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Reading & Writing Connections: Getting to Know a Character on the Outside and the Inside

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“Writers,” Ali said as she leaned in close to teach her second graders, “I’ve got an important tip for you about your realistic fiction characters. You’ve done such a great job describing what they are like on the outside. You’ve shown us what they look like, how they move, how they talk…even in some cases, how they smell, right Jacob?”  A kid in the front row shrugged and giggled a little. Apparently the characters in his stories were smelly.  “But when you read a really great story, you also feel like you know what the characters are like on the inside too. What they like and what they don’t like, their strengths and weaknesses, and what they hope for and wish for.”

On that day during writing workshop, Ali taught her second graders that they can write in a way that shows what characters are like on the outside AND what they are like on the inside, by showing how characters feel. They could describe the look on a character’s face, or make the character say something that could reveal what they were thinking and feeling.

On that same day, in reading workshop, Ali taught her second graders that when they’re reading, they can pay close attention to the pictures and the words to see the characters’ faces to figure out they are feeling, and they can pay attention to the dialogue for clues that show how characters feel.

And on the next day Ali showed her second graders that not only could they show what their characters were feeling at one part of the story, but they could do that at each part of the story. “In fact,” she said, “some writers even plan ahead for how their characters feelings will probably change at each part of the story. When they’re planning what will happen, they also think about how the characters will feel. One way to plan your story is to sketch pictures across the pages to show what will happen in your story, to show how the characters’ feelings will change at each part of the story.”

Then later that day, during reading workshop, Ali taught her second grade readers that they could pay close attention to the character feelings at each part of the books they read, noticing how the characters’ feelings change from the beginning to the middle to the end of the story.

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When your units of study for reading and writing are aligned, you can maximize your teaching by making connections across both. Your students can learn to read like writers, and write like readers!

BethMooreSchool View All

Literacy Coach, Consultant, Author, Graduate Course Instructor, and Mom. Passionate about fostering a love of reading and writing in learners of all ages.

8 thoughts on “Reading & Writing Connections: Getting to Know a Character on the Outside and the Inside Leave a comment

  1. This is such an important idea! Especially for teachers at the middle school level, where I coach. They have 60 minutes a day for Literacy, reading and writing (and everything else that comes in between- grammar, vocabulary, etc). The timing is a struggle. However, as stated in your post, their teaching time can really be maximized by making connections between reading and writing workshop. This is something that I’ve been working with them on as we try to align our reading work to our Writing UoS. It’s a new thinking for many, but we get a little better each day!

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  2. I always preferred to align my RW and WW UoS. I always found life was easier and connections were made faster. It’s basically like a tongue in groove situation — it just fits together perfectly when you align them.

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  3. Putting it all together. That’s what it’s all a-bout! (Clap) I keep thinking of the “Hokey-Pokey” song and how at the end you “put your whole self in…” I love it when everything comes together! I teach social studies, too, and boy is that wonderful when all three subjects mesh together!

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  4. Yes! I cannot separate reading from writing when I teach. If the two workshops are not aligned, I read a book before each writing workshop. I want kids to be thinking about one while they do the other.

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  5. I am the 5th grade writing teacher this yr at my school and I love that I can focus all my attention on the teaching of writing. However, especially after participanting in the March writing challenge where I personally saw how I was writing better BECAUSE I was reading other writing every day, I’ve started to think that we can’t separate out the reading from the writing. Either, the same teacher needs to teach both subjects to make those lesson connections as shared in this blog post or much more planning and collaboration needs to occur between the teacher teaching reading and myself. Sadly, very little collaboration occurs now. Thanks for the reminder that when reading and writing are aligned, much stronger learning occurs for the students.

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  6. I just finished reading Tara’s throw back post and then I read Beth’s and both focus on the idea of reading like writers! When what you are teaching readers to pay attention to and notice in their books things they see the author doing and why he/she does that, it helps the reader see possibilities for writing too. I know that our best readers are often good writers because they have unconsciously taken in what good writing sounds like. In school when I was growing up, I was never taught in a workshop way and no teacher ever described a writer’s process. Still, I loved writing and it was a strength in elementary school and beyond. I think it is important to make the whole process more conscious and deliberate and show our students that they can “read like a writer” and notice how authors put words together specifically and why. Great posts to get me thinking about how I can do this more for my students!

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