Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8

Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8

Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8

Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8


Craft is the cauldron in which the writing gets forged.

Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi argue that too often we concentrate on the beginning and ending of the writing process- conceiving and correcting- while leaving students on their own to make a thousand critical decisions in their writing about crafting leads, voice, structure, supporting detail, setting, mood, and character.

What elements of craft can we teach student writers, and at what age are they ready to learn them? This book answers both questions. Craft Lessons is the practical text for the over-scheduled writing teacher who wants to give students fresh challenges for their writing but doesn't have time to pore over dozens of trade books to do so.

There are three main sections in the book: one geared for teachers of primary students, one for teachers of grades 3-4, and one for teachers of middle school writers. This developmental structure allows teachers to go directly to those craft lessons most applicable and adaptable to their own students. Each of the 78 lessons is presented on a single page in an easy-to-read format. And every lesson features three teaching guidelines:

  • Discussion- A brief look at the reasons for teaching the particular element of craft.
  • How to Teach It- Concrete language showing exactly how a teacher might bring this craft element to students in individual writing conferences or a small-group setting.
  • Resource Material- A listing of the book or text referred to in the craft lesson plus additional texts you can use and references to a passage, a poem, or a piece of student writing in the Appendixes.

Craft Lessons also explores the context- the crucial classroom conditions- for successfully bringing rich ideas to young writers. It will appeal to both experienced writing teachers seeking new horizons for their writers and teachers who are relatively new to teaching writing.

Be sure to take a look at Nonfiction Craft Lessons: Teaching Information Writing K-8 and the When Students Write videotapes.


The root system for this book is a deep one. In the early 1980s, we worked with Lucy Calkins at the newly formed Teachers College Writing Project in New York City. Our work involved a great deal of classroom-based staff development and demonstration teaching. On a typical day we each lugged around a bag of wonderful literature and used these books for mini-lessons at the start of the writing workshop.

Teachers often asked, [Isn't there some sort of book of mini-lessons? Boy, could I use that now!]

Imagine: The Secret Book Of Mini-Lessons! It was easy to see how such a book could be useful, but it was just as easy to see how it might be dangerous. We believed then and still believe now that skilled writing teachers need to become resourceful and self-reliant, and not rely on preprinted lesson materials. Writing teachers need to learn to [live off the land] by being responsive to all the unplanned teachable moments that arise during a writing workshop (Calkins 1986). It would be a mistake for any writing teacher to take all his or her mini-lessons from any book.

True. But we have always thought that a book of craft lessons would be a helpful resource for writing teachers, particularly if these craft lessons could be age-specific. That's why we wrote this book.

Since our days at the Writing Project we have worked as consultants at dozens of school districts around the country. These experiences . . .

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