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Writing Essentials: Raising Expectations and Results While Simplifying Teaching.

WRITING ESSENTIALS: Raising Expectations and Results While Simplifying Teaching. Regie Routman. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005. 448 pp. $32.50. Today's teachers of writing find themselves at a difficult crossroads. On the one hand, many envision process-oriented classrooms in which creativity is modeled, nurtured, and celebrated as the ideal for instructional practice. On the other hand, these same teachers are faced with the stark reality of high-stakes assessments in which formulaic writing is encouraged and rewarded. Failure to excel on these standardized assessments can mean devastating consequences for students, teachers, and school systems alike. The resulting conflict between these two realities has been a source of ongoing questions for teachers for a number of years. Should teachers focus on process or product? Who should control the goals and pedagogy of the writing classroom? How can teachers help to best nurture young writers while still complying with district, state, and national guidelines?

In this engaging and accessible text, the author demonstrates that she hears teachers' questions and understands their frustration. As a longtime teacher, writer, and literacy coach, Regie Routman's work not only resonates with voices from the field, but also responds to them in a way that is appropriate for the challenges of today's classrooms. Routman suggests that in order to be successful teachers of writing, we must focus on the writers rather than on the actual writing; that is, we must keep in mind that the goal is to help children develop the skills and habits of mind common to successful writers, not just to teach groups of students to respond to the standardized prompts and procedures that have, all too often, come to represent writing instruction. To this end, the author believes that less is more. Rather than shifting attention to each programmatic twist that comes along, she urges teachers to concentrate on the true essentials of teaching writing. By streamlining processes and keeping things simple, Routman suggests that teachers will be able to meet high academic standards while employing pedagogical methods that are purposeful, effective, and joyful.

As the title implies, Writing Essentials is a book that is both focused and practical. Readers will appreciate the classroom stories, lists of tips, and student writing samples that are liberally sprinkled throughout the text. Best of all, they will appreciate the empathic and knowledgeable approach taken by the author, who acknowledges teachers' heavy workloads and advocates for pedagogy that is effective in terms of strategy and doable in terms of time management. A fine choice for language arts methods classes, this book will be an asset to both practicing and prospective teachers. Reviewed by Patricia A. Crawford, Associate Professor, College of Education, University of Central Florida, Orlando.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Crawford, Patricia A.
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2005
Words:447
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