Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Writing Theif... revisited

So, I finished the book.  It was a quick read considering the amount of information contained in so few chapters!  (If you missed my initial opinions, you might want to click [here], as I fully intend to elaborate on some of that a little bit.)

Let me just say that this woman is sort of brilliant.  This whole book is brilliant.  I loved the way it was written.  It wasn't a "how-to" book at all, which is what I expected.  It was more of a  conversation, a dialogue if you will, with the author regarding why we should be using mentor texts to teach writing.  Sure, she gives examples and ideas for using mentor texts to teach writing, but she spends more time talking about why the texts are important.  Why we should be showing kids, not telling kids, what to do with their own work.  (Isn't that what we make the kids do for us?  Show rather than tell?  This is the perfect way to model that expectation!  Mentor texts!!)

Ruth Culham does an excellent job of providing evidence for a lot of her ideas.  She has grounded so much of her thinking in research into many authorities on the subject of writing.  Not on the subject of teaching writing, per say.  She quotes authors, not researchers, often.  She has the research element there, but the quotes from the people that actually write books are exceptionally relevant to everything that she has done within the text.

As for those pesky thoughts that I was having about how this book surely can't be for me because my little first graders could never choose several books and compare the leads and then decide how to revise their own writing to include a strong lead based on what they learned from the mentor texts... Yeah.  Those were still running through my head the entire time I was reading.  In fact, I didn't feel that many of her examples really fit my situation given that I teach first graders and they can't read - like, at all - when we begin the year.  But then I got to thinking.. They are first graders.  First graders. They have little to no experience with real writing anyway.  What better time than now to show them what real, good, authentic writing looks like?  I mean, they copy everything that I do anyway.  I might as well show them how I use texts that I love to form ideas for writing, organize my thoughts, choose my words, and all the other great things that mentor texts provide.

I can honestly say that I do not feel that this book was a complete waste of my time.  Should I have been reading The Literature Review:  Six Steps to Success instead?  Well, yeah.  But only because I have to write one and I have no clue where to begin.  (And I need to have the lit review finished by the end of the month so I can thoroughly enjoy my vacation in July, but I'm such a procrastinator sometimes. Haha!)

This book certainly helped me to see the value in merging my reading and writing instruction.  I mean, I've always used mentor texts to teach writing.  (Okay, confession... Not always, actually.  But I have since being trained several years ago in using a workshop model for reading and writing.)  However, I've only just realized how well close reading lends itself to writing and vice versa, thanks to Ruth Culham!

I have spent the last several years reading everything that I could get my hands on that talked about reading instruction.  This was the first time I've really focused on improving writing instruction.  It was a great place to start, and I'm looking forward to really delving into the topic!  I plan to read The Art of Teaching Reading (I'll actually finish it this time, honest!) and The Art of Teaching Writing, both by Lucy Calkins, at some point this summer.


I have tons of other books on my bookshelf that I plan to read, but one in particular seems worth noting.  It is also by Ruth Culham.  I have 6 + 1 Traits of Writing:  The Complete Guide for the Primary Grades.  I got it back in probably March or April, and I was able to pull some ideas for the end of the school year last year.  They were great!  I wish I would have picked up the book earlier!  I am definitely looking forward to using Ruth's suggestions starting at the beginning of the year this coming year!  (For all of you that teach older students, she also wrote 6 + 1 Traits of Writing:  The Complete Guide Grades 3 and Up.)


Check back tomorrow for the next installment of the Daily 5 book study blog linky.  [Check in here if you missed the first post.]  Also, don't forget to check in with the rest of the crew on that linky.  There will be plenty of tips, ideas, and freebies to go around!

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