Lifting the Quality of Writing


To lift the quality of writing among student writers there are some strategic things we need to do with our teaching.

Firstly, we need to expose them to quality writing! Encourage them to find mentors they admire. Once they have identified their personal mentor, we then challenge them to consciously write in the style of that particular writer.

To support the growth and awareness of quality writing we should use extracts from the work of trusted authors and have students identify just exactly what the author did with language; with ideas. Discussion should focus on identifying the writer’s purpose in relation to craft and how that affects the writing. Try to name what the mentor author has done.
To further support the concept of mentor authors, we need to model for them how we would utilize an aspect of the writing craft gleaned from a selected mentor. We need to do this in our very own writing. This is a critical step in the process. It provides powerful modelling how we, ourselves, read as writers. We see potential in the writing and respond to it. Invite students to make a comparison between the two pieces. –What have I been able to use in my writing that you first noticed in the mentor text?
What is the same? What is different?
Following this, we should invite our students to imitate this writing style in an entry of their own.

This step encourages them to internalize the craft before practicing the technique in their own writing

It is at this point that teachers frequently express concern that young writers will merely copy what has been already written. From my experience, students generally make the connection that it is about style rather than content. They frequently apply the craft to a completely different context. How re-assuring is that? It is further proof that they are imitating the craft, rather than merely lifting the content. We can see what they have learnt from the mentor.

It is important for our students to do such focused work in their writer’s notebook. It’s a chance to develop some writing strength –a chance to lift the quality of writing through authentic practice that has long term consequences for the way they write.

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