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Saturday, July 6, 2013

How Do You Compose?

Authors compose in many ways. Some storyboard while others list, yet many just let words flow as characters develop across blank pages. To me, writing is like a road trip. There is a starting point or point A, but getting to point B can be a difficult journey. Adventure, battles, decisions, pitfalls, and surprises happen along the way. As a writer, perhaps I took "The Road Less Traveled" by Robert Frost much too seriously!

It doesn't matter what method you use to compose as long as it works well for you. However, if your method does not produce good results, then it's time to try something else. One of the best series of books on writing comes from Ralph Fletcher. The short, easy-to-read books are packed with gems and tidbits, or stories about composing and writing. Young or old, Fletcher will have you engrossed in writing in no time. 

Here are a couple of Fletcher's books: 

Start with "seed ideas": 
Move onto revising and editing:
Then write your life story:
Or, try writing poetry:

How do I use Fletcher's books in the classroom? Students read "How Writers Work" and "A Writer's Notebook" as outside readings then complete their weekly quizzes. The two books are divided into four sections each, and students respond with answers: Paragraph 1 = summary of reading/story-within-story with full citations; Paragraph 2 = Analysis or choose one quote then explain its meaning and use citations as needed; Paragraph 3 = connect what you read to real-life or to your own life. Each paragraph must be at least five sentences without quotes. A Quiz Workshopping Sheet that includes skills worked on in class is used. Students use the checklist to highlight skills within their quizzes. They correct errors in pen/pencil then hand in the messy quizzes--I want to see their processes and know they understand skills covered during the week. Skills are added weekly to the quiz checkoff sheets. 

 More information and examples can be found at Visual Learning for Upper Level Learners.  

One last story: 
I had the pleasure of meeting author Ralph Fletcher through National Writing Project's Greater Houston Area Writing Project. His advice and stories create enthusiasm in all learners! A huge "Thank you!" to Mr. Fletcher for inspiring new groups of fledgling writers each semester!

Activities for aspiring writers:

Comic Book Writing

Back-to-School Make a Book

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