Reading Like a Writer

Reading like a writer is often the starting place in Writer’s Workshop with our students.  I began each year with a collection of picture books that I used as read-alouds the first month of school.  As I shared them with my students, I introduced writer’s craft by pointing out examples in the texts.  The same thing can be done through your reading basal series stories.  For me, this approach was the easiest way to get my students thinking and reading like writers.  Below is a lesson for Writer’s Workshop that  followed at about the 3-week mark of school.

  Reading Like a Writer

 Students need to notice craft in writing as they read; to read like a writer.  You can develop this skill during your read-aloud time.  As you read each book, stop and discuss elements of writer’s craft in the book.  Point out writer’s tools such as:  circular ending, repetition, rhyme, use of gesture or a recurring object, how the main character is developed, surprises in the plot, use of dialogue, examples of showing instead of telling.

 Select a touchstone text that you think will illustrate several writer’s craft tools.  I like to share the following quote with my students as I begin the Writer’s Workshop session.

Quote:  “Reading like a writer is like watching a magic act.  The magician cuts a rope into three pieces, puts it into a hat, waves the wand, and pulls it out:  Presto!  The rope is back in one piece!

 Our first reaction to a magic trick is:  “Whoa!  Awesome!”  But that is quickly followed by a second reaction:  “How did he do that?” and a split second later there is usually a third reaction:  “Do it again so I can figure out how to do it myself!”                           Ralph Fletcher

1.  The first reading is just the beginning.  This is when you are just the reader.  You absorb the book just for the pure pleasure of reading it.

 2.  As a writer, you need to reread so that you can switch your focus from what the piece is about to how the author wrote this.  The rereading process is when you really start digging into the writer’s craft and what tools they used.

 3. Read aloud the touchstone text that you selected to the group.  Then reread together looking for what the writer did and how they did it.  If possible, give students a typed copy of the text so that they can highlight words or phrases that resonate with them as you read.  Complete the form used for reading like a writer as a chart for the read-aloud text in the large group.  Discuss and name the writing craft tools that they find in the text.

 4.  Send students away in pairs with a new book to read together and complete the reader response form.  These books could be books that have been available in your classroom for independent reading or books that you have already shared as “read alouds”.

 5.  The next day (or later that day), each team shares their findings with the class.  This is a good opportunity to create a poster/chart list of writer’s craft tools if you have not already done so.  Display the list in the classroom for future lessons.

 6.  Leave these books out for several days so that students have the opportunity to read all of them.

Reading Like a Writer                     Name____________________

 With your partner, read your book.  Look for what the author is doing that you like; that makes you stop and re-read; that makes you pause and think.

 Copy the example from the book.  Then tell why you think the author is doing this in column two.

 Then name the craft technique in column three. 

What is the author doing? Copy example Why is the author doing this? What can I call this crafting technique?



























Use the following hand-out as another lesson on reading like a writer.  Again, the students search through touchstone texts for examples of writer’s craft.   They are asked to extend their understanding by crafting their own examples.


What is the author doing?  Copy an example of good writing that you see. 











Why is the author doing this?  What does it do for the reader?  









What can you call this writer’s craft technique?  










Have you ever seen another author craft this way?  Give example.  












On the back of this paper, copy from your Writer’s Notebook or journal or create an example from your own writing of this writer’s craft tool.