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Teach Students to Write by Teaching Them to Know Good Writing

Tips for developing your students' writing expertise so that they're not only be able to recognize good writing, but also become good writers

Help students develop as writers by building their awareness of good writing.

We learn to read by reading, and learn to write by both writing and reading. To learn to write well, we need to analyze the craft of writing to find out what works.

Teachers can help their students become intentional writers by assessing what students already know about writing and what they need to learn. This can be done through the use of mentor texts, which are specific examples of good writing.

Five Tips to Develop Your Student Writers

1. Build student awareness of the "craft moves," or elements that authors use to make their writing reflect their intent. For example, a writer might use an apt metaphor, or vividly describe a place to give readers a sense of where they are. Tone, point of view, detail, word usage, action, dialogue—these are all craft moves writers can use.

2. Help students understand how to use their own craft moves to create well-written text. You can do this by posing leading questions such as: "Is that something you could do with your characters when you write dialogue?" or "Describe the tone in this book. When might it be useful to use such a tone?"

3. Introduce students to various genres of literature and the particular characteristics of each. Help them notice how structure, voice, word choice, and conventions enhance meaning.

4. Show students that writing is a process involving many decisions that will ultimately support their intended meaning and make readers want to read what they've written. Also, teach students that the first draft is not necessarily the final draft: Revision is an important part of the writing process.

5. Use mentor texts as illustrative examples for student writing. For example, study the ways in which one might use critical evidence to support insights on a topic or adjust the pace of the writing to spotlight the important points or move the reader along. As author Carl Anderson says, "By studying a mentor text, a young writer can learn about how to write a lead, how to use punctuation to create cadence and rhythm in sentences, how to structure a text, or any one of hundreds if not thousands of ways that writers choose to craft their writing."

One of the most important things you can do to make students good writers is to make them aware that writing is a craft, like painting or throwing a baseball over the plate, that gets better with practice and revision.

Professional Development in Teaching Reading and Writing

Our Center for Reading Recovery & Literacy Collaborative offers more than 25 professional learning opportunities for teachers, literacy coaches, teacher leaders, and principals.

Explore the Center's offerings.

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