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I want people to enjoy writing as though they are enjoying a clean breath. 


How pained I feel to meet adults who don't like to write and don't know how to write even after twelve years of required instruction in "language arts." How upsetting to see (for example) third-grade boys gripping their pencils with strained hands, angry faces, renewing their hatred of drawn letters—as if a failed spelling quiz has anything to do with an authentic experience of writing. 


Writing is about the spark in the mind, the image, the daring conveyance of image from mouth to ear, the persistence of wondering, the enchantment of story, the determination to get to the bottom of the determined dig, the music of words that roll boldly from the lips.


Pencil skills are something else—the curators of the exhibit, the recorders of the performance. The pencil is not an artistic implement. It is the audio device doing its best in the face of a symphonic performance. 


If you want to teach someone to be a musician, why would you train her or him to be an audio-recording engineer? If you want to teach someone to be a writer, why would you focus so obsessively on pencil skills? Look to the mind, not to the wiggle-stick recording device.


This understanding—that writing is an art form not just a scribbling technology—supports all the work I do as a teaching artist. I focus on bringing literature, the art of writing (aka "creative writing") into the English or "language arts" classroom, and I do this by contract at every instructional level, from pre-kindergarten to university.


For a quick review of my teaching career, CLICK HERE


On Teaching

Illustrated Lesson Plans

Year of Production 2015

Running Time: 3:49

I collaborated with Lisa Yagi, a highly skilled kindergarten teacher, to pair creative writing activities with a science topic—namely, how is a volcanic island formed?  The object of focus was a large water-worn stone taken from the Wailuku River, whose headlands the students could see from their playground. The product was a group-made scroll and a lot of excitement.

Year of Production 2015

Running Time: 3:15

My greatest dread as a teaching artist was always mathematics. How could I possibly bring creative writing into a 3rd grade math class? So when the opportunity arose to do that in collaboration with this excellent teacher, I said yes immediately. I came to realize that writing lifts student thinking from mere arithmetic to the higher levels of mathematical awareness. And the kids wrote page after page.

Year of Production 2014

Run Time: 4:06 min

Insect biology met creative writing in the 1st-grade classroom of Joan Patton, a superb teacher. Bonus: right across the fence from her classroom door was a huge crown-flower bush, favored host plant of the monarch butterfly. We went from poetry to story to scroll to a published book, one copy for each student and one for the school library.




Take a look at the book we created from this 10-session residency.


I Wonder: When Will I Fly?

Year of Production: 2014

Running Time: 4:20


Teacher Joan Patton insisted on getting the finest work from these 1st-grade artists. The results were amazing.





Year of production: 2012

Running Time: 4:30 min

In 2012 I collaborated with Janice Acopan, a skilled and joyful second-grade teacher at Pomaika‘i School in Kahului, Maui.  We agreed to introduce creative writing techniques at the very beginning of the school year with the added purpose of establishing a sense of community and empathy for others.  What a way to start the year!  Bright as sunrise.  The financial backers for this work are listed at the end of the slideshow.

Year of production: 2012

Running Time: 6:35 min

I realized very early in my teaching career that simple objects inspire imaginative responses.  One particular object, a "pohaku" (to use the Hawaiian word) has consistently proven to be particularly compelling for children here in the Islands.  I created this slideshow to state the case for creative writing in early childhood education.

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These lesson plans are part of the Writing Without Pencils project.


Writing Without Pencils is a provocative educational concept—that children can write before they can read.  It is being tested by teachers through workshops, collaborations, in-school residencies, new lesson plans, and publications.


Learn more


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