The teacher's role in helping students learn about and employ the craft of writing: a case study of two elementary school writing teachers
Griffith, Robin Renea
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Writing is a complex process that requires the divided attention of the writer who must pay attention to the message, the conventions of writing, and the craft of writing. The craft of writing refers to all the subtleties of writing that allow the writing to flow and entice the reader to continue reading. Teaching the craft of writing is difficult and many teachers claim they are uncomfortable teaching the writer’s craft. Some writing experts claim that teachers can help their students learn about the craft of writing by reading and studying the works of other authors. Authors and their pieces of writing can serve as mentors for developing writers. Several studies have documented cases of young writers successfully borrowing from mentor texts, yet very little research exists on the role of the teacher in helping the students learn to borrow from these texts. The purpose of this study was to examine the seemingly critical role of the teacher in helping students learn about and employ the writer’s craft. This study's data set included detailed field notes from seventeen writing workshop lessons from two elementary teachers, one transcribed writing workshop lesson from each teacher, transcripts of the initial and final interviews with each teacher, transcribed interviews of twelve case study students, and various documents. The findings from this research study indicated that teaching the craft of writing is as idiosyncratic as the art of writing itself. The two teachers from this study employed the common tool of children's literature but approached the task of teaching students about the craft of writing in very personal and unique ways. Their personal experiences as writers, their knowledge of writing and their knowledge of children's literature influenced the way in which they taught writing. The approaches were different but it can be argued that both were effective.