Academic journal article Language Arts

The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing

Academic journal article Language Arts

The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing

Article excerpt

The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing by Ruth Culham, Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2014, 204 pp., ISBN 978-0872070998

In K-12 classrooms across all content areas, there is a renewed interest in writing as a process and as a tool for learning. As a result, teachers are looking for resources that will provide them with guidelines and strategies for teaching the many forms of writing. Ruth Culham offers that support in her book The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing.

This book is reader-friendly and easy to navigate. There are five chapters, and teachers can read individual chapters that meet their immediate teaching needs and concerns. In addition, most chapters feature a section of author insights in which celebrated authors share their thoughts about how reading influences their writing. These voices- from such distinguished teachers as Ralph Fletcher, Lester Laminack, Toni Buzzo, Lola Schaefer, David Harrison, Nicola Davis, and Lisa Yee-add a richness to the book that teachers will enjoy.

In Chapter 1, Culham shares some disturbing statistics about the nature of literacy in schools and then goes on to claim the crisis in public education "can be remedied by these two factors: students' access to great texts, and great teaching" (p. 11). Culham wants teachers to teach children that writing is not easy, can be messy at times, but can also be satisfying. She urges teachers to stop doing things that do not work, such as using worksheets and assigning vocabulary lists, and encourages teachers to focus on the things that do work with writers, such as providing students with choice and evaluating writers based on performance and growth over time.

Chapter 2 encourages teachers to use mentor texts to teach writing, a concept that has been around for a time. To do this, teachers need to look at all sorts of texts-print, digital, visual-with an eye for the craft of writing and with the intention to read these texts like a writer. Teachers need to see the possibilities for writing in a variety of mentor texts, including traditional picturebooks, canonical texts, do not disturb signs, menus, websites, and pamphlets. …

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