Using author’s craft to build student comprehension and to model writing.

by Janette Barela

Grades K-2, Grades 3-5


Looking at literature closely helps build comprehension and eventually students can use the strategies they identify in their own writing.

In my capacity as an instructional coach in literacy, it’s central to my practice to help build confidence of both students and teachers. I work with teachers in lesson planning, do observations in the classroom, and interact directly with children.

Sometimes, I go into the classroom and work with groups of students to model the strategy for teachers. Other times, I work with the entire class and do a shared reading, then talk about what we noticed.

There is also a lot of behind the scenes work where I work with a teacher to do lesson planning. For example, we work on “sign-posts” or the moments in the lesson where students turn and talk, or the times when you let students grapple with a problem.


What I did well (in sharing this practice with other teachers)?

I was impressed at the level my participants took this topic.  It bridged from elementary into high school with ease and really demonstrated the overall importance of using author’s craft at all levels.

What I would do more of, better, differently (in sharing this practice again)?

I would spend a little more time talking about the benefits of using author’s craft in writing.

Not only does this strategy build reading comprehension, it gives even your most reluctant writers a tangible strategy to try.  Paired with this, the emphasis on accepting approximations is huge with any author’s craft.

I also would have multiple copies of the book available for my groups.  Having only the written text didn’t give the audience enough support to deeply complete the task. Then the book could have been used to provide evidence as the groups shared out and could have demonstrated how to differentiate using the pictures versus the text and tied more completely to the CCSS.

Lastly, having such a mixed group of educators made it challenging to provide an example that they were all familiar with.  I might choose a popular song or something that spanned a larger audience to provide my initial example of how the repeated line is used in a wide variety of genres with multiple purposes.

In what ways do I still want to learn and grow in using this practice in my classroom?

I would love to be able to try this with various grade levels to be able to provide additional examples of text.  The students really guide the learning so every time this lesson is taught it has the potential of going a different direction.


About Janette Barela

Janette Barela is a National Board Certified Teacher who started working in Denver Public Schools in 1994. Janette has taught kindergarten, 2nd gra...

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