Joy Writers: Take Two

August 9th was the date of our second Joy Write meeting. A group of teachers had agreed to read Ralph Fletcher’s latest book, Joy Write, come together twice over the summer and just “see what happens.” Of course Dawn, our host, started out by celebrating all those who had accepted the invitation to notice, observe, and write since our last meeting. The list of celebrants was long, the pride genuine.  You see, Dawn had intended for us to write and experience the joy during our first meeting, but the conversations were too rich and necessary to cut them short. But with all of that out of the way, Dawn was ready for us to experience the joy that we, along with Ralph Fletcher and so many others, know can be found in classrooms despite obstacles that seem to be getting in the way.

Dawn created three invitations to get us started. They began like this:

Writers-Let’s Play!

“Ideas live all around us in the tiniest objects and smallest moments.” -Lucy Calkins (Grade 2, Writing Units of Study)

“I believe Piaget was right: we learn by doing from our own experience.” -Ralph Fletcher (Joy Write-Page 20)

1. Writers Get Ideas From Books

  • Listen to the story for ideas-read the pictures
  • Draw an image that comes to mind
  • Write what you were thinking and feeling as you listened and read

Dawn read us When I Was Five by Arthur Howard. After reading, she gave us a few minutes to discuss our initial thinking before setting us off to reflect, sketch, and write. She told us to move around, go outside…find a place to work.

Here is my work from that initial invitation:IMG_5577.JPG

I drew a plastic green 5, that I received on my fifth birthday and I wrote:

A necklace I still have. Five was a big deal-a whole hand! It must have been special. I held onto this green plastic 5 for almost 30 years. It’s funny how the things that were significant to me, mean nothing to Wren who will turn five in five days. I don’t think she’s even thought of being a whole hand. I was a nervous wreck about everything when I was younger. The other day when I told her I was feeling sad about her going to kindergarten, she said, “But I’m going to have so much fun mom. And I’ll make so many new friends.” She’s reassuring me, not unlike how I was the one reassuring my mom as she cried on every college tour we went on. We are different in many ways, but also the same.

2. Writer’s Observe the World-

  • Choose an object-from basket, go outside, take something from inside the house
  • Study and observe it through sketching
  • Write what you see, feel, think as you draw and study

Dawn had gathered some bark that she collected during her morning run, something she has written about for a Slice of Life post of her own. I chose that to sketch. Others chose eggplants from the garden, flower pots, and seashells.


I wrote:

Let go of the old…old skin, bad thoughts…let them float down the river, fly away on a cloud. Just let it go.

During this sketching process, I got lost in the coloring, the mindlessness of shading in the brown bark. I thought of the tree shedding the bark, the reptile skin we had seen at the zoo the day before, and the mindful activities we had practiced during a faculty meeting in the spring-visualizing negative thoughts and feelings float away (a practice I’ve been experimenting with with my own kids!). All of those negative feelings, the stress and anxiety that makes us feel like our skin is too tight, like the bark. I’m also working on just letting it float away.

3. Copy to learn and think-

  • Copy the art card or part of the art card
  • Write what you are thinking as you copy. What did you discover?
  • Write the memory that bubbles up as you copy and think.

It’s not about making a pretty picture. It’s about thinking and discovery. Play!

I didn’t get to participate in this final invitation at the meeting, because I brought along my mini joy writer, Rose, who wasn’t feeling this particular invitation. I had found an art card that really spoke to me so I took a picture and vowed to try this one out on my own. But as I watched others work, the concentration, playfulness, and calm that filled the room, I thought about Dawn’s words about copying to learn. This made me think about mentor texts and how we use them. Generally speaking, I think we should use them a lot more! I participated in a Twitter chat recently where I Tweeted something like, “Once you begin reading like a writer, you can’t stop.” I’d like to do more of that work with kids (and teachers) this school year. More exploration and play as we study the books we are reading- I even started compiling a list as part of the #pb10for10 challenge on August 10th. You can read about that here.

Rose, our youngest member.


This Joy Write meeting affirmed for me what I’ve been thinking and feeling since taking on the Slice of Life challenge myself back in March. Teachers need to write (and read!). We need to experience the ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. We need to live the joy in order to pass that along to our students. I’m proud of our Joy Write community. I’m excited to see what this joy translates to back in our classrooms this fall.

This is what teachers do in the summer, learn and grow!



24 thoughts on “Joy Writers: Take Two

  1. Living wide awake is at the center of your post. I wonder if the joy is about connecting with others as we also connect with our own self? Something to think about.

    Sounds like the military symbolic ways of composing (drawing, writing, and talking) inspired.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How wonderful for you that you are a part of this group and how wonderful for us that you shared it here. I see that I’m not the only one contemplating how I could create a writing group of teachers! Thanks for your rich, inspiring post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fun “playgroup” you had this summer. Would love to have such a group to participate in. I’ve got “Joy Write” in my still-to-be-read pile and hope to get to it soon. Incidentally, five is the best, says this Kindergarten teacher! “But I’m going to have so much fun mom. And I’ll make so many new friends.” The wisdom of a five year old.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like to think of the SOL as a kind of writing group. I love the community- but being in a room with real live people does provide a different kind of energy! I’m looking forward to what 5 will bring… I love kindergarten. I dream of going back to the classroom to teach K some day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have Ralph’s book sitting in my “to read” pile. Your post has intrigued me and I will be moving that book to the top. I am jealous that you and your colleagues spend the summer reading and writing together. It doesn’t get better than that!


  5. This sounds like a wonderful, brilliant, and happy event.It helps us to write about things in our environment that we see but don’t really ever analyze. By the way, I love putting branches from bushes in washed out beer cans. The three special football motif cans are closest to me. I use wine bottles for the leafy branches too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! I am so impressed with the work your group is doing this summer…I am sure it will transfer into some great things in your classrooms. I was so glad I read your post. I almost didn’t as it was the forth post I read and I try not to get carried away with comments, especially because sometimes lately, I do not receive any from the Tuesday posts. However, I love Ralph Fletcher and will have to read this newest book of his, based on what you’ve written here. I lead a third grade writer’s circle and feel that some of the ideas you shared could be used with my students. I write right along side them, so I will experience the “joy” as well. Thanks, again. Good luck with your group!


  7. Jess, I really like how you described the day but also gave your own examples. I’m sorry I missed this session. I was in my room yesterday and did some rearranging so that I now have an artists and writers area, where I have my art cards, text cards, and a collection of objects for sketching. Now, I’ll also add some books that might stir up ideas. You and Dawn are leading by example in your art, your writing, and your teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I could feel the inspiration you gain from these meetings, and feel inspired in turn! And now I’ve got to find Fletcher’s book. I needed to read the word “joy” at the beginning of this chaotic Friday. Thank you for your slice!

    Liked by 1 person

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