Bring It All Together/Reflection Please review these 3 sources from the modules since the Mid Term:
1. Textbook readings (information that stood out to you from the chapters)
2. Videos (information that stood out to you from the videos presented in the modules)
3. Articles (information from research articles, charts, or other readings that stood out to you)
Submit a synthesis/reflection about what you have learned this semester concerning teaching reading. Remember, this course lays the foundation for future literacy courses.
Word Limit: 300 words or more.
Where did English come from?
Chapter readings 4 and 16: uploaded Write THIS WAY
THE POWER OF MODELING
“Nothing, absolutely nothing you will ever do as a teacher
will be more powerful than modeling writing in
front of your students.”
— Vicki Spandel
Years ago, I decided to learn to knit. So I did what any self-respecting
would-be knitter does—I marched myself down to my local library and
checked out a book that promised to make me a knitter by Chapter 3.
With needles and yarn in hand, I perused the pages and carefully
studied the illustrations and diagrams, and yet I quickly discovered that,
in this case, a picture was not worth a thousand words. I simply could
not make my fingers and yarn look like the ones shown on page 2. I
could see the picture of the needle going through the small hole but,
try as I may, I could not “cast on.” It didn’t take me long to realize that
the words and pictures in this book (or any book) couldn’t teach me
all that I needed to know in order to knit. I needed someone to show
I phoned Grandma Wilson, my husband’s grandmother, and asked if
she’d kindly clear her social calendar and teach me to knit. After my
repeated promises of copious quantities of chocolate as payment,
she gladly obliged.
On a sunny Saturday morning, we gathered our materials and made
ourselves comfortable on the couch. Grandma began by asking me to
simply watch her. She showed me how she tied a slipknot, and then
she cast the first few stitches. I watched. I listened. I tried it on my own.
Several times throughout the morning, Grandma placed her hands over
mine and guided them as I attempted a stitch. Then she released me
to try it on my own. Each time I would mangle my yarn into an
unmanageable mess, she would softly say, “Okay, let’s see what we’ve
got here,” quietly unravel the knots, and ask me to watch her again.
Chapter 1: THE POWER OF MODELING
After a few more Saturdays (and heaps more chocolate), I was starting
to get the hang of it. I was knitting. Pretty much. (Okay, in truth, I
learned enough to make several scarves that I gave as gifts and my
family wore for a few days as a show of support and immense kindness,
but you get the point.)
Years later, I realized that Grandma Wilson had done what many
effective teachers do: She had modeled the task. She had explicitly
demonstrated and shown me what a proficient knitter is thinking and
doing when she knits. Those mornings with Grandma Wilson were
worth much more than anything I could have learned from a book.
If you think about it, modeling plays an important role in how the
human brain learns almost anything. Infants and toddlers watch their
caregivers walk, talk, and eat with a spoon. Piano students notice and
note the way the instructor’s hands are placed on the keys when playing
scales. Tennis players watch and listen as the coach demonstrates how
to serve the ball. Student teachers observe a master teacher before
teaching lessons on their own.
Collins, Brown, and Newman (1989) call this cognitive apprenticeship.
Through this apprenticeship, processes that are usually carried out
internally (i.e., reading, playing piano, driving, etc.) are externalized
so the learner can see how an expert completes the task.
Modeling is said to be one of the most effective of all teaching
strategies (Pearson and Fielding, 1991). This is especially true when
it comes to writing. Research has consistently found that teachers
who engage in writing experiences themselves can connect more
authentically with students during the writing process (Cremin, 2006;
Kaplan, 2008). Fisher and Frey (2003) found that writing fluency
improved significantly when teachers modeled their own writing.
In 2012, Sharon Zumbrunn and Keegan Krause wrote an article that
appeared in The Reading Teacher. In the article, seven leading
authorities in the field of writing were interviewed and asked to share
their beliefs about effective writing instruction. Zumbrunn and Krause
wrote, “…(leaders) stressed that writing teachers need to be writers
themselves and, as Thomas Newkirk said, ‘know from the inside out
what writing is like.’”
Write THIS WAY
In the same article, Jerome Harste (2012) recommended the following:
“If I were to give a tip to teachers, I’d tell them to take out a sheet of
paper and start writing. I’d also tell them to share what they write with
students. I think we (as teachers) provide the type of demonstration
that students need to see and be around. There’s power in making
yourself as vulnerable as the students you’re teaching.”
The Common Core State Standards, or CCSS (2010), and most state
standards require high-quality research and writing from even the
youngest of children. These standards ask writers at every grade level
to create pieces of narrative, informative or explanatory, and opinion
writing in order to be prepared for the kinds of writing we do as
As I read the CCSS, I notice one phrase that appears over and over:
“with guidance and support from adults.” For example, one of the
standards for kindergarten states, “With guidance and support from
adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from
provided sources to answer a question” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.K.8).
In fifth grade, one of the standards reads, “With guidance and support
from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by
planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach” (CCSS.
It’s clear, isn’t it? If we want kindergartners to gather information from
resources, it’s imperative that teachers show them how. Likewise, if fifth
graders are going to dig into the courageous and sometimes difficult
work of planning, editing, and revising, they must have the opportunity
to tune in and notice the things that other writers do when they plan,
edit, and revise.
As writing teachers, we often neglect the powerful strategy of
modeling in our classrooms. We use mentor texts as a way to examine
what other authors do in their writing, but we rarely demonstrate our
own thinking and processes. Donald Graves (2013), a longtime advocate
for modeled writing, said “Students can go a lifetime and never see
another person write, much less show them how to write. Yet, it would
be unheard of for an artist to not show her students how to use oils by
painting on her own canvas, or for a ceramist not to demonstrate how
to throw clay on a wheel and shape the material himself.”
If we want kindergartners
to gather information from
resources, it’s imperative
that teachers show them
how. Likewise, if fifth
graders are going to dig
into the courageous and
sometimes difficult work
of planning, editing, and
revising, they must have
the opportunity to tune in
and notice the things that
other writers do when
they plan, edit, and revise.
Chapter 1: THE POWER OF MODELING
So what if we crafted a piece of writing in front of our students, showing
them how a proficient writer thinks and what a proficient writer does?
What if we gave students a window into our thinking and allowed them
to see the reality and messiness of our own writing process? What if we
made ourselves vulnerable and took risks as writers—and what if we
did that in front of our students?
I believe there is immense power in giving students a peek into the
mind and processes of another writer. In fact, I believe that modeled
writing could be called “a 10-minute makeover” for the classroom. If,
every day, we took five to 10 minutes to model our own thinking and
writing before asking students to write, we could transform our
students into successful writers.
An anchor chart that we made for a mini-lesson or a list of writing
features projected on an interactive whiteboard simply cannot take the
place of an authentic piece of writing that is crafted on the spot. When
I model, I’m showing students what
I do before I write, while I’m writing,
and when I finish a piece of writing.
Modeling also strengthens our
students’ knowledge of:
• writing behaviors,
• different types of text,
• the writing process,
• story structures,
• how writing helps us and
enriches our everyday life, and
• the vocabulary that writers
use to talk about writing.
If, every day, we took
five to 10 minutes to
model our own thinking
and writing before
asking students to write,
we could transform
our students into
Write THIS WAY
A Few Clarifications about Writing Instruction
Before we continue, allow me to make a few clarifications. In my
workshops with teachers, I notice there is some confusion about what
modeled writing is. Many teachers confuse modeled writing with other
kinds of writing instruction found in classrooms. So let me begin by
first explaining the difference between modeled writing and other
Modeled writing should not be confused with shared writing. A shared
writing experience invites students to collaborate with the teacher to
create a piece of writing. In a shared writing experience, the teacher
holds the pen, but students jump in, give suggestions, and interact
with the teacher as he or she writes.
Modeled writing also differs from interactive writing. In an interactive
writing experience, teachers and students work together to decide
what words, phrases, and sentences should be included in the piece,
but now individual students are holding the pen and doing the
Shared writing and interactive writing are both effective scaffolds that
support student writers, and they have a place in the writing classroom.
Both experiences provide an opportunity to share ideas, collaborate,
and create a piece of strong writing by working with other writers.
Shared writing and interactive writing make it possible for all students
to create a high-quality piece while raising the expectation for what is
possible. Although shared writing and interactive writing help promote
writing, I believe that the real transformation in our writing classrooms
occurs when teachers engage in modeled writing.
Modeled writing is unique in that the teacher is doing all or most of
the thinking and talking and all of the writing. In a modeled writing
experience, students are invited to tune in and notice the things
that the writer is doing, but they don’t offer suggestions or ideas
for improving the piece. Instead, students listen and observe as
the teacher plans, makes choices, researches, drafts, rereads, edits,
evaluates, or revises. The teacher makes his or her thinking transparent
while students observe. (See Fig. 1.1.)
Chapter 1: THE POWER OF MODELING
Asks for ideas
Holds the pen and does
the actual writing
Writes, stops, and rereads
often to see how the
Share ideas and
suggestions for what
should be written
Reread to see how the
What do we think about
Who has an idea about
how we could start
Guides students as they
think of words, phrases,
or sentences to add to a
piece of writing
students as they add to
the piece of writing
Suggest words, phrases,
or sentences that can be
added to the piece
Hold the pen and do the
Reread to see how the
So we agreed that we
wanted to add this
sentence here, “Bears are
excellent climbers.” Who
would like to come up
and add that sentence to
Writes a portion of
Stops to reread and
Does all or most of
Watch and listen
Notice what the teacher is
thinking and doing as he
or she writes
I want to speak directly to
my reader here to add a
little voice and interest to
my writing. I’m thinking I
Or I could write….
I like the way my first idea
sounded. Watch me as I
add that to my writing.
Write THIS WAY
Blaze the Trail
My husband and I both love to hike, and we’d love nothing better than
to pass this love of the outdoors on to our two young sons. So several
times each summer, we pack enough snacks to feed a small village and
head for the hills.
When we hike as a family, my husband is usually assigned to “blaze the
trail.” He goes ahead of us and we trod behind. As he hikes, he will
often look back at us and say, “Hey, watch your step on this rock. It’s
slippery,” or “Step over this log like this.”
Our rationale is that if the boys watch my husband explore the trail first
and learn from what he is encountering, it will help them to navigate the
trail more successfully and actually increase their love of hiking. In short,
it allows my husband to experience the trail first as a hiker and then as
What if we approached the teaching of writing with the same principle?
What if we were willing to “blaze the trail” by experiencing writing tasks
first as a writer and then as a guide? When we model our own thinking
and writing for students, we are doing just that. We are saying: I know
what the path before you is like. I’ve been there. Let me help you by
sharing what I’ve discovered.
In order to see what this looks like in the classroom, let’s examine two
variations of the same writing task.
Teacher A gives students an assignment. Students are asked to create
a travel brochure about a state of their choosing. She makes a list of
features that must be included in each travel brochure and explains that
students will start by researching and collecting important facts about
their states. She points out the basket of books that they can use when
gathering their facts and reminds them to write down facts in their own
words rather than simply copying the facts that they find in the book.
Teacher B explains that over the next few weeks, everyone will be
researching and creating a travel brochure about a state. He passes out
several travel brochures that he has collected from a local travel agency
and asks partners to think about and answer the question: What makes
a good brochure?
Chapter 1: THE POWER OF MODELING
As he listens to several pairs share, he creates a chart called “Qualities
of a Good Travel Brochure.” He and his students work together to
create a list of features (colorful photographs, lists of attractions, a
section about the weather, etc.).
After each student has chosen the state that he or she will write about,
Teacher B chooses a state that has not been selected by anyone else.
Over the next few days, before students began researching, Teacher B
takes 10 minutes to show the students how he reads a short section of
text and then jots down words or phrases to capture important facts
about his state. Once he’s collected several facts, he thinks out loud
and explicitly demonstrates how he uses the words and phrases to
create interesting and inviting sentences to include in his travel brochure.
I predict that the students in Teacher A’s classroom will struggle.
Without explicit teaching and modeling about how to read, research,
and write, many students will simply do what they’ve always done—
copy facts from the resources provided. The readers and writers in
Teacher A’s classroom will likely become confused over the process and
might simply give up and look for something more interesting to do.
Those who do complete a brochure likely won’t match Teacher A’s
expectations. Teacher A assigned a writing task, but she didn’t teach
students how to engage in the reading and writing processes necessary
for the task.
On the other hand, I predict that the students in Teacher B’s classroom
will jump right in and experience success! The students in this classroom
have been given the opportunity to examine the kind of information
that is included in a quality travel brochure. The teacher has explicitly
modeled how to locate information, read, take notes, and then turn
those notes into running text. They’ve seen how an adult reader, writer,
and thinker approaches the work. Teacher B hasn’t simply assigned a
writing task; he has shown students how to engage with the resources
to create high-quality work.
It’s clear, isn’t it? Before we ask students to do something, we should
be willing to do it first. So before we ask our students to create a
persuasive poster that teaches others about the importance of daily
exercise, we should demonstrate how we would create a poster on a
similar topic, such as eating more fruits and vegetables. If our student
writers are going to be crafting a book review on one of their favorite
books, we should show them how we write one using one of our
Without explicit teaching
and modeling about how
to read, research, and
write, many students
will simply do what
they’ve always done—
copy facts from the
Write THIS WAY
favorite books. These explicit demonstrations allow students to see
how another writer completes the task. They also help students see
what’s possible in their own writing. We blaze the trail and invite them
to come join us!
The bottom line is this: As writing instructors, it’s imperative that we
write. Think about it. If you want your child to learn ballet, you wouldn’t
sign him or her up for lessons taught by someone who doesn’t dance.
There’s a reason why a swim instructor wears a bathing suit and is in the
water. Learning to write (like learning to dance, swim, or knit) happens
best when someone comes alongside us and shows us how it’s done.
Throughout the next eight chapters, you’ll find tips, sample models,
tools, and stories from the classroom to help you unleash the power of
modeled writing in your classroom. I’ll serve as your guide as I share the
triumphs and the tribulations from my own journey as a teacher of
writing. Sprinkled throughout the book, you’ll find a plethora of
examples of teacher language that you can use as you make your own
thinking and writing visible to your students. In Chapter 7, I’ve created
several sample mini-lessons that can be used “as is” or tweaked to
match the needs of the learners in your classroom. Finally, in the
Appendix, you’ll find reproducible templates that will help you as you
plan for modeled writing and work with student writers.
As you read this book, I hope you’ll feel a nudge to begin the daily
practice of thinking and writing out loud in front of your students. I
think you’ll find it’s a powerful way to transform your writing classroom
and give your student writers the tools and the confidence that they
need to soar!