Room 313

adventures in teaching creative writing

10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know REVIEW

This is the second Jeff Anderson book I’ve read. I enjoy how he shares the interactions he and his students have in his classroom. He uses dialogue to show how he teaches and how his students learn. In this bulky tome, he shares some great models, anti-models, lessons, activities, and handouts that can help move students from a first draft attempt to a polished, revised piece. The book is structured to move from the basics like generating ideas and using mentor texts to getting rid of clutter and choosing effective words. Although the back of this books says grades 3-9 will benefit, I think my 10th graders could benefit from quite a few of his teaching techniques and examples.

Anderson includes excerpts from many mentor texts that he uses to inspire his students. To give his students a contrasting “anti” example, he also rewrites some of these passages with redundant wordings, unfocused sentences, or lazy, unimaginative words. His rationale is grounded in Marzano’s research that says students learn from contrasts, and I have to say it seems very effective. I’ve shared good mentor texts with my students before, but I’ve yet to intentionally rewrite them poorly, so that students can easily see what works and what doesn’t in writing.

10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know is filled catchy acronyms, mnemonic devices, charts, math connections, and like I already mentioned, handy mentor texts, many of which are informational. A bibliography collects all of these titles, and an appendix holds many pre-made handouts for mini-lesson activities.

My one complaint about this book is its physical size. The large pages have 2-inch margins that are occasionally peppered with a quote related to that chapter’s “thing” writers need to know. I would have preferred smaller pages and a list of those quotes at the end of the chapter. It was a chore to read such a bulky book. I started it in July and didn’t finish it until now, the end of September. I guess what’s good about that, is you can pick this book up, put down, and return to it without missing a beat. You could probably just skip around to whichever of the 10 things you are most interested in. I read the book in order, but that’s just my personality.

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