Updated: Nov 4, 2019
Our end goal as educators should be to create life-long learners. In order to accomplish this we must value the ability to read and write, because a persons ability to read and write define literacy. It is impossible to separate the two! As an educator I've pursued a literacy-based learning approach in all subject areas. Whether it's science, math, history, and even the arts, the possibilities are endless when reading and writing are at the core of the learning process. This fact is extremely important to understand how reading and writing are related and why it is important to help a student understand the thinking process behind both - because they are related.
Once a reader is reading to learn versus learning to read, they begin learning how to think like a writer. Reading is an active process where thinkers connect, predict, critically analyze, recognize creative elements, form opinions, retain information, infer, etc.etc. Readers do these things automatically. Writers read to see what works, how elements are used creatively, and understand sentence structure. We also read to experience how the author used language to "sweep" their audience "away by the force of [their] writing" which they cannot do unless their own writing gave them those same emotions. (Stephen King On Writing)
"So we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them. We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read to experience different styles." - Stephen King, On Writing, p.146-147
Isn't that great? Stephen King wrote another one of my favorite paragraphs on the reciprocal relationship that exists between reading and writing in the few pages following those sentences,
"The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one's papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn't, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor." - Stephen King, On Writing, p.150
I truly believe that is as applicable to a writer wanting to sell a novel as it is for a little person learning to write.
What does this look like in our early elementary homeschool classroom right now?
As a second grader I want my student to learn the elements of style, the parts of speech, prefixes, suffixes, gain vocabulary, and then read literature so they can see it in use.
When writers learn the basic rules first as a little parrot how sentences and paragraphs are structured become an automatic action. They create a complete sentence without a lot of thought process and they can recognize a good sentence from a bad sentence when they know the specific criteria that makes a good sentence. I have heard arguments stating, "I diagramed sentences to death as a kid!" And I do agree that too much can kill creativity. However, teaching a concept and working hard to master it are completely different than a pile of busy work. As educators we have to be cognizant of the difference.
Therefore, fill their little toolbox with sentence structure rules, grammar, and elements of style. Fill their mind with new vocabulary. Do what invites ideas. The more creative you are as their guide, the more you inspire creativity in their writing. And then go to literature to see it in action.
Your Key to Success
I've said this so many times that you're probably sick of hearing it, but use a rubric. Read this post to understand why. But a solid representation of what is expected in good writing is of utmost importance.
It doesn't change much as they get older.
The idea is take what they know then expound on it. Build their vocabulary. Give them as many tools that are available, then teach them to analyze more complicated, longer literature with a critical eye. If you're struggling to know what that looks like, visit my lessons on analyzing literature:
And then use an updated rubric (download mine for FREE) that completes the expectations; teaching and going through each criteria one at a time until it's mastered.
If this sounds stressful or if your reader/writer is struggling through the process, contact me. I am super passionate about giving all learners the tools to read and write well. It's my job to help. And I love what I do!
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