(Running a bit late: my Wednesday slice of life instead of Tuesday’s Slice of Life)
As teachers we say this all the time. “Yes, if you read you will be a better writer. ”
I am sure I could go out and find lots of research around the reading/writing connection. It is just that I have taught for so long these words had become just that to me – words. A saying that I use with students or parents to help push the learning along. It is a good saying but this week I experienced it again in its full glory.
I am currently teaching in a 3rd/4th grade classroom to help out a teacher with cancer. This school has students who come mostly from a middle to high economic background and parents who are clearly daily readers themselves. Books are what these parents know well. (big change for me since I just left a high poverty school where few parents read daily)
I started a unit on dogs – we are reading dog books of all kinds. Our focus book for the unit is Debra Frasiers new book Spike the Ugliest Dog in the Universe. Debra’s book is a great mentor text for teaching voice. She has good support on her web site to help use this text in teaching. So I did just that. I pulled all the pictures of dogs and we “adopted” a dog to write a story about.
They are 3rd and 4th grades, it is the start of the year so I was not looking for the great American novel from anyone. I knew I had a bright group in front of me but their first two writings were ok but nothing to write a post about.
Now their writing is showing me that these guys are readers. They began stories and used flashback scenes to explain details. They pulled real information from their adopted dogs bio and used it as part of their story. They used metaphors and similes to help them express the emotions of their dogs. Many got the idea of writing from the voice of their dog. Most used conversation and included quotation marks so I could tell who was talking. I have lines like “he was yowling a sad song for help” or “they looked like innocent victims waiting for a home.” It was easy to see what authors students were pulling from as they develop their stories. WOW!
Reading does make a difference when we sit down to write. We have models to learn from. We have a variety of vocabulary to use. We have ideas that we can mix and match to create new.
Yes, READING does make a difference. Reading does help us develop as writers.
I realize as I write this that years ago I also wanted to write but did not. I could not find the way to express my thinking on “paper” in a way that I liked. So I read instead. And I read! And I read! And I read! Blogs, books, articles, books, and more articles and more books. You get it! I began to write as I felt more comfortable with words. I needed to see how it was done before I really felt comfortable doing it.
Our children are the same way! They need to see how it is done before they bloom into great writers. Our mentor texts are great. They make a big differences but the bottom line is students need to read and read widely!
Be sure your students and children read something today! So they can be writers tomorrow! 🙂