top of page



Teaching (and Reaching)

Young People Through

Writing-Centered Instruction 

Michael Leannah



"Always warm, encouraging, and wise, We Think With Ink is the kind of book I wish I'd had when I began teaching creative writing almost twenty years ago."

--  Dr. Stephen Powers, professor of English, Gordon State College 

 "Reading this book is like having a conversation with the author, and it's a real pleasure 'talking' with someone so immensely knowledgeable."

--Julie Hauck, classroom teacher 

"We Think With Ink is a glimpse into the world of master teacher Michael Leannah as he shares the amazing benefits of writing."

-- Dr. Ted DiStefano,

middle school principal

"We Think With Ink reveals a joy for language and word play that teachers and children alike are craving."

--Susan Schwiebert, classroom teacher

"This book is like a celebration of the act of writing."

--Jamie A. Swenson, author, librarian,

writing coach

"A treasure trove of ideas for both new and experienced writing teachers."

-- Helaine Kriegel,

emerita faculty, University of Wisconsin

"I wish We Think With Ink could be in every classroom. This book is astoundingly good."

-- Jill Esbaum, author



I was told long ago to zero in on one type of writing, but I have never been able to do that. I write fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. I most enjoy children's picture books, but even with those, I use a scattered approach: funny, serious, fiction, non-fiction. Zero in? Not me.


Among my published works are the children's picture books Goodnight Whispers (Familius, 2018) and Most People (Tilbury House, 2017). There is also Something for Everyone, a history of a Wisconsin department store chain and Well!, a collection of essays on the life of comedian Jack Benny. Two more books are coming in 2019.

I have had magazine pieces appear in Scholastic's Instructor, the Australian children's magazine Countdown, Highlights for Children, Ladybug, and other magazines.

Many, many stories and articles are still waiting their turn to be published. Maybe some of them won't ever see print. That's okay. They were still fun to write.

I created We Think With Ink during the last ten years of my teaching career, spent in the third and seventh grades, so this

writing program is tailor-made for elementary and middle school students.

My dream of instituting the position of writing specialist at the elementary level never came to be, but the We Think With Ink program is the phoenix that rose from those ashes.


For samples of writing  activities and classroom word games, see below. Please sign on for my email newsletter for more ideas and activities to use in your classroom.

Look for We Think With Ink, Book 2 and The We Think With Ink Ideas Book, coming soon.

I grew up in Marinette, Wisconsin and earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, as well as a Master's degree in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

My teaching career in the Milwaukee and Sheboygan

public schools spanned more than thirty years. I began my career at a Montessori school, working with  children ages 3 through 6, then moved up to the second and third grades, where I spent a good many years. Near the end, I was bumped up to middle school, where I was a 7th grade science teacher. At first, I didn't like that assignment and intended to move back to third grade where  "I belonged." But I ended up enjoying the older kids, and now look back on a lot of happy memories of middle school .    



Most People: winner of the 2017 Moonbeam Spirit Award in the category of Peacemaking.


Something for Everyone: winner of the 2014 Midwest Independent Publishers Assn. Award--Midwest Regional: Text.



Click here, then scroll down to the blue "Listen" button to hear my interview on the Lake Effect radio show from November of 2013. Thanks to WUWM in Milwaukee.


Learn more about the history of Wisconsin department stores here.



Most People was published by Tilbury House in 2017.  Other children's picture books due for release soon are Farmer Huckinshuck's Wild Ride (Splashing Cow Books) and Good Night Whispers (Familius).



A story and accompanying

song I wrote were recently published in Ladybug magazine. See pp. 23-29 of the March, 2017 edition.








I’m a paragraph. Double click here or click Edit Text to add some text of your own or to change the font. This is the place for you to tell your site visitors a little bit about you and your services.

               SAMPLE PAGES

Sample Pages

    We Think With Ink relies on the sharing and critiquing of stories. We share our stories, compare notes, ask for honest opinions, help each other to improve our skills.

Writers who work together must know each other well and develop a sense of trust.

     To jump-start the process, “Get to Know You” activities are employed. Because we are complex individuals and our feelings change over time, it is good to work in a “Get to Know You” activity once every couple of months throughout the school year.


                                                      All About You


     Teachers may give this as a piece of homework on Day One and ask for it to be returned in one week, giving participants plenty of time to analyze and describe their interests, likes, and dislikes.

     Encourage students to explain their answers fully, using well-written sentences. Because the papers will later be shared (read aloud or passed around to be read silently), participants should provide information that is interesting and — to an extent that is comfortable — revealing.

     Students are required to answer at least seven of the ten questions. When it is time to share, students will read their answers aloud, or ask a friend or the teacher do it.

                                                  All About You 

  1. In what cities have you lived?

  2. What do you like about your favorite food?

  3. What character in a book or movie do you admire?

  4. What character in a book or movie scares you?

  5. What character in a book or movie would you like to be for one hour?*

  6. What animal would you like to be for one hour?*

  7. What is your most prized possession?

  8. What’s the scariest or most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?

  9. What would you say or do if you met your favorite famous person?

  10. What do you think you’ll be doing when you’re 30 years old?

             * When asking a “What would you like to be” question, I recommend putting a time limit on it. Would I like to be a lion or a mosquito or the president of Germany, Brazil, or Zimbabwe? For an hour, maybe, but no longer than that.


            Look for another “Get to Know You” activity here next month.


We Think With Ink:

Teaching (and Reaching) Young People Through Writing-Centered Instruction

(Brightside Publications)

--Published 2016--


For media inquiries, please contact Michael Leannah at:

Follow me:

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
bottom of page