Teaching the Developing Writer the Benefits of Rereading

This week I have had more time for reading (term holidays) and so I revisited an old writing friend. I picked up Nancie Atwell’s ‘Lessons That Change Writers’ and began rereading. I like to go back to authors I trust. Atwell’s messages about writing are laden with timeless value.

Nancie writes, ‘Writing is as much an act of reading over what we have written as it is drafting new writing.’

These words set me to thinking. A lot of student writers are not consciously skilled where the act of rereading is concerned. For this reason it needs to be drawn to their attention. We need to show them how and why rereading is an important skill to add to their writing armoury. They need to see it explicitly modelled and valued by a proficient writer. This way it is more likely to be adopted.

A lack of consistent and conscious rereading is frequently the thing preventing the writing young writers produce rising above the ordinary. Learning the habit of rereading and applying it in a conscious way could make the world of difference to the quality of the writing eventually produced for the reading audience.

Rereading Notebook Entries
We need to model the way we reread our own notebook entries and alert students to the possibilities that this rereading quite literally throws up. –All those long lost entries that bubble back to the conscious level of our thinking. This is rereading to ‘excavate’ lost gems and potential new writing ideas.

Rereading As We Write
The other type of rereading is the reading undertaken as we write. This rereading is equally important as it keeps the writing on track and headed in the right direction.

Rereading has many benefits. It allows the writer to pick up many things including:
  • Unintended repetitions
  • Contradictions
  • Weak, junky verbs
  • Word omitted, or words in the wrong place
  • Anything overlooked
  • The voice of the writer
  • The point of view of the writer
  • The tone of the writing
  • Grammatical omissions
  • Spelling errors
Let’s Hear It For Rereading
Rereading aloud is equally important as reading ‘in your head.’ It allows the writer to hear the text as a reader would hear it and serves to illuminate ‘the bumps’ in the text that may be inhibiting the flow of words. I often tell students to imagine they are hearing the text for the very first time. ‘Can you hear your voice?’  ‘Do your words flow easily from your tongue as you read?’

Rereading is a boon to any writer. It is part of learning to read like a writer. Developing writers need to be aware of its benefits and learn from the example set by their teachers and mentors. If you’re still not convinced, might I suggest rereading this article.


  1. Again, I am enjoying your reasoning. I want to print the post so that I can remember all the ideas; each one can be a discussion with the writers, too. One reason briefly mentioned at the beginning is that of the valuing of the words, that re-reading their words is important for the students, & that by helping them re-look (& re-hear), you are honoring the writing even more, rather than hurrying through the process as just one to find another idea to write about.

  2. Loved this. It is interesting to watch my first graders as they share aloud, discovering missing words, repetition, and just plain "doesn't make sense" in their writing, that they insisted was all checked out and just the way they wanted it moments before! The read aloud is so valuable for this process!


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