Books That Change Writing-Teachers

@WritingRocks_17 we recently asked: What books on the subject of teaching writing have inspired you most? This is what our readers had to say. This is a cracking list so far!

On Writing

Frank Smith – Writing & The Writer

514kEBcQcBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Exploring the relationship between the writer and what he/she happens to be writing. An original examination of writing-as a craft and as a cognitive activity. It considers the necessary disciplines of writing, such as knowledge of the conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. In particular, there is a concern with how the skills underlying all these aspects of writing are learned and orchestrated.

Learn To Write – Donald Murray


Learn To Write gives you a framework you can use to create original and compelling writing. Donald Murray, with his famous clear and succinct writing style, will show you how to move from an initial idea all the way to a final draft.

On Writing – Stephen King


Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in the vivid memories from childhood through to his emergence as a writer.


Writing Home -Alan Bennett

downloadThis is a wonderfully entertaining collection of Alan Bennett’s prose writings. Writing Home brings together diaries, reminiscences and reviews to give us a unique and unforgettable portrait of one of England’s leading playwrights. Fantastic for any teachers who’d like to try memoir writing in their class.

Such Stuff: A Story Maker’s Inspiration – Michael Morpurgo

51uucyb5wPL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_This insightful collection is perfect for those who want to understand how writing works and where stories begin. Revealing essays from Michael about more than twenty of his most popular novels are combined with key extracts from his books.


10 Things Every Writer Needs To Know – Jeff Anderson


Jeff Anderson focuses on developing the concepts and application of ten essential aspects of good writing for students – motion, models, focus, detail, form, frames, cohesion, energy, words, and clutter.


The Way To Write – John Fairfax & John Moat

4184Y293KJL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_This is a practical guide, for beginners, people working at home on their own and students and teachers on writing courses. It explains how to go about evaluating work and then taking steps to improve it.

Why Did I Write – Marie Clay 

41CXQ1A95FL._SY415_BO1,204,203,200_Dr. Clays examines a child’s first attempts to write. By tracing patterns of development in actual examples of children’s work, she gives invaluable insights for those in a position to assist the learning process.


On The Writing Workshop

Donald Graves – Writing: Teachers & Writers At Work


Truly inspiring. If you were only to buy one book from this list, make it this one. The best book I’ve ever read on the teaching of writing and has changed the way I teach writing forever. You can read a tribute to Donald Graves here.

In The Middle – Nancie Atwell

9780325028132Nancie Atwell is one of the most highly respected educators in the U.S. and across the world. She is the winner of the Global Teacher Prize. This book has inspired generations of teachers and shares the innovations she uses to make the biggest impact on learning schoolwide. You can read about our UK version of this approach, called Real-World Literacy, here.

The Art Of Teaching Writing – Lucy Calkins

51ej-Nv-mbL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I saw writing as a process of choosing a topic, turning the topic into the best possible draft, sharing the draft with friends, then revising it. But I’ve come to think that it’s very important that writing is a process not only of recording, but also of developing a story or an idea – with something noticed or something wondered about. When writing begins with something that has not yet found its significance, it is more apt to become a process of growing meaning.-

How’s It Going – Carl Anderson


Meeting children where they are. A great way to give valuable feed-back to writers is through Pupil-Conferencing. We talk about its benefits here – and so does Carl Anderson in this fantastically practical book.


On Building A Writing-For-Pleasure Classroom

Writing Voices: Creating Communities of Writers – Teresa Cremin & Debra Myhill

51snZNvi6IL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The perspectives of children, teachers and professional writers are often absent in the pedagogy of writing. This book gives expression to these voices, making a new and significant contribution to understanding what it means to be a writer. Importantly, it discusses how to teach through a Writing-For-Pleasure pedagogy and how to be a Writer-Teacher.


The Reader/Writer Teacher’s Companion: Build A Literate Classroom – Donald Graves

41BHDHFXB5L._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_A complete and easy guide to setting up a class so that it supports children’s reading and writing for pleasure. Just a beautifully easy to read and implement book.


On The Connection Between Reading & Writing

The Reader in the Writer – Barrs & Cork

81fyN09fJFLA fantastic book which bridges the reading-for-pleasure pedagogy with learning to write. A must read for any @ReadingRocks_17 fans.



Authors As Mentors – Lucy Calkins


Again, another great book about how you can use children’s reading material to spark significant and worthwhile writing opportunities.


Opening Doors To Quality Writing – Bob Cox 

51aDjyKEM4L._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_This book puts the focus on pupils producing quality writing, developing their literacy skills and a love of reading in the process. It uses literary heritage texts as the stimulus for excellent learning.

50 Ways To Retell A Story: Cinderella – Alen Peat & Julie Peat


50 Ways To Retell A Story: Cinderella does exactly what it says on the cover – retells the favourite fairytale Cinderella – in fifty brand new ways! As a haiku, a recipe, a text message, a story written in ‘pig Latin,’ a diary entry, a ghost story and forty-four other innovative ways


On Writing Study Lessons

Lessons That Change Writers – Nancie Atwell


In this book, the focus is on Writing Study Lessons as a vehicle for helping students improve their writing. She shares over a hundred of these writing lessons which are described by her students as “the best of the best.”


The Bumper Book Of Story Telling Into Writing – Pie Corbett

512FPEPtwJL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_Now made famous through the hugely successful Talk For Writing approach, this book encourages teachers to tell and for children to retell stories through gesture and other activities.


Write Out Of The Classroom – Colin Macfarlane

518FTiZS2LL._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_This book provides teachers with great ways of tapping into the huge inspirational potential of the richly diverse world beyond the classroom walls.


On Poetry

Awakening The Heart – Georgia Herd


A beautifully elegant book, it shows you how you can create life-long poets in your classroom. Full of strategies for generating poetic ideas with your class and create an environment where poetry can shine everyday.


What Is Poetry?: The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems – Michael Rosen


Over many years as a working poet, Michael Rosen has thought a great deal about what poems are, what they can do and the pleasure that comes from writing and reading poetry. In this invaluable handbook, he shares this knowledge and experience in book form for the very first time. Starting with a detailed analysis of a number of classic poems, he offers a real “writer’s guide” to writing and performing poems, as well as a wealth of technical information and tips. He then takes a fascinating look at a selection of his own poems and explains how and why he wrote them. I should say that this is completely suitable for children to read independently too.

Poetry In The Making – Ted Hughes

download (1)In a series of chapters built round poems by a number of writers including himself, Ted Hughes explores, colourfully and intensively, themes such as ‘Capturing Animals’, ‘Wind and Weather’ and ‘Writing about People’. The purpose throughout is to lead on, via a discussion of the poems (which he does with riveting skill) to some direct encouragement to the children to think and write for themselves. He makes the whole venture seem enjoyable, and somehow urgent.

Wishes, Lies and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry – Kenneth Koch

download (2)The classic, inspiring account of a poet’s experience teaching school children to write poetry. Koch describes his inventive methods for teaching these children how to create poems and gives numerous examples of their work.


On Identity

Decolonising the Mind – Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

51KP2G0QRRL._SX296_BO1,204,203,200_Ngugi describes this book as ‘a summary of some of the issues in which I have been passionately involved for the last twenty years of my practice in fiction, theatre, criticism and in teaching of literature.


Translanguaging – Ofelia Garcia

41dJzA0kKQL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Looking closely at what happens when translanguaging is actively taken up to teach emergent bilingual students across different contexts, this book focuses on how it is already happening in classrooms as well as how it can be implemented as a pedagogical orientation.


Functional Grammar Texts

Rediscover Grammar – David Crystal

511oP31htpL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Gives clear demonstration of how language structures link together, description of features and usage and cautions against easy mistakes. Updated to reflect developments in terminology following the National Curriculum and Key Stage 3 framework. This text was certainly useful when we created our Functional Grammar Table – see here.

Mechanically Inclined – Jeff Anderson

download (3)Some teachers love grammar and some hate it, but nearly all struggle to find ways of making the mechanics of English meaningful to kids. Jeff Anderson began researching and testing the ideas of scores of grammar experts in his classroom, gradually finding successful ways of integrating grammar instruction into writer’s workshop. Note: This was also a useful text when we were building our Functional Grammar Table – be mindful though that some grammar ‘rules’ used in the US do not reflect usage in the UK!


Big thank you to all who have contributed so far:           

If you think we have criminally left off a book which simply needs to be here – leave a comment below stating the book and why it should be here!



3 thoughts on “Books That Change Writing-Teachers”

  1. Kelly Gallagher: Write Like This, because it expands our thinking about genres of writing and offers loads of creative and engaging writing opportunities for students and teachers. Solid, worthwhile, necessary.
    Katherine Bomer: The Journey is Everything, because it is simply wonderful. Focusing on the art of classic essay, Katherine brings us deeply and meaningfully into the writing process. Reading this book, I was voracious, annotating and shouting “YES!” along the way. As a teacher of writing, I have read and read and read–and this one is my favorite. While its audience is more middle and high school teachers, it can work for younger grades too. I easily pulled this work into my 5th grade classroom. Students created their best writing ever during our immersion into classic essay.

    Liked by 1 person

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