Text, Tool, and Thought: Rufus the Writer by Melanie Fuemmeler
Text: The book Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram is an endearing tale about a young boy (Rufus) who decides rather than the traditional lemonade stand, he’d like to open a story stand. With all the diligence and vision of a young entrepreneur, he readies his stand with a tablecloth and sign, paper and pencils, a cheery disposition, and, of course, the ever professional bowtie. His customers soon flock, inquiring about this new business venture.
“What are you doing?”
“How much do your stories cost?”
Through these interactions with friends and family, Rufus learns about each of them, and this information sparks ideas. Using his imagination and love for words, Rufus creates cherished stories for his friends and family, showing everyone the gift a story is to its reader. A gift in which a price cannot be placed.
Tool: This text provided inspiration to think about instructional tools it a more literal sense. Upon finishing, I could not resist the idea of creating a story stand for a classroom! I mean, why not? We are always researching and creating ways for students to celebrate their published writing to an authentic audience. It can be difficult to find those real world outlets for our young authors…until now! A story stand offers students a place to naturally share stories (narrative), hold a debate (opinion), or enact a how-to (informational). It can become a place for reader’s theater, role play, or story-telling to gather ideas or brainstorm. The possibilities for purpose are endless, with the potential to carry a young writer through the entire writing process from brainstorming think tank and celebratory platform.
So, I put my husband to work to make one. Here it is:
In the classroom it will display student writing, books by beloved authors, mentor texts, and classroom anthologies. All writing will be celebrated to build the connection between reading and writing, and the communities within each.
More traditional Instructional tools also have a place within this text. One of the strongest, and most evident, is Bram’s work in exposing students get to smaller stories written by Rufus within her larger one. Because of this, there are many craft moves to explore and emulate with our students. Within the main plot line, Bram exhibits the following:
- How to build stories from small moments
- Using dialogue to establish character voice
- Using images alone to tell parts of the story
- Articulating a message about the importance of building a writing community
Within the mini stories, Rufus models:
- Aesthetic qualities–word color, size, font
- Figurative language- sound words (onomatopoeia) and personification
- Genre selection
- Elaboration connected to story length
The ease with which the elements become evident naturally invite our young writers in to experiment with effective narrative techniques in their own work. An engaging and motivating text such as this one will build strong imagination and creativity among our learners.
In an educational era that seems to be pushing creativity out of classrooms for the sake of standards and rigor, role-playing and shared voices have never been more important. Much time and money is spent in developing classroom libraries and quaint reading spaces. But what about writing environments that foster creativity to run rampant all over the page? Typically, writing spaces house the tools and resources a writer needs for the actual act of writing. But so much of being a writer happens in the brain, and through conversations and re-enactments. So much of writing exists beyond the moment the pencil meets the paper. In honoring the writing, we must also honor the writer–not just in the published work, but also in the complex layers of the process. Collaborative, creative spaces allow for an organic learning process to unfold. Rufus’ story stand gives its readers just that, and yours can too for the writers in your life.
Melanie Fuemmeler is a K-5 instructional coach in the Kansas City area. She is also deeply involved in her local Writing Project site, providing an array of professional development to local districts and bringing her passion project, a city-wide social justice curriculum for our youngest citizens, into reality. #KCkidsunite aims to build a foundation of activism and unity amongst the city’s diverse communities and cultures. In her free time, she trail runs and reads endlessly with her 3-year and 18-month old. She is a firm believer in the power of personal stories to connect humanity and the need for voices to be heard, not silenced. You can hear hers on her blog at www.paperandpassion.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @mfuemm.