Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Read Alouds for Writers!

Today is my 24th slice for the 
March Slice of Life Challenge on Two Writing Teachers.

I love reading aloud to my sixth graders! My friend Julieanne blogged last week about picture book read alouds in her classroom...and those posts inspired this one...

I read aloud novels. I read picture books...short stories...poems...articles...even excerpts of novels to my classes. Read alouds have always been an integral & necessary part of reading workshop.

I wanted to read aloud more for my writers during writing workshop. Now, I often read books and stories and poems in writing workshop as mentor texts, but I was looking for a different kind of read aloud...one that spoke to my students as authors. Author to author. 

We began independent writing projects in class. The students are creating all different pieces of writing...some are writing fantasy novels or realistic fiction novels, some are writing poetry, some are creating a picture book. As we began these projects, some students didn't know where to start or what to write about...they were stuck! Thinking about minilessons I could plan to gather more ideas, I wondered, "I'd love for the students to be able to talk to a real author. Someone who could empathize and listen and offer some advice." That's what I found in my read aloud for writing workshop.

Writing Magic written by the brilliant Gail Carson Levine does exactly that! 

She wrote it while she was teaching writing. I'd read a chapter that would serve as a nudge for that day! When students became frustrated with their writing, I read the chapter, "Shut Up!" When we revised leads we read "Back to Beginnings" and when we prepared to give and receive feedback we read "Writers' Groups and Other Helpers".

I love how this is working out. The students take notes on her advice as I'm reading it aloud. We discuss as a class. Then the writing groups discuss how they will use her advice in their writing. In every single chapter she gives this advice, "Save what you wrote! Have fun!" We repeat that often in class.

Levine has another book Writer to Writer that I'm planning on using.

Spilling Ink by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter is another book that would work really well in this kind of read aloud. 

I think Ralph Fletcher's books How Writers Write or Live Writing would also work well. Let's be honest, Fletcher has lots of other books that would work well here.

Talking to my students as writers...real writers...it changed my teaching years ago. Now reading these books to them, these books that speak to them as writers...it's a powerful thing. I see them soak up the advice and try new things. Read aloud for writers in writing workshop is a wonderful thing!

Any other books that you think may help? Please add in comments. 


  1. I'm looking forward to investigating the Levine texts.
    Thank you!

  2. These are all EXCELLENT texts, Michelle! Right now, a group of my 4th grade girls are reading "Writer to Writer" together and trying out many of the writing prompts. They are really enjoying the book. I love the idea of reading parts of these books for read alouds. I'm going to try that! :)

  3. OK, if you could just get one, which would you choose? I have the Fletcher books, but I'd like to add another to my library. Thanks!

    1. I LOVE Writing Magic, Margaret! I'd recommend that one. Check out her website too. Lots of resources there!

  4. Wonderful ideas. I am very excited to look into these books.

  5. I have the Fletcher books and Spilling Ink but hadn't heard of Writing Magic. Must buy. I love how you have the courage to go to independent writing projects. Next year... Do you have Kelly Gallagher's books? You 'd love them. Thanks so much for this post.

  6. Thanks for the good idea! Watch out, Amazon card, here come some more charges!

  7. Great resources and recommendations. I couldn't help but notice the subtitle of the first book - creating stories that "fly". :)

  8. What great recommendations. My list of must-haves just got longer.


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