Reading As A Teacher of Writing

As teachers of writing we need to learn to read differently. We need to read for meaning as we have all our lives, but we also need to read to see how things are written. Seeing how things are written helps us to know what we need to teach our students about how to be viewed as successful writers.

The curriculum resources we need to accomplish this task are waiting for us on our bookshelves, on newsstands, and in bookshops. We need to realize that there are so many writers out there who can provide models of writing for our students. We are not isolated. We are not alone. We have an army of helpers.
When we discover examples of good writing we begin to look more closely at that piece of writing. We start to visualize how it would be if we could teach our students to make the same conscious decisions about the shape of their writing. We begin to closely examine the craft of writing and this hopefully leads us to understanding as to how we can assist our students to more effectively incorporate a particular strategy into their own writing. We begin to purposefully read texts that provide information that relates to the kind of writing we need to teach our students. We become more aware of genre, form, length, style, audience and how these ingredients relate to the needs of our students as developing writers.

For these reasons, it is vitally important to gather samples of writing to share with our developing writers. We must gather together examples of all the kinds of writing that our students might be likely to write. These are vital ingredients with which we work to show our students the craft of writing. We may highlight such things as the writer’s general approach to writing, the construction of the text, the use of language, and the connection between illustrations and the text.

We can then use these pieces to highlight an aspect of the writing craft we want our students to think about, talk about and make judgments about. Judgments such as, why the writer may have crafted the piece in a particular way. We want our students to be able to identify exactly what the writer is doing in the text. If they can connect it to another piece in which a writer may have used the same technique this is even better. Finally, we want our students to imagine themselves applying the same craft technique to their own writing.

If we are to teach our students about a form of writing, we must firstly become readers of that written form. If we want them to write poetry, we ourselves must firstly read poetry. If you want them to write memoir, you need them to read memoir. Your students need to be immersed in the particular writing to fully understand the challenges that it presents and the craft skills inherent in creating that writing form. In this way you will be matching reading to the writing you wish to develop. This becomes the curriculum for writing.

My approach to reading has changed appreciably over the years as I have become more familiar with the craft of writing. I continue to read for the simple pleasure it provides but I also read a text with a view to its potential to assist me to be a more effective writer, and a more effective teacher of writing.


  1. This title is a new one to me. Who publishes it?


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