Authors as Mentors: Investing in Powerful Writing
Arkansas Reading Association Conference 2009
Read Like a Writer
“We need to marinate students in literature so that, over time, it soaks into their writing.” --Ralph
Whenever authors are asked for advice on how to write well, their answer is always the same: READ.
But what do authors do when they read, that is different from everyone else? They read for pleasure,
but they also think about how the text is put together. They ask questions like: How did the author
develop characters? What words really make this writing come alive? How does the author draw
readers in at the beginning? All of these are aspects of craft that we can teach students to notice when
they read like writers.
By sharing a variety of well-written texts with students and then going back to dissect these texts, we
are able to model how to read like writers. In essence, we are taking students into the workshop and
teaching them to appreciate the handiwork of the masters. Students begin to notice the distinct
fingerprints of writers’ voices and open their eyes to the many possibilities for crafting a piece of writing.
1. When you “discover” a great text to share with students, take a moment to jot a post-it list of
what the text has to offer student writers.
2. Based on your formal and informal assessments of student writing, select the technique your
students would most benefit from learning.
3. Design a mini-lesson to teach the strategy or skill your writers need. Find examples of this
writing technique in the text and share with students.
4. Provide writing time to encourage students to practice the technique, while you conference
with individual students about their writing.
1. Read texts that are well-written, powerful, and moving. Take a moment to savor the text for
the pleasure it was meant to give readers.
2. Then, as writers, reread the text (or a selection from it) and dissect it to see just how the author
might have created it.
3. Take what you learn and use it when you encounter a similar situation in your writing.
Merica Howie, OUR Educational Cooperative, email@example.com