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WONDROUS WORDS: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom.

WONDROUS WORDS: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. K. W. Ray. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1999. 316 pp. $22.95. Ray's philosophy--that students learn to write well by studying writers' techniques--is evident in every page of this book. Her book is surprising, however, if readers expect to find the traditional chapters on writing workshop and how to implement its components. This book also is "dangerous." It will change the way you think about writing forever. It makes the familiar unfamiliar, and "messes with what we think we know" about writing instruction.

Ray takes a simple idea--that we learn to write by studying writers--and transforms it by forcing us to look at this concept through a new lens. The author believes that students best learn how to write by studying an author's crafting techniques, and by looking at that craft in context. Using well-known authors as examples, Ray explains that "what you want students to do is to imprint the life of the writer onto their own lives, and to try and see themselves doing what the writer is doing." She explains how to do this in very practical ways, using her own experience as examples throughout the text.

In the first four chapters of Wondrous Words, Ray explains the fundamental concepts that support and influence her approach to teaching writing. Subsequent chapters provide the reader with resources and alternate, nontraditional ideas for planning, teaching, and assessing writing. Perhaps the most provocative of all the chapters is Chapter 10, "Growing Taller in Our Teaching." It is a short chapter (2 pages) that invites us to reflect on the implications of changing our teaching practices, especially when what we learn changes who we are and makes us uncomfortable.

Wondrous Words is a wondrous book with an unexpected benefit. We unexpectedly learn about writers by reading and studying this author's writing. Once read, the book will inspire you to rethink how to "fit your new knowledge base with your day-to-day teaching acts"; you will never look at writing and the teaching of writing in quite the same way again. Reviewed by Blanche Desjean-Perrotta, Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, University of Texas at San Antonio
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Desjean-Perrotta, Blanche
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2001
Next Article:>A PATH TO FOLLOW: Learning To Listen to Parents.

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