What We Can Learn From Studying Writing

I have recently purchased Katie Wood Ray’s Study Driven –A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop. I have long been a fan of Katie’s writing messages. Several of her books stand proudly on my library shelves. In Study Driven, Ray spells out some strong messages about how writing needs to be approached. To quote the author,

“Framing instruction as study represents an essential stance to teaching and learning, an enquiry stance, characterized by repositioning curriculum as the outcome of instruction rather than the starting point…”

Katie Wood Ray contends:

Texts should be used to mentor students to write real things in the ways real writers write. This makes teaching ‘authentic’
Writing needs to be 'studied' and not 'taught.' This requires teachers to read like writers – along held belief of the author.
Teachers need to be writers and gatherers of mentor texts, but curriculum can not be determined before the students begin to study. It requires a flexible approach, so that teaching is informed by the needs of the developing writers.

For teachers who want their students to write well, this is a text that lays out options for letting this happen. This is a thought provoking book, and like a glass of fine red wine, needs to be savoured and considered. I would suggest that all serious teachers of writing spend the summer reading it and thinking deeply about the messages contained within. That way, when school recommences in the new year, you'll be more than ready to proceed with some inspired teaching throughout 2010.

It is unusual for a book to speak so comprehensively to all teachers, but this book reaches across the broad expanses of the teaching spectrum. Whether you are working with our youngest writers or dealing with adolescents who are moving into their ‘whatever’ phase, this book delivers some critical messages about what matters about teaching writing effectively. I suggest you put it on your must read list.


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