Being a reader-writer-teacher

For some children, you may be the only teacher they ever meet who is a passionate reader-writer-teacher.

All children, but particularly struggling or less experienced writers, need high-quality teaching and explicit instruction if they are to fulfil their potential as writers. This is why SRSD instruction works so well. The concept is simple. Teach your class one writerly technique, process or strategy (what we call a craft move) before inviting them to use the move for themselves in their writing that day. Case studies show that the most effective writing teachers deliver instruction in keeping with SRSD when teaching ‘craft knowledge’ (Young et al. 2021), ‘sentence-level strategies’ (Young & Ferguson 2022c) and ‘functional grammar lessons’ (Young & Ferguson 2021b).

Readers need to read and hear language used skilfully by master writers. The topic for your writing lessons is always dictated by the needs of your class. If you have noticed a deficit or an issue in your class’ writing development, a mini-lesson is where you attend to it. Use pieces of literature or other writings to illustrate the specific technique or strategy you want your class to use and apply in their compositions before inviting them to use it during that day’s writing time. You should be able to begin this sort of mini-lesson by saying something along the lines of: ‘the reason I’m showing you this craft move is because I think it will really add value to our pieces…’ or ‘check out this amazing craft move I saw [David Almond] use, I thought we could try using it today too’. Show them what the writer has done and how they achieved it. Next, show them how you’ve used it. At the end of any mini-lesson, you want your class to be able to say: ‘I can see what [David Almond] and my writer-teacher did – I can do that too!’

Writing instruction, using literature, can typically go something like this:

There’s no better advice I can give you than to suggest that you develop yourself as a reader-writer-teacher (Ferguson & Young 2023). This is the best way to gain knowledge of writerly techniques and strategies, knowledge about genres, knowledge about sentence structures, and knowledge about how grammar really works. So, read. Read personally and for pleasure. Read with a professional eye. Read as a writer reads.


For more information on how to use literature and other high-quality texts in the writing classroom, consider purchasing our eBook: Reading in the writing classroom: A guide to finding, writing and using mentor texts with your class

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