"Read everyday. I mean it: EVERY DAY!"
~Gary Paulsen's tips for becoming a better writer.
Ask any children's author what their #1 tip is for becoming a better writer and I guarantee they will say, "Read!" As it turns out, readers make the best writers. Why? Because the books they read become the mentors for crafting their own pieces of writing.
Authors as Mentors
It would be difficult to find a better mentor than Robert Kimmel Smith (The War with Grandpa) to
teach students to use dialogue. In this example, dialogue reveals the main character's feelings:
“Peter? Why so silent?”
“Just thinking,” I said.
“Are you worried about Grandpa coming here?” Mom asked.
“A little,” I said. I saw a funny look pass from Mom to Dad. “Where is he going to stay?” I asked. “In the guest room?”
“Well,” Dad said with a kind of sigh, “no, Peter.”
(From the editing dialogue lesson, 3.2 Personal Narrative Writing Unit)
Can you think of a better example of alliteration than chapter 19 of Maniac Magee in which Jerry Spinelli uses alliteration 13 times!
- Cobble's Corner,
- Two Mills Times,
- penny candy,
- frosted foods,
- business would boom,
- sixty seconds,
- candy counter,
- practically priceless,
- twists and turns,
- dips and doodles,
- take a shot at the knot,
- give a little grin; and
- the pizza's not the point.
Bonus, even the title of the book is an example of alliteration!
(From the revision lesson, 3.5 Realistic Fiction Writing Unit)
Find the Right Program
To be clear, teaching students to write is an important part of helping them become better writers. But even more important is giving them time to READ! This is why I encourage you to find a writing program that:
- Connects to your reading program.
- Prioritizes time to read above all else!
- Prompts students to notice what the author is purposefully doing.
- Teaches students to take notes as they read.
Gary Paulsen shares, "I study the writing of others...and I always have a notebook or laptop with me."
The Read Side by Side Reading Program teaches students to interpret what the author is purposefully doing in the text. This work is practiced everyday as students read for more than an hour in class.
Now, being added to the reading program are writing units. Students use the texts in the program as mentors to guide their own narrative, expository, and persuasive pieces. Find these units here (they are FREE to download!).
The more your students read (and the more your students write) the better writers they will become! Carve out time for reading and writing each and every day. This alone will do it. Add explicit instruction to the mix, using your favorite authors as mentors, and their writing will make you jump for joy! (See what I did there?)
Read Side by Side Publications, LLC.