Monday, October 3, 2011

Learning from Writers

Our first read aloud of the year is the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It's the story of a young boy's survival in the Canadian wilderness. Paulsen builds tension through flashback, minute details of Brian's daily life, and sentence fragments. Here's an example of his writing:

Recently children used their weekend sharing to inspire notebook entries. Libby clearly understood the lesson that even the smallest details of everyday life can generate powerful writing. Here's what she wrote.

When I asked her if she could think of anyone whose writing also sounded like this, Libby thought for a while. "It's sort of like Hatchet," she said.

"It is. Can you see how you've used sentence fragments." She didn't realize she'd done that so I asked her about the difference between her words and the way she'd written them: "Hoping to get it out, I twist a little. Nothing except for the side I just loosened. Blood.

and this sentence: I wanted to get my tooth out but there was just blood after I loosened it.

"It's more intense the way I wrote it."


In fifth grade we often encourage children to read "like writers," to think consciously about the choices a writer makes. For many children, the process occurs unconsciously. This is the reason we insist that reading is often the most important work aspiring writers can do. Enjoy your children's writing, and pay attention to the many ways in which their reading is influencing the way they write.

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