Ok, obviously I didn’t stop teaching writing. But I did change out of the role of the primary writing teacher in my classroom. I got smart and lets TONS of other people teach writing for me.
In my class, above all, the writing teachers are the authors. Some years back I was fortunate enough to attend a training with Katie Wood Ray right around the time that she released Study Driven. This book changed me as a writing teacher. She basically teaches us that “if you can stack it (“it” being a collection of texts that do the same “thing,”) then you can study it.” So basically, you can provide your students with a collection of texts, have them study them deeply, and then coach them into writing something similar in that genre. Thus, the authors are the teachers in my classroom!
We actually do this all the time. If someone passes away and you are asked to write the obituary, you’d probably look at a few other obituaries that other people have written to give yourself a vision- or a roadmap for that genre of writing. We can do the same for our students if we allow them to see that books can be writing teachers. If you read up on a lot of authors’ stories about honing their craft, they will usually say something similar to “in order to be a good writer, you have to read.” This is why I believe it is paramount that my students understand that they can read books like readers of course, but they can also read them like writers.
One way I try to make sure that happens is by exposing them to authors as much as I can. I try to show the students that they are real people that make books. They make books that are full of intentional, calculated decisions that make us, the readers, read their book the way the imagined it in their head. I do this because I want them to see themselves as people who make books and are in good company with the likes of Mo, Vera, and Kadir!
When we teach our students to read books like writers, they will notice some amazing things. They’ll start to wonder, “why did the author make those words like that?” “Why are the words on one page and the pictures on another?” “Why do I keep hearing the same line over and over in this book?” Every question they ask is evidence of the realization that the author didn’t just haphazardly throw words and illustrations in a book. There is a reason for every little thing that an author does!
One of the ways that I get my students to make the shift to finding their own author-teachers is by doing lots of author studies! I select an author to study with my students. Author studies are EASY! All you need is a collection of books by the author and some information about their personal life. I usually plan to read one book aloud per day and then I house them on a special book rack so students can find them easily. Once the study is over, I’ll take all of the books and put them in a basket with the author’s folder in the front. Then we are surrounded by our writing teachers all year long!
Looking to jump into some author studies? I made some author study folders a few years back that I sold on Teachers Pay Teachers but I had to take them down because I didn’t know the rules about using photos and book covers in products. But I’ve created some new folders and ways to collect crafting moves that authors do and they are pretty fun! Click any image below to take a closer look!