jacking.4. Students are not allowed to write about whatinterests them.3. They dont want to.2. They dont have the confidence they need anddont think they can write.
Help them light the fire!In the classroom generating writing ideas and topics can beone of the most daunting tasks that young writers face.The teacher’s role is to provide students with strategies forgenerating and selecting their own topics and ideas, notto feed or give the students topics.
• —Books or other texts thatstudents can refer to whenlearning a new writing skill.• —Mentor texts are for everyage and ability level – even theteachers!• —We use mentors in everyaspect of our lives, why notuse them in writing also?What are mentor texts?
Choosing mentor textsYou need to enjoy the text, bedrawn to it in some way.—Does the book provideexamples that you want toteach?—Choose a variety of genres:poetry, fiction, nonfiction,memoirs
Introducing mentor texts• —FIRST, through read-alouds.• —Allow students to enjoy the story, listen tothe words, appreciate the writing.• —THEN, revisit and use as a learning tool.
Using Mentor Texts to Add Detail toWritingDorfman, L. R. & Cappelli, R. (2007). Mentor Texts. Portland, OR: Stenhouse PublishersChoose a book that is familiar to students.—Reread the first couple of pages, leaving out the details.—When students notice, ask them what they want to knowthat was not just read.—Reread the pages, including the details.
Purpose—When we leave detailsout of our writing, itleaves the reader askingmany questions. Wewant the questions to beanswered in our writing,so we add details.
Help them light the fire!What do I write about?—Brainstorm a list of SMALL moments
Start withone sentence—Choose one momentand write about it in onesentence.—The best hot chocolateI ever tasted was inVenice, Italy.
—Look at my sentence.The best hot chocolate I ever tastedwas in Venice, Italy.—What questions do youhave?
Add details—Use the questions tohelp you add details toyour writing.—By answering thequestions, the writingwill be clearer andmore interesting.
Lets Try It!• —Volunteers?• —Your turn:◦Turn to a neighbor.◦Read your sentence and record the questionsyour partner asks.◦Listen to your partner’s sentence and askquestions.◦Answer the questions in your writing.
Independent Writing—Trade your writing with a different neighbor.—As you read the writing, mark if there are any areas thatyou have additional questions.—Trade writing back and revise.—
The goal is forstudents to beginto ask and answertheir ownquestions inwriting.
Without purpose,significant learning isdifficult if notimpossible to achieve.(Wilhelm, p. 8)
Help them light the fire!By recasting a curricular topic in termsof a guiding question, we set thestage for a model of teaching knownas "inquiry"(Wilhelm, p. 8 - See Jacobs, 1989; Smith & Wilhelm, 2006; Travers, 1998;Wiggins & McTighe, 2003)
Teacher InquiryImplementing the Inquiry Cyclein your teaching practice
Early Elementary - MarlaUpper Elementary - JenniferMiddle SchoolHigh SchoolStudents with Services- PollyContent Area/ELL - JuanitaYour Teacher Inquiry
Student InquiryImplementing the Inquiry Cyclein your classroom
Help them light the fire!Writing is a process of"learning to write and writingto learn"-Zinsser, 1988, p. 16
Journal Writing/ReflectionWe only need to lay a loglightly from time to time.A firegrowssimply because the space is there,withopeningsin which the flamethat knows just how it wants to burncan find its way.--Judy Brown
Catching Fire Workshop ReferencesAllington, R. L. (2001). What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-based Programs. New York,NY: Addison-Wesley.Allington, R. L., & Cunningham, P. M. (2006). Schools That Work: Where All Children Read and Write. New York, NY:Allyn & Bacon, Inc.Brindley, R., & Schneider, J. J. (2002). Writing Instruction or Destruction? Lessons to be Learned from Fourth GradeTeachers’ Perspectives. Journal of Teacher Education, 53, 328-341.Cambourne, B. (1988). The Whole Story: Natural Learning and the Acquisition of Literacy in the Classroom. Auckland,New Zealand: Ashton Scholastic.Capello, M. (2006). Under Construction: Voice and Identity Development in Writing Workshop. Language Arts, 83(6),482-491.Corden, R. (2007). Developing Reading-writing Connections: The Impact of Explicit Instruction of Literary Devices onthe Quality of Children’s Narrative Writing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 21(3), 269-89.Elbow, P. (2000). Everyone can write: Essays Towards a Hopeful Theory of Writing and Teaching Writing. New York:Oxford University Press.Graves, D. H. (2002). Testing is Not Teaching: What Should Count in Education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Murray, D. M. (1985). A Writer Teaches Writing. Dallas, TX: Houghton Mifflin.National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges. (2003). The Neglected “R”: The Needfor a Writing Revolution. New York: College Board.
Catching Fire Workshop ReferencesNational Writing Project, & Nagin, C. (2006). Because Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in our Schools. SanFrancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Ray, K. W. (2006). Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop. Portsmouth, NH:Heinemann.Shelton, N. R., & Fu, D. (2004). Creating Space for Teaching Writing and for Test Preparation. Language Arts, 82(2),120-128.Short, K., Harste, J., & Burke, C. (1996). Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH:Heinemann.Smith, F. (1988). Joining the Literacy Club. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemman.Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, trans. M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, and E. Souberman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.Whyte, A., Lazarte, A., Thompson, I., Ellis, N., Muse, A., & Talbot, R. (2007). The National Writing Project, Teachers’Writing Lives, and Student Achievement in Writing. Action in Teacher Education, 29(2), 5-16.Wilhelm, J. (2007). Engaging Readers and Writers with Inquiry: Promoting Deep Understandings in Language Arts andthe Content Areas with Guiding Questions. New York: Scholastic.Zinsser, W. K. (1988). Writing to Learn. New York, NY: Harper & Row.