Teach Them How: Analysing Author's Craft in Middle Years Literacy Classrooms
Story, Kate, Sneddon, Marg, Practically Primary
By explicit teaching of reading strategies, we have found that students have made the transition into reflecting on strategies good writers use.
As students enter the later years of secondary English classes, the expectation is that they are able to move beyond the content of the text to critically analyse an author's intent, style and purpose as well. However, the question has to be raised--are we teaching kids how to do this in the Early and Middle Years?
How are we providing teaching and learning opportunities for our students to understand, analyse and articulate what and how (intended or unintended) the impact that the author's craft has on them as readers, and ultimately, how they can then apply this understanding to themselves as strategic writers? This paper outlines strategies for teaching critical literacy through author's craft, style and intent through whole class novel studies.
This approach has been a component of the Middle Years Literacy focus in the Pascoe Park and Sunbury Innovations and Excellence Clusters where Kate Story and Marg Sneddon are the respective Cluster Educators. Shane Calthorpe, Margo Edgar and Ghiran Byrne are practising classroom teachers working with Kate on reshaping curriculum and pedagogy in their Middle Years classrooms.
Teaching Author's Craft
Teaching students to critically view and respond to a writer's craft provides readers with an insight into the world of the writer; to peer through the window of the author's mind and to try to understand the workings and intentions that make words much more than ink marks on paper.
When author's craft is referred to, it means the explicit teaching for understanding of choices authors make as writers and the strategies they apply for particular and intended impact on the reader. For example: What tense does the author use? Does the author combine more than one tense? Does the author have a sense of humour? Can we determine the author's intent? Is there an opinion or message that the author is sharing with us? What research would the author have to do to be able to write a book like this? Does the author provide clues to help us understand the meaning? Has the author combined more than one storyline? What kind of language features does the author use? Why has the text been set up and structure in this particular way? Are we aware of what the author is doing; for example, are they teasing us, or making us wait when we are in suspense? Who is the author, and are we interested in them as a person? What are their background, interests and hobbies? Are we getting to know the author through reading their writing? Can we emulate the style of a particular author?
Teaching author's craft means providing students with opportunities to think beyond content and to develop strategies to comprehend the impact the writer has on them as a reader and to recognise the choices made by the writer in constructing their piece. Therefore, the teaching focus is not in this case on the content of the text but how the writing style, structure and elements of the text work together, and how the reader works at interpreting the text.
In teaching our students 'how' to read and 'how' to write we need to be teaching them 'how' to think like readers and writers. Providing students with a language to have conversations about their writing is essential. These conversations need to move beyond simply discussing the content to being able to have 'accountable dialogue' about the author's craft.
Analysing author's craft is a skill that can be applied to all types of texts, for all student age groups, and that gives further meaning to the students' understanding of themselves as readers and to the connection created between the reader and writer. In understanding an author's purpose and writing style, students can then transfer these understandings of how texts work to their own writing.
Again, it is the explicit teaching of author's craft that our Middle Years students require through structured mini lessons, modelling, shared reading and writing experiences, to then be able to independently practice strategies involved with analysing and responding to texts. …