Teachers for Teachers | It’s Monday! A Professional Book That Will Take Your Breath Away #IMWAYR
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It’s Monday! A Professional Book That Will Take Your Breath Away #IMWAYR

When you read something written from the heart, it takes your breath away.   The stories the writer shares draw you in and lines from the text replay in your head long after you finished reading.  We often get this feeling when we read a memoir, a story, or a poem, but a professional book?  Yes, when we read Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers it took our breath away.  In this book, Ruth weaves together three voices – her voice as a mother, her voice as a writer, and her voice as a writing teacher.  These voices tug at your heart and fill your head with possibilities.

In the introduction, Ruth explains how she and her husband, Andy, adopted four children, 3 of which have had hard beginnings in life.  To help us understand some essential teaching moves to entice hard-to-reach writers, she shares stories from their lives.  These stories make you laugh, break your heart, and show you the power we all have to alter a child’s path.

In part one, Ruth shares the brain research explaining how trauma impacts children’s brains.  Children who experience trauma, live in fear. “Fear of being hurt.  Fear of being cold. Fear of being hungry”(16).  In the classroom, these fears are often masked by anger, anxiety, or apathy and are easy to misinterpret.  As she shares, “Environment and circumstance do influence a child.  So do altered amygdalae, …it doesn’t matter whether there is a warm bed upstairs, the child will still feel fear first and most strongly.  If we are going to help children rewrite their histories of hard into stories of hope, then we need to develop new thinking paths in the brain.  The way to do this is to short-circuit fear” (17).

So how can we short-circuit fear in our classrooms? Ruth brings this point home with a typical classroom story – it’s writing time, and a student does not have a pencil. Rather than asking the typical question in this moment — “Where is your pencil?”– she suggests a different response, “If you ask some people around you and still can’t find a pencil, ask me. Writers need pencils, and I’ll always loan you one” (21).   Such simple words, packed with a powerful message.  Students cannot be creative when their basic needs haven’t been met.  Our first job is to meet each student’s basic needs and build trust.

Ruth reminds us that behaviors cover students’ stories and it is our job to help students uncover them so they see their stories underneath.  She believes that writing workshop is much more than a way to teach writing.  Ruth shares, “Writing workshop is not just about getting the instruction right.  It’s not about a canned program, or a great app, or a lockstep process.  It’s about getting the heart right.  Enticing writers is about touching hearts and taking leaps of faith to pull all students into the possibilities awaiting them when they learn to write well” (40).  The research and Ruth’s stories help us understand the “why” behind students’ actions so that we can become better listeners and more attuned practitioners.   Thank you, Ruth!

In the second section of her book, Ruth shares how she became a writer and how that transformed her teaching.  Early in her career, she took a leap of faith, went to a PD session on writing workshop and started writing herself.   Through this process she learned that “to entice writers, we must write and discover a process for ourselves.”  She doesn’t expect all teachers to become published authors, but she urges us to write the same kinds of things we ask our students to write.  As she says, “…create stories instead of assignments” (49).   She also urges us “to write because it helps us teach well and find meaning in our work” (54).  To bring this point to life, Ruth shares a story from a second-grade classroom and how a teacher turned one student’s moment of frustration into an opportunity to show this student, and the rest of the class, that we aren’t alone in the world. Ruth says, “This is the power of story.  It changes lives by teaching us

  • To connect with others and find we’re more alike than different
  • To own the story we are living, and
  • To believe we can keep rewriting the next part of our story” (61).

She urges us to have “dogged resolve – to entice students to write, teachers must write first” (54).

Don’t miss the last section of this book.  After reading part three, we had seven pages of notes – Why seven pages you ask?  It’s Ruth’s language.  Each time she shares a writing move and what she says to students – it resonated with us and we had to write it down.  The way she speaks to students is clear, kind, and thought-provoking.  In this section, Ruth also shares how she entices writers by having students work on writing projects instead of writing pieces.  She encourages us to give our units of study an authentic purpose so students feel they are working on something important  — something they can’t wait to work on and share.  She urges us to make sure students have choice in writing and to vary the types of choices students have throughout the year:

  • Who will read my writing? (Audience)
  • What will I write about? (Topic)
  • What will I make? (Genre)
  • Why am I writing? (Purpose) (114)

 These questions can help us think about how to give students choices during different units of study to make sure students are invested in their own writing.

Ruth teaches students to pay close attention to the writing voices in their heads and give those writing voices feedback.  As she says, “we can help students understand the internal story they tell themselves about their deficits as writers and teach them to  “fight the monsters in their heads.”  She explains to students, “We also have Little Writers in our minds.  This Little Writer reminds me all of the things I do well as a writer” (141).  Giving students the tools to alter their negative self-talk is vital.  This instruction helps students understand that writing is about the thinking process in your head not just the words on paper.  It also helps students monitor their inner conversation, which can lead to a healthier and happier life.  

We have always been big fans of using technology in the classroom and Ruth gives us new reasons to advocate for using technology during writing workshop.  She explains, “For students from hard places, keeping work over time is usually impossible and Google Drive makes this possible. With Drive, no longer is keeping your history as a writer dependent on having a parent who will lovingly store all your sweet writing projects” (149). We have to be honest. We have never thought of this reason to use technology.  Perhaps this reason is more important than any other.

The biggest message in Enticing Hard-to-Read Writers is that we have the power to change students’ lives.  Through writing workshop, we can help students rewrite their stories and perhaps have a happier future.  Ruth reminds us, “…these kids will almost get the best of you…Remember, you have the power to change the course of lives.  All children deserve to know that they can write a different version of their stories” (154).

Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your stories as a mother, writer, and teacher.  The vignettes, research, and videos in Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers  helped us become better teachers.  You have given us tools to better understand our students, to build trust, and to create writing environments that provide opportunities for students’ to uncover their voices as writers.

Thanks to Stenhouse, we are giving away TWO copies of Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers. To enter, please leave a comment about this post by November 17, 2017 at 11:59 pm ET.  We will use a random number generator to select the winner.  We will announce the winner in next Monday’s post!

This is only the first stop on the Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers blog tour.  Don’t miss….

11/15 (W) Michelle Nero http://literacyzone.blogspot.com

11/17 (F) Leigh Anne Eck http://adayinthelifeof19b.blogspot.com

11/18 (Sat) STENHOUSE FB LIVE at 1:30pm Stenhouse FB Page********

11/20 (M) Mary Helen Gensch https://booksavors.wordpress.com

11/22 (W) Jen Vincent http://www.teachmentortexts.com/

(November Newsletter – Brad Wilson https://www.writeabout.com)

If you want to see Ruth’s children’s reactions when the books arrived at her house, you can read about that here.

Ruth is also offering free registration to her new course Enticing Writers Book Club if you purchase a copy by November 30th.   Just forward your receipt to enticingwriters@gmail.com for a free registration.  The course begins in January.

  • Avatar
    Lisa Maucione
    Posted at 11:03h, 13 November Reply

    This book has been on my to-read list for a bit so I’m glad to hear it is so wonderful. Writing comes from the heart so it makes sense that we would want to teach it with heart. It’s a good message to consider for all of the teaching we do. I hope to read it soon!

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    Jan Homewood
    Posted at 11:36h, 13 November Reply

    Looking forward to reading the book very soon

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    Posted at 11:47h, 13 November Reply

    Looking forward to reading this book! It’s been on my radar for a while…

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    Stephanie Affinito
    Posted at 13:31h, 13 November Reply

    I am eagerly looking forward to savoring this book! I was hooked with the initial tweets I saw about it and Ruth’s Facebook Live session showcased what a powerful text this would be. I think Ruth has it right when she says we must take a leap of faith into our own writing to truly understand the power writing has to change a child’s life. I am very much looking forward to reading more about the language she uses to do so. Thank you doe such a beautiful review!

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    Cynthia McKenzie
    Posted at 13:46h, 13 November Reply

    I have a copy of this book and have been reading it bit by bit. A chapter or two a day is all I read as I want time to digest and reflect. The story Ruth writes about Reece during her first year of teaching really made me think about a few student situations along the away that I wish I had handled differently. I know this book is about enticing writers, but I am finding applications for all classrooms regardless of content as I read. I am a literacy coach. If I should win a free book I would have two copies to share with teachers.

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    Linda Baie
    Posted at 13:52h, 13 November Reply

    I have read Ruth’s book, and only wish I would have had it when I was teaching. I’ve shared the title with former colleagues, hoping they will get it and learn from it. Thanks for a lovely review!

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    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 13:58h, 13 November Reply

    Can’t wait to read this book. Thank you for sharing the highlights and encouraging us to put it on our to be read list.

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    Jaime Juchems
    Posted at 14:11h, 13 November Reply

    Your blog post is an excellent testament to this book. I wanted to read it. Now I feel like I have to read it. Thanks for the Monday morning pep talk and inspiration. Looking forward to my 5th graders and writing workshop today.

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    Jessica Carlson
    Posted at 14:15h, 13 November Reply

    I think we often forget the power of story – our own and our students – and we rush right into the nitty, gritty details – the technique – that can often bog down our students. Thanks for reminding me that we should start with story and win their hearts first.

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    Radine Murphy
    Posted at 15:32h, 13 November Reply

    I have enjoyed Ruth’s writing for a very long time and value her expertise. I am really looking forward to reading this book from the heart!

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    Posted at 15:36h, 13 November Reply

    I can’t wait to read this book – I love the language Ruth uses when she writes!

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    Paula Ruedebusch
    Posted at 17:53h, 13 November Reply

    I’ve been thinking about adding this book to my stack. Thanks for the review.

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    Katie Logonauts
    Posted at 20:05h, 13 November Reply

    Love this thoughtful review, thanks! I’m on Ruth’s email list and love her updates but haven’t yet seen the book itself.

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    Posted at 00:18h, 14 November Reply

    I’ve seen this book but did not know much about it. I’m really interested in all of the brain research she has included in it.
    Great review, ladies!

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    Tara Smith
    Posted at 02:19h, 14 November Reply

    I love Ruth’s voice and cannot wait to receive my copy!

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    Lisa C
    Posted at 03:28h, 14 November Reply

    What a great review!! I love that this book is about getting into kids lives to get the writing out.

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    Posted at 03:47h, 14 November Reply

    Ruth always speaks from the heart and never disappoints. What a fantastic post about her new book! It has been on my TBR list for a few months now, I’s love to win s copy!

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    Posted at 05:40h, 14 November Reply

    Adding this to my TBR list! This is my first year teaching writer’s workshop with 3rd grade and it has been challenging. Thanks for the review!

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    Margaret Simon
    Posted at 11:44h, 14 November Reply

    I’m anxious to get Ruth’s book. I have a student who has experienced trauma and the other day a simple writing prompt sent her into tears. Her mind had gone to a place she feared. I know writing is important to her but I need to know more about how I can help her use writing for healing. Thanks for the review and thank you, Ruth, for writing such an important book.

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    Posted at 12:26h, 14 November Reply

    Thank you for this in depth review of Ruth’s new book. When Ruth shared this new book at the All Write Summer Institute, her raw emotion and personal stories were the standout of the conference. I can’t wait to read the book! Building relationships with students is one of the best parts of writer’s workshop.

    Thank you Ruth for sharing your journey!

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    Lisa Rice
    Posted at 14:04h, 14 November Reply

    It is exciting to learn more about a resource that reminds us of the opportunities teachers have to help students discover new vision and voice.

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    Posted at 14:32h, 14 November Reply

    Enticing Hard To Reach Writers has come into my heart at just the right time, since I have a child of trauma in my first grade class this year. Ruth shares such hope, and her writing moves are practical and inspiring.

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    Tanya Kolkema
    Posted at 15:04h, 14 November Reply

    This approach reminds me of Capturing Kids’ Heart. Until we do this, our learners will never reach their potential in our classes. It makes me think, too, how so many of our writers have experienced certain things that we teachers may never know about or understand. It’s our job to do whatever it takes to reach these kiddos and bring them into the fold.

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    Kari Knepper
    Posted at 16:06h, 14 November Reply

    Thank you for the review of Ruth’s book. I will definitely have to put it on my TBR list!

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    Dana Clutter
    Posted at 16:26h, 14 November Reply

    I cannot wait to read Ruth’s book! I know when I share a personal story I’ve written as a mentor text, students are so connected with the writing. Our stories are what bring us together, give us hope, and make us laugh!

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    Beth Fuller
    Posted at 17:11h, 14 November Reply

    I’ve long been a fan of Ruth and her writing. Her courage and honesty in sharing her personal struggles and successes as both a mother and a teacher are nothing short of inspirational. Ruth’s writing often motivates me to look for and celebrate the positives!

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    Posted at 19:50h, 14 November Reply

    Would love to read this book and utilise the information for my reluctant writers in Australia.

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    debby Gatchel
    Posted at 22:02h, 14 November Reply

    I love Ruth’s work would love to see what she has included in this book

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    Rubiana Berridge
    Posted at 00:29h, 15 November Reply

    “Students cannot be creative when their basic needs haven’t been met.” What a powerful and thought-provoking statement. Her response to the student without a pencil is so reassuring and so simple. I can only imagine how insightful the rest of the book is.

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    LeAnn Carpenter
    Posted at 01:07h, 15 November Reply

    So many special moments in this book that I now need to reread it and savor her wisdom. This is a book like no other, but then there is no one like Ruth. She is a gem!

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    Kristen Picone
    Posted at 03:53h, 15 November Reply

    You had me sold with one line…a professional book that takes your breath away!! I’m in! Thank you for your thoughtful review and the opportunity to win the book!

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    Liz West
    Posted at 11:49h, 15 November Reply

    I love the idea of saying “writers need a pencil” and not “you need a pencil to complete this writing assignment. “. I look forward to reading this book.

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    Deb Day
    Posted at 14:03h, 15 November Reply

    Reading this book is like sitting down and having a conversation with Ruth.

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    Posted at 23:28h, 15 November Reply

    All children deserve to know that they can write a different version of their stories” (154).

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    Mandy Robek
    Posted at 00:27h, 16 November Reply

    I didn’t preorder this book and I don’t know why…I knew it would be brilliant and your posts confirms it. It’s about getting the heart right…Ruth understands that at home, in school, and with teachers.

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    Posted at 03:43h, 16 November Reply

    I can hardly wait to read this book.
    Ruth is an amazing writer and writing teacher.

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    Jan Sharp
    Posted at 14:35h, 16 November Reply

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this book! This topic is something that is one of my professional goals this year.

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    Posted at 17:20h, 16 November Reply

    I’m so excited to get my hands on this book! Can’t wait!

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    Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 17:40h, 16 November Reply

    This one line. Rather than asking the typical question in this moment — “Where is your pencil?”– she suggests a different response, “If you ask some people around you and still can’t find a pencil, ask me. Writers need pencils, and I’ll always loan you one”

    is so, so powerful. I want to read it, own it, and tell everyone about it.

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    Posted at 19:30h, 16 November Reply

    Love this quote from your fabulous post: “to entice writers, we must write and discover a process for ourselves.” Ruth commented on my very first slice of life which began my writing life. I’m so grateful for all she has done to encourage adult writers (as well as student writers).

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    Loralee Druart
    Posted at 00:47h, 20 November Reply

    “It’s about getting the heart right.”

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    Alice Nine
    Posted at 04:21h, 20 November Reply

    I’m so glad that Ruth shares the brain research in her book — how trauma impacts children’s brains. I am convinced that we must view the “how” of our instruction, our words, our attitudes, our interaction with our students . . . through the lens of brain research. I know that when I do, it changes me.

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