1st Edition

Close Writing Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6

By Paula Bourque Copyright 2016

    How closely do your students read their writing? What are the implications for those who do and those who don't? During her work in classrooms, literacy coach Paula Bourque noticed that students who read their own writing closely are engaged in their work, write fluently, are able to produce lengthy drafts, and incorporate teaching points from mini-lessons into the day's writing. In this comprehensive book, Paula shows you that no matter what structures or lessons you use in your writing classroom, the strategies in Close Writing will help you make these better by creating student writers who are more aware of what effective writing looks like, who care about what they write, and who take ownership and responsibility for their growth as writers. Paula argues that a key element in close writing is learning to look and looking to learn by closely reading our own writing. Instead of focusing on the mechanics of their writing, she encourages students to read their words for understanding, clarity, and the effect they will have on an audience. She urges them to recognize their habits and their approaches to writing and to build upon them.Close Writing is based on research and methods that are reliable and valid best practices, but it will not prescribe lessons or structures. It gives you a peek inside classrooms where teachers just like you are working with budding authors just like yours. Paula also provides considerations for ELL writers, as well as a section of interviews with authors. She shares an extensive reference/resource guide, and a companion website with students' work samples, reproducibles and templates, and videos of classroom writing lessons round out this must-have resource.

    Part 1: Guiding Principles; Chapter 1: Learning to Look; Chapter 2: Close Reading: The Key to Close Writing; Part 2: Close Writing Lessons; Chapter 3: Close Listening: Developing Our Writer's Ear; Chapter 4: Close Looking: Learning from Mentor Texts; Chapter 5: Close Modeling: Learning from Mentor Authors; Chapter 6: Increasing Volume and Stamina; Chapter 7: Rereading and Reflecting; Chapter 8: Revising: Revisiting and Revisioning; Chapter 9: Eyes and Ears of an Editor; Chapter 10: Assessment and Feedback for Close Writing; Chapter 11: Publishing and Performing: The Process and the Product; Part 3: Close Writing with Authors; Getting Close to Writers to Be Close Writers


    Paula Bourque is a National Board-Certified Teacher of literacy and a K-6 instructional coach in Augusta, Maine. She considers herself a lifelong learner and has worn many hats in her thirty-plus years in education: classroom teacher, Reading Recovery teacher, literacy specialist, consultant, adjunct instructor, presenter, and mom.

    Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6 maintains that closely analyzing works for their effectiveness produces better writing, and that this approach can be cultivated in very early grade levels. It's designed to be useful for a variety of lesson plans and educational approaches, and it offers a range of inspirational examples, from student mentor texts and revision and rereading processes to narrowing the scope of writing to prevent student overwhelm and understanding common patterns in fiction and nonfiction alike. Black and white photos, charts, and discussions of writing clubs and other approaches make for a fresh, lively collection of insights teachers will appreciate.
    The Bookwatch: July 2016 Paula Bourque's enthusiasm for experience her subject is undeniable. She is a K-8 l iteracy coach in Augusta, Maine, and has worked  for 28 years in  education. Her book Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6 provides solid instruction in developing purposeful writers. The target audience is elementary school instructors, but writing instructors for other grade levels will find useful techniques here also. Close reading is really rereading, and re-engaging with the text to determine what is missing. Bourque readily acknowledges that writing is hard work and too often students feel that when the task is done, they are done with the task. Often, when she asked students to read their work aloud, she found that they also treated that as a task and read their writing too quickly.
                    One method she uses to encourage careful reading is "cranium reading," a technique in which the reader covers her ears and reads the work to herself. The idea is that "when things are different, we tend to pay more attention to them." The bulk of the book (Part 2) is "Close Writing Lessons," and these include close listening, close looking (at mentor texts), close modeling (based on mentor authors), increasing volume and stamina (of writing output), rereading and reflecting, revising, editing, assessing, publishing, and performing. The mentor texts referred to are those of former students and of published authors. Each chapter is illustrated with stories and photographs of teachers and students in action and of student work, and each chapter ends with "considerations for English language learners" and a bullet point summary.
                    Some of the clever ideas that Bourque suggests are sliding a piece of writing into a sheet protector and editing on the plastic with dry erase markers, having students deliberately write badly, having instructors try out their own assignments, asking students what it is about writing that makes them feel good or bad, using text-to-speech software to hear the writing, acting out dialogue, and reading the work to a listener who can then ask questions if something is not clear. These are just a few of Bourque's many excellent techniques to use, regardless of the grade level of the students. Bourque is an enthusiastic teacher and writing promoter. She encourages children to think of themselves as authors and schools them in the techniques that actual authors use. She uses authors' works as mentor texts and has Skyped with authors before in the classroom. Part 3 of the book includes short interviews with twelve authors, and each of them emphasized their love of reading and re-emphasized that good writing takes time to read, re­ read, listen to, revise-all techniques that Bourque discusses and all techniques that need to be implemented in writing curricula now.
    Gayle Roller has a master of arts degree from California State San Marcos and is completing a TESOL certificate at California State Poly­ technic University, Pomona. She has taught developmental composition courses at the community college level in the past and is looking for­ ward to teaching ESL classes in the near future.