A Slice of Life

Teaching Young Writers

My Own Slice of Life on Teaching Young Writers

Dear Mr. Ralph Fletcher,

I’m a fourth grade teacher that is fortunate enough to work with young writers that love learning tricks and tips for how to become awesome writers. The students I have in my class this year were the same students I taught last in third grade. We looped! As third graders, we read A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You. We were so inspired! We all started our own writer’s notebooks and we began collecting samples of our favorite writing, studying our favorite authors, “stealing” ideas, and practicing new crafts. We typed, printed, and framed our favorite quotes from your book and displayed them around our classroom. As fourth graders, we wanted more. The students in my class asked for more Ralph Fletcher please! So we read on. This year we read Live Writing: Breathing Life Into Your Words. And again we were inspired. Each day we added notes and ideas to our class thinking notebook and we added our ideas to our individual writer’s notebooks. We learned about leads, endings, conflict, slowing down the hot spot, physical description of characters, strong verbs, golden lines, voice, and breaking the rules of writing to make our pieces different. I would like to share a few of the gems that were written, revised, polished up, and published.

Danielle’s Lead: “Dad, do you really have to smoke? Every time I come home I start to cough because of you.” (Danielle tried starting a piece with dialogue. So effective in her writing about how she persuaded her dad to quit smoking.)

Lucas’s Lead: Him. Me. The street. No noise. Hi. Nothing. (Lucas tried sentence fragments to pack his lead with a punch. He was writing about a mysterious man that he often saw walking down his street. He shared that this man never spoke and he always wore the same long black coat. He was so intrigued by this character from his real life that he could barely wait to write about him.)

Ken’s Lead: Silence. Peeing. Trouble. Running. (Ken also tried a sentence fragment lead to write about the trouble his dog got into for peeing in the house. His lead made us laugh and the story that followed was extremely humorous and had us laughing out loud.)

Jovan’s strong verbs : I dashed into the living room and started prowling around. (Jovan changed his verbs from boring to fantastic!)

Dejae’s word choice. : As we both slowly jogged in, it was like Heaven. As the doors swung open, the smell of furniture polish and Windex hit my nostrils. (Dejae wanted her reader to feel like they were entering the empty nail salon with her and her mother. She wanted them to see and smell what she saw and smelled when she was there.)

Charlotte’s word choice: Three days after I got Tucker he was very sick. He was shaking like a leaf. (Charlotte was interested in using similes to make her writing more interesting. So effective in her piece about her new puppy.)

Angelina’s physical description: He has brown hair and his eyes are as green as grass. (Angelina also wanted to perfect similes in her physical description of her dad. So colorful. Creates a beautiful visual for her reader.)

Cristian’s physical description: The color of his shoes and eyes are brown and he has blue overalls with yellow buttons on them. And there is also a plain red t-shirt under his overalls and also a red hat he wears with the letter M that stands for Mario. With a big black hairy mustache under his big pale nose. (Cristian wanted us to be able to visualize every last detail about his character.)

 Jason’s physical description: He has greenish brownish eyes, dirt in his fingernails from working outside all day on cars. He smells like cologne from the soap he uses. He wears Jordan’s and some working boots. (Jason’s character was his dad and he wanted us to see very specific details in our minds.)

There were so many more examples that we would love to share! As individuals we will be writing to you soon! Stay tuned.

Thank you for teaching us how to be better writers.


Jill Tsoukalas & The Room 24 Family











Comments on: "Teaching Young Writers" (7)

  1. So awesome the inspiration your students got from Ralph Fletcher. I’m sure he will be delighted to learn of your writing journey.

  2. Such great writers you have there! Thanks for sharing some of their examples.

  3. I love when students get so excited about learning something new and truly are inspired to try it in their own writing! Good job!

  4. Amazing! So many of our rote “writing programs”, develop repetitive, unexciting writing. These excerpts are varied, informtive, and fun to red. Great job!

  5. I hope you actually send this to Ralph! I love the snippets and I love their creativity. It makes me think about your previous post about your classroom. THAT helps make this kind of writing possible!!!! Great idea for a slice!

  6. I just recently used Live Writing to train some teachers who would be working with “struggling” writers in small groups for the next two months. Ralph speaks to us all, young and old. Thanks for sharing the great work your kids did as a result of his inspiration. He will love hearing from you,.

  7. This is brilliant on many levels. I love the examples – so specific. I love that you gave just the perfect amount of background for each example. I love that you wrote a letter to Ralph Fletcher. Mostly, I love that you used the same letter for your slice because you’re the queen of efficiency. 🙂

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