Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling & Mentor Texts
Stenhouse Publishers 2011
“Writing has become foundational to finding meaningful employment across much of the workforce.” pg 3
7 out of 10 students leave school
“…without the necessary skills to actively participate in either civic life or in the global economy” pg 5
Why I Chose to Read this Book
I read Readicide two summers ago, in the midst of a teaching identity crisis and was working to figure out how to get non-readers to read again. When I received an email from Stenhouse Publishers announcing the release of Write Like This, I knew it would be well worth the read, because I have adopted many of Gallagher’s ideas from Readicide into my classroom.
A Brief Summary
In Write Like This, Gallagher argues two basic premises for teaching students to write:
- Why students should write (real-world discourse), and
- for teachers to step out of their comfort zone and start writing before, in front of, and with their students, as well as find and use mentor texts to help students learn how to write for authentic audiences.
He argues this thesis by providing research based evidence, as well as, anecdotal observations.
He provides explanations of six pairs of authentic discourses, while stating there are many more than he could possibly mention. The six pairs he chose to focus on as part of what should be in any writing teacher’s classroom are:
- Express and Reflect
- Inform and Explain
- Evaluate and Judge
- Inquire and Explore
- Analyze and Interpret
- Take a Stand/Propose a Solution
He also briefly covers editing and revising, explaining how and why the two of these are very different steps in a writer’s process.
My Take Aways
Gallagher offers up so many examples—both of his own writing, mentor texts, and student writing—you can pick up the book and immediately have ideas to use in your own classroom.
I was already a big fan of “I do, we do, you do” in a classroom and Gallagher makes an even better argument in regards to writing instruction. My favorite (already tried—with varying levels of success) activities include:
- Six Word Memoirs leading to longer Expressive and Reflexive writing
- A Mistake that Should Last a Lifetime
- “So What” Paper
- Congrats Newly Minted _____ (Inform and Explain, great to teach/reinforce satire)
- Sometimes You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover
- the many ideas offered up about college and career writing
- using mentor texts like written book reviews, columns from major publications, and many more
- how to take this writing with real world applications and use it for literature (as so many of us teach reading and writing together)—I particularly like his use of the rating scale activity he uses for consumer products and transfers to literature like Animal Farm
Persuasive techniques, expository, narrative, and persuasive forms of writing are all covered, but in a way to encourage real world applications of such writing. His method of teaching grammar is also one I am hoping to incorporate into my classroom this year. I am always looking for ways to incorporate grammar into my classes and his method may be more effective than some I have tried.
I will read anything of Kelly Gallagher’s. He has not disappointed me yet. He includes real life “combat zone” examples and explanations, which are often more meaningful to me than research based data in the form of numbers and letters. He also writes in an easy to read style, with many metaphors and analogies to help make his ideas make sense. For me, this means he acknowledges, as we should as teachers to our students, his readers are as varied in understanding and knowledge and may need things presented in different ways.
Overall, I give this one a 5 star—any writing teacher, language arts teachers, or teacher in general who wants to incorporate MORE writing into their classroom should pick up this book and find some useful strategies.