Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6

By Goodman, Janie | Language Arts, July 2016 | Go to article overview

Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6


Goodman, Janie, Language Arts


Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6 by Paula Bourque, Stenhouse, 2016, 290 pp., ISBN 978-1-62531-053

As a literacy coach working alongside teachers in their writing workshops, Paula Bourque gradually shifted her thinking from the use of effective instructional strategies in the workshops to the students' responses to those approaches. She began to focus on teaching students how "to look in order to see" (p. 182). In her book, she takes readers inside the writing workshops of teachers in Augusta, Maine, to understand how, through her collaboration with them, the teachers began to rethink and refocus their writing instruction. Through Bourque's coaching, teachers came to understand how providing their students with more opportunities for "cultivating a relationship between a writer and his or her writing through mindful and purposeful rereading, reflecting, and revising" (p. x) would enable them to develop their own writing identities.

Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6 is divided into three parts. Part I, "Guiding Principles," explores the concepts of close writing and close reading. In Chapter 1, Bourque describes how young writers do not consistently reread their writing and "often look at their writing through a single lens that reflects the limits of their expertise as writers" (p. 9). Until they learn to look in order to see, they will not develop as independent writers (p. 7). In Chapter 2, Bourque argues, "Close reading is at the heart of close writing strategies" (p. 29). She provides her readers with an in-depth look at the concept of close reading by referencing those writers whom she calls "the modern-day giants in the world of literacy" (p. 14). She explains how teachers must help students learn to transfer their skills as close readers of others' texts into close reading/rereading of their own written texts in order to develop new understandings of their writing (p. 13).

Part II, "Close Writing Lessons," consists of nine chapters, each with considerations for English language learners. In each chapter, Bourque includes methods teachers can incorporate into their existing writing workshops to help students better develop their identities as writers. These methods include helping students listen to the sound of their writing as well as looking at mentor texts for possible techniques and traits to experiment with in their own writing. …

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