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‘Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?’ A (True) Classroom Fairy Tale

by Julie D. Ramsay
 | Mar 27, 2013
In today’s world, the topic of using technology in the classroom can be intimidating. In this monthly column, join one teacher on a quest to discover the best way to meet the needs of her digital-age learners…moving beyond the technology tools to focusing on supporting each student’s learning.

When you begin a writing project with your students, do they jump up and cheer? Or do they roll their eyes, sigh, and grumble? Ever wonder how some teachers inspire young authors to blossom while others fight off the weeds that choke their students’ desire to write? That is where our story begins…

There once was a teacher who felt like she dragged her students through writing projects and activities. They loved class, they loved learning, but they hated writing. She tried throwing in some technology projects, to pique their interest, but the students still resisted writing. Just like Christmas presents weeks later, the exciting newness of the technology lost its sparkle.

In addition to the weight of her students’ disinterest in writing, she faced an even bigger challenge. This teacher was feeling the dragon known as standardized testing breathing its hot, stinky breathe down her neck. She felt the pressure to get her students to perform for the standardized writing assessment. She loved her students and wanted what was best for them. She knew that giving them the gift of writing would open up new worlds and give each of them a voice. What could she do?

Her district promised her help from a writing fairy in the form of a consultant. With the direction of the consultant, hired for all of the English Language Arts teachers in the district, she began breaking down writing lessons into a pattern that her students could emulate. Even after following everything that she had learned, her students’ test scores were not improving. In her heart, she knew this was not teaching her students how to become writers. She recognized that they were much more capable, and she knew they deserved more than these pseudo-writing lessons.

“Enough!” she declared. “I will start from scratch and have my students help me find the secret recipe.”

Together they traversed through many paths searching for the way to making writing meaningful for the students. Although the dragon of standardized testing was still there, they continued on their quest focusing on what would help student learn and embrace the life of a writer in today’s digital world. There were many bumps along the road that taught them that learning from mistakes and challenges were just as important as finding the right path.

p: Enokson via photopin cc

In their pursuit, armed with optimism, they re-evaluated all of their old writing practices and perspectives. They tested, tried, challenged and reformed a new way of writing that created a community of voracious writers, writers armed with keyboards, digital tools, apps and tablets. These students were overwhelmed with joy when it was time to write in all of their classes. They had found the secret to sharing their voice in the world and exploring who they were as learners. In fact, they loved writing so much, they looked for new times to fit in writing projects by even begging their teacher, “Can we skip lunch and keep writing?”

These young writers and their teacher knew that they had found a way of writing that could not remain a secret. They knew they had a duty to share it with the world; it was their obligation to bring their secret to as many other people as possible so that many more learners could find their voices and impact their own learning and the learning of those around them.

Would you like to know the secret recipe for getting your students to love writing so much that they beg, “Can we skip lunch and keep writing?” The secret is yours for the taking.

Join me in San Antonio at IRA’s 58th Annual Convention on Sunday, April 21, from 3PM–4PM in Grand Hyatt, Lone Star Ballroom C. Come and hear about our journey, listen to our success stories, learn new teaching strategies, tools, and practices, and go home with the “secret” to getting your students to beg to keep writing.

Are you a fan of Plugged In? Come see Julie D. Ramsay present a session on collaborating in class and online at IRA’s 58th Annual Convention, April 19-22, 2013, in San Antonio, Texas.

Julie D. Ramsay is a Nationally Board Certified educator and the author of “CAN WE SKIP LUNCH AND KEEP WRITING?”: COLLABORATING IN CLASS & ONLINE, GRADES 3-8 (Stenhouse, 2011). She travels the country to speak, present, and facilitate workshops in applying technology to support authentic learning. Read her blog at

© 2013 Julie D. Ramsay. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.

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