Craft Cracking

\"Cracked Geode\" by PAgent on flickr

I have a rather terrible habit of assuming conscious negative intent when “higher-ups” (or their potential henchpeople) mention professional titles.  I anticipate more bolted-on, poorly supported shifts in curriculum and practices that don’t end up benefiting students as promised and promoted.  So during the last week of school, an enthusiastic literacy coach dropped the title Cracking Open the Author’s Craft by Lester Laminack in my ear.  Visions of yet more “stuff” plopped on the heads of myself and my teaching pals danced in my head, so I ordered this book and decided to play detective.

It’s okay.  Laminack has used a picture book memoir he wrote, Saturdays and Teacakes, to examine a handful of “craft moves”.  I wish I’d run into this three years ago when I was floundering to figure this out.  But plenty of others are still floundering, and this is the perfect way to ease in to teaching writer’s craft.  The book comes with a super-handy DVD with Laminack reading his book and talking through several potential focus lessons-worth of craft points to ponder with students.  By using just one text, he makes it seem very manageable, and gives suggestions for other texts that display similar craft work.

He relies pretty heavily on the work of Katie Wood Ray, which I appreciated since I do the same when it comes to craft work!  But I have found that my colleagues who show interest in learning more about writer’s craft cringe at the size of her book Wondrous Words.  Laminack’s slim volume invites even reluctant teachers to consider teaching writer’s craft and facilitating text inquiry.

So now instead of impending dread, I look forward to using this resource as a teaching staff–viewing portions of the DVD, discussing what it means to “read with writer’s eyes”, and imagining together how we can use the study of craft to grow our young writers.

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