Model and imitate writing styles

Model reading and writing

Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.

William Zinsser – On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction (p. 34).

Students need quality models of reading and writing to use text and write effectively.

Real world text

Reading is much more than decoding and fluency. Students need to work with all types of text in real world situations. They must understand the different purposes and uses of content.

Plan to model

What reading and writing should we model?

  • Textbooks
  • Authentic text
  • e-Reader devices
  • Online applications
  • Tablet applications
  • PDFs
  • Online resources
    • Magazines
    • Research tools
    • Newspapers
    • News resources
    • Blogs
    • Social media
    • Search results

Writing is imitation

Surround students with high quality writing samples to use as models.

What writing will students analyze and imitate this week?

Each school day some time should be spent reading and responding to quality writing.

Paper and online writing formats are different.

Students need to understand their audience will read text differently depending on the situation. A student may have to repurpose text to different formats and styles to best communicate their message effectively.

Start a learning progression


Start with learning expectations

The standards tell us where to take students, but not how to deal with students not ready for them.

What do we need to know about our students right now?

  1. What standards are most relevant?
    • What skills should they have?
    • What content knowledge do we expect students to have?
  2. How will we know where students are in the expected learning progression?

What are the skills and knowledge every student needs at the start of a learning cycle?

The answer will guide your diagnostic decisions.

Previous expectations and learning support the new outcomes.

Earlier instruction builds a foundation to support future instructional needs. If you are confident they did, look for recent data that helps guide diagnostic decisions.

What diagnostic measures should we use to gauge student readiness?

Focus on the most critical skills and keep your diagnostic data targeted.

  • What skills or knowledge should students have now?
  • Where are our students now?
  • Where do we start based on their initial performance results?

Diagnostic assessments measure skills and content knowledge within the target learning. A good measure and data help lower the chance to chase issues outside the focus.

Performance tasks with guidelines

Tasks demonstrate student thinking and provide quality data. Set guidelines for administration to improve the consistency of data. Uniform administration provides a better environment to make inferences from the data. If you allow modifications, make sure everyone knows the rules.

What will we do with students that show a large learning gap?

Some students will not be ready to start at grade level expectations. Closing significant knowledge gaps need a different approach than just regular instruction.

Specialized resources, including site and district coaches, will be necessary to assist in the design of a support system. Identify the support students will receive, along with the additional or modified work expected from them.

Communicate expectations with students, stakeholders, and parents.

The transparency of support models helps everyone understand the expectations for instruction, support, and helps identify issues the student will have to overcome.

Reader skills, characteristics, and text


Reader skills

  • Literacy skills in content areas, including language arts
  • Ability to analyze text for structure and style
  • Determine an author’s purpose
  • Understand the intended audience for the text
  • Balance the reader’s skill and the readability of the text
  • Students comprehension levels with similar text complexity

Characteristics of text

  • Structure of text
  • Arrangement of ideas
  • Amount of distracting information and unity of text
  • Logical connection of events
  • Background knowledge of author’s intended audience

Match readers with text

  • Student engagement levels in reading for pleasure and reading to learn
  • Task teacher expects to be completed with text
  • Comprehension success with similar text complexity
  • Scaffold and support system in place to assist student success
  • Formative assessment models that increase complexity in appropriate increments
  • Instructional practice to increase complexity levels over time with students

Source: Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading Frey, Fisher, and Lapp