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Not My Power, Our Power: A Teacher’s Response to Matthew Kay’s Webinar “How to Talk About Race in Your Classroom”

“It is hard for a student to unlearn empathy, to forget discernment, to dismiss the importance of solid evidence once they’ve grown used to demanding it… if we are training the next generation of teachers, entertainers, lawyers, and politicians; if we are molding thoughtful citizens, wise counselors, and people of righteous passion; then our classrooms must be deliberate in their approach to conversations about race. The next generation needs to be far better at this stuff than we have been. They are coming of age in a world of artfully disguised injustices, most of which will stay both invisible and vicious if people never learn to learn to meaningfully discuss them.”

–Matthew Kay, author of Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Conversations about Race in the Classroom

By Frank Mata

It is clear that Matthew Kay is aware of the barriers that block educators from broaching race with both colleagues and students–fear of backlash, defensiveness, the potential re-traumatizing effect, “not knowing enough to foster discussion,” or ultimately, a potential loss of professional standing. (There are so many ☹.)

In an hour-long professional development session recorded in 2016 (“How to Talk about Race in Your Classroom”), Kay first challenges listeners to identify exactly what it is that “gets in the way.” Immediately, he spotlights participants’ humility when asked of their fears. At that moment, I found this approach as defying conventional classroom power dynamics. Through a teacher’s admission of humility, to not be the expert on race, this approach invites students’ voices to be an added and authentic means of “teaching the teachers.” It showcases what “assets-based teaching” looks like. In the autonomy of our four walls, dare we welcome this while resisting the presumed duty of measuring students’ responses?

The question then surfaces–are we, as teachers, ready to detach ourselves from the professional authority we hold in the classroom, the very entity that we often base our professional identity, our academic pride, or sense of intellectual security, in the manner that equalizes us with our students? Clearly, the culture of education does not promote such vulnerabilities, as evidenced in the presumptions of merit as associated with years taught, letters after our full name in our email signatures, or even our ability to cold-read aloud a poem with that academic accent juxtaposed to youth language.

The onus is within our position as facilitators, not teachers, when it comes to conversations about race. Matthew Kay introduces and implies to fellow facilitators, in the same inviting way we ought to embrace students’ voices, experiences, and knowledge for all of us to learn from.

In order for the safe space environment to allow for this to happen, Kay highlights his three listening norms of the classroom: 1) to listen patiently, 2) to listen actively, and 3) to police [our teacher] voice. He concludes that through this purposeful structure of how to listen, “it creates a built-in reflection space,” which exposes to us how these norms create the culture of invitation for all of our vulnerabilities.

Hearing this specific tip creates a tangible skill-set for us not as teachers, but as fellow race-discourse participants, to authentically engage with each other. However, to do so, we teachers must be ready, willing, open, and secure enough to set free our conditioned, even mythical, sense of power when engaging in meaningful conversations about race. Though we might spend our own dollars, energy, or efforts in creating the literal learning environment to our tastes or liking, this same space is not exclusive or limited to our own platform. As teachers, our presence is not paramount.

Frank Mata has been in the classroom for seventeen plus years. His current project is developing an ELA 12th grade course focusing on social justice and equity. He teachers at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Eastvale, CA.

Work Cited

Kay, Matthew. Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom. Stenhouse, 2018.

Reimagining Aristotelian Ethos


By Glen McClish

As a teacher of classical rhetoric and composition, I’m struck by the ways ancient concepts both empower and limit how we help students understand persuasion. Take, for example, the power and constraints inherent in the Aristotelian concept of ethos, or the rhetorically constructed character of the rhetor—the speaker or writer.

Ethos, according to Plato’s most famous student, is a form of proof comprising three interrelated components. Here is George Kennedy’s translation of the well-known passage from the Rhetoric briefly describing the trio (I’ll leave out the Greek):

There are three reasons why speakers themselves are persuasive; for three things we trust other than logical demonstration. These are practical wisdom and virtue and good will; for speakers make mistakes in what they say through [failure to exhibit] either all or one of these; for either through lack of practical sense they do not form opinions rightly; or though forming opinions rightly they do not say what they think because of a bad character; or they are prudent and fair-minded but lack good will, so that it is possible for people not to give the best advice although they know [what] it [is].  These are the only possibilities. (112–113)

There’s power in Aristotle’s ostensibly exhaustive groups of three, and this trio is practical, authoritative, and convincing. Yet what he neglects is telling. The ablest of observers, Aristotle describes the rhetorical practice of ancient Athens, a racially homogenous, stratified society in which privileged, native-born men dominated the public sphere. They argued about many things, but their debates were more pragmatic than ideological because they shared common standpoints and beliefs.

Thus, Aristotle’s components of ethos assume that a convincing speaker would have more in common with the audience than otherwise.

But this homogeneity—and its effect on ethos—does not characterize all cultures, particularly ours, in this or most eras of its existence. Therefore, establishing an effective ethos in our society is not always simply a matter of checking off the categories of wisdom, virtue, and good will—other features may be as or more salient in crafting persuasion.

Let’s consider a specific example. Here is the late poet and activist Audre Lorde, speaking at the “Second Sex Conference” in 1979:

Why weren’t other women of Color found to participate in this conference? Why were two phone calls to me considered consultation? . . . In academic feminist circles, the answer to these questions is often, “We did not know who to ask.” But that is the same evasion of responsibility, the same cop-out, that keeps Black women’s art out of women’s exhibitions, Black women’s work out of most feminist publications expect for the occasional “Third World Women’s Issue,” and Black women’s text off your reading lists. (113)

In this famous speech, Lorde’s ethos strays from the sort advocated by Aristotle; exposing her audience’s entrenched racism cannot be described simply as “good will,” at least not as the Greek text suggests. In fact, Lorde chastises her audience with the force of a scolding parent—or perhaps, more accurately, a prophet, fearlessly speaking truth to power.

Beyond the scope of Aristotle’s theorizing, this prophetic character—known in scholarly circles as the Jeremiadic ethos after the Old Testament prophet—distinguishes African American rhetoric since the early nineteenth century. To more fully appreciate this construction of rhetorical character, consider this passage from Frederick Douglass’s prophetic speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” (1852), in which he diminishes the assumed primacy of logos (as well as Aristotle’s practical wisdom) while cataloging the scalding rhetorical strategies he yearns to marshal to melt the moral complacency of his degraded country: “At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke” (71).

When different values or perspectives separate those who—inhabiting the same space—must work together for the common good, the characters rhetors create to persuade may not conform to Aristotle’s tripartite formulation of wisdom, virtue, and goodwill. They may make audiences profoundly uncomfortable. Yet doing so may effect profound change. This is one of the key lessons about ethos gleaned from outsider rhetors such as Lorde, Douglass, and—most recently—leading voices in the Black Lives Matter movement.

What other productive ways is Aristotelian ethos complicated in the rhetoric of our multicultural society?

Glen McClish is a teacher of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University and a longtime advocate of K–16 language arts articulation. He has an abiding interest in African American rhetoric, from the American Revolution to the present day.

Works Cited
Aristotle. On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civil Discourse. Translated by George Kennedy, 2nd ed., Oxford UP, 2006.
Douglass, Frederick. The Speeches of Frederick Douglass: A Critical Edition. Edited by John R. McKivigan, Julie Husband, and Heather L. Kaufman, Yale UP, 2018.
Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. The Crossing P, 1984.

Big Shifts in ERWC!

Welcome to the Teaching ERWC Podcast! This is officially our inaugural episode, and there is a lot to cover.

First, my name is Jeffery E. Frieden, an ERWC teacher at Hillcrest High School in the Alvord Unified School District. That’s it, just a teacher. Okay, I’m creating content for ERWC, so maybe not just a teacher. But other than a few clever networking opportunities I took using social media, I am just a guy trying to make his way through the modules.

In this episode, you will hear from Jennifer Fletcher, head of the ERWC Steering Committee. She lays out the vision for the future of ERWC, as well as the months ahead. Even though I have been teaching ERWC for a decade, Jennifer shared some details about ERWC that surprised me:

  • Over 15,000 teachers have been trained in ERWC
  • The curriculum in not only taught in California, but Washington state and Hawaii too
  • Leaders in the ERWC have presented on this curriculum internationally

Listen in anticipation about all the professional learning opportunities that are on the way and for an invitation to get involved.

Want to contribute to the podcast?

The Teaching ERWC Podcast is produced, written, and developed by members of the ERWC Community, who is made up of many voices from many backgrounds. The community invites its members to be part of the content being produced here.

If you have any interest in contributing to the podcast, please fill out this Google Form.

Picking Pathways

By Lori Campbell

My husband prefers to order fast food by numbers. He refuses to go to restaurants such as Chipotle because he has to make too many choices. I had the same reaction to the list of possible modules available in ERWC 3.0. In this column, we have the book modules, in the next we find the dramas, and now for the protein–we find 12 juicy issue modules. Don’t forget the mini-modules to support the best balance to put before our seniors. It can be daunting if we don’t already know our students’ needs and preferences. However, the choices mean that we can serve a curriculum that is custom built to provide opportunities for engagement, critical thinking skills, and, most importantly, the confidence to enter the world of adults. 

I appreciate the choice of  modules that are similarly available for the 11th grade year. I can spend that year introducing the basic skills that can bridge the wide gap between the 9/10 standards and the 11/12 standards. I am also able to extend the reach of the mini-modules so that we can build on the foundational skills when they become seniors. That 12th grade year imposes certain challenges for both teachers and students in the forms of applying to colleges, applying for financial aid, enjoying senior activities, and, in some cases, “senioritis.” I believe that senior year, and particularly the second semester, requires the most thought as teachers plan for these “soon-to-be” adults.  

I begin second semester with “Big Brother and the Authoritarian Surveillance State: 1984.” This is where I place the highest rigor because senioritis really hasn’t hit yet. FAFSAs have been completed. Hopefully, even the most procrastinating seniors have sent in college applications by this time. This is a remarkable season of maturity. It’s a decompression period for most seniors who can sit still for a time and focus on the important issues of the novel and its application to modern society. 

Then by the end of February, the pressure builds for my seniors. At this point, I want to provide my students material that gives them the opportunity to reflect on the society they are about to enter as adults and their positions in that community.  I next pair “Introducing Kairos” with “On Leaving|On Staying Behind.” The rhetorical concept of kairos, or situational time, also helps students recognize their current states. We can talk about why they might be feeling so unhinged and whether the certain decisions they make now really have a lasting impact on their lives.

Then the content of Diana Garcia’s poems on emigration provide students with a new perspective when they look at the daughter making her own decision to leave home. They find strength in this, and when it is time to write pieces about their own decisions, they feel a little better about them. The module provides several choices of a creative nature for the culminating writing task. Seniors appreciate this new opportunity because it is not “one more essay.” Writing poems that express their own social concern taps into a different part of their brain that they don’t often get the chance to use.

Finally, I pair “Introducing Stasis Theory” with “Language, Culture, and Gender.” This is the perfect combination to help seniors enter that adult world with a plan. I also love the latter module because I can use this as a final exam for students since there are several texts. I ask seniors to apply the strategies they have learned for the past two years, including descriptive outlines, rhetorical precis, annotation, and annotated bibliography to analyze the articles. They must be able to use these tools to grasp the claims and rhetorical strategies of any text they are given now or in the future. They are free to choose the order in which they read and analyze the texts and which tool best fits for them. They discuss the value of each of the ways to analyze a text and why a certain one works for them. The hope is they will carry those tools into college. In addition, the culminating task of this module helps students recognize the importance of their compassion, their voices, and their skills in examining multiple perspectives. Finally, students wrap up the senior year with the Final Reflection portfolio to show them they are indeed ready for the next academic step they take.

In the 10 years I have taught ERWC, I believe part of what we need to impart is confidence, and between March and May in a senior’s life, that gets lost along with the student’s assignments. That final pathway should put the finishing touches on skills, but, more importantly, convince students that they are worthy of the diploma they are about to receive. I believe selecting the modules that can boost their confidence and not pressure them more than necessary will ease the tension. Once these young people adjust to the pressure placed on them by “adulthood,” they will be able to explore the  wonders of their new world beyond high school. 

Work Cited

“Senioritis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/senioritis. Accessed 29 Jan. 2021.

Lori Campbell is the English department chair for Kern High School District’s Kern Learn Program. This is a complete distance learning program that provides students the option to take their A-G required courses online. She has taught ERWC both face-to-face and through distance learning for 10 years. She holds her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Choosing Your Own ERWC Adventure

By Jennifer Fletcher

As an 80s kid, I well remember the joys of reading Edward Packard’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books. There was something thrilling–and slightly subversive–about being in control of the narrative. Choice confers power. It’s one thing to be the person just following the script, quite another to be a co-constructor of meaning.

This is what I love about ERWC: through the choices they make about learning goals and experiences, teachers and students act as co-designers of the implemented curriculum. One of the exciting changes to ERWC is that teachers now have the opportunity to create their own customized pathways from a wide selection of modules. ERWC 3.0 is the DIY ERWC. The new curriculum includes over sixty full-length modules for grades eleven and twelve, fourteen mini-modules, and nine full-length modules for grades nine and ten. Teachers now choose five to six full-length modules and five mini-modules (including two portfolio modules) to create a yearlong course.

If you are building your own ERWC 3.0 course for the first time, you might want to experiment with different combinations of modules before deciding on an instructional sequence. Each pathway has its own flavor and rhythm. Try starting by pairing full-length modules with mini-modules that foster rhetorical thinking. “Introducing the Rhetorical Situation,” “Introducing Ethos, Pathos, and Logos,” and “Introducing Genre as Rhetoric” make a great starter kit.

As you design your yearlong experience, you’ll also find that different pathways are driven by different areas of emphasis. Some, for instance, might have a special emphasis on particular literacy skills, such as argumentation or genre analysis, while others might focus on a theme, such as social justice, adolescence, or the environment. It will be up to you to create a cohesive, progressive course suited to your students’ needs and interests.

Keep in mind that you will probably need to add or remove scaffolding depending on your module sequence. Your students should need less support as the year progresses. That means that you might be able to drop more activities from the later modules, provided your students are already doing things like surveying and annotating texts on their own. If, however, you find that students still need lots of support for reading and writing rhetorically, you’ll want to continue modeling and practicing these skills in class.

ERWC 3.0 offers a “choose your own adventure” approach to curriculum and instruction. The pathway you choose should take you and your students on a meaningful intellectual journey.

A final bit of advice and encouragement as you embark on this adventure:

  • The repeated turns through the ERWC arc are strategic and intentional. Allow time for the spiraling; extended practice leads to automaticity.
  • Know that you and your students will experience productive struggle. Resist the urge to slip back to your comfort zone. Productive struggle is the path to mastery.
  • Remember that the curriculum runs on inquiry and discussion. Expand opportunities for students to interact with their peers and do their own thinking.
  • Read the Teacher Versions, Module Overviews, and Module Plans. They’re your guides to instructional decision making.
  • If you’re taking a student-centered, inquiry-based, rhetorical approach to texts, you’re doing ERWC!

Jennifer Fletcher is a Professor of English at California State University, Monterey Bay and a former high school teacher. She serves as the Chair of the ERWC Steering Committee. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenJFletcher.

ERWC Audio Experiment

Before There Was a Podcast…

There was an idea to upgrade the professional learning offered by the Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC). This included a podcast, something members of the ERWC community could consume while on the go while adding a personal touch from those creating the content.

To kick things off, Jeffery E. Frieden interviewed Chris Street. Jeffery is a high school English/Language Arts teacher in the Alvord Unified School District in Riverside, California, where he has been teaching ERWC for the past 10 years. Chis is a faculty member of California State University, Fullerton, though Chris has also taught middle and high school as well.

As ERWC has been transitioning from version 2.0 to 3.0, this experimental episode (of what would eventually become The Teaching ERWC Podcast), covered adapting the curriculum to California’s 2020 stay-at-home order and how, really, ERWC has always been about adaptation and innovation in order to best serve the students in any ERWC teacher’s community.

Want to contribute to the podcast?

The Teaching ERWC Podcast is produced, written, and developed by members of the ERWC Community, who is made up of many voices from many backgrounds. The community invites its members to be part of the content being produced here.

If you have any interest in contributing to the podcast, please fill out this Google Form.

Welcome!

by Jennifer Fletcher

Welcome to the ERWC blog! We envision this blog as a way for ERWC teachers to dig into the nuts and bolts of the curriculum: to share teaching tips and success stories, explore problems of practice together, and ground ourselves in the key principles and frameworks that make the curriculum work for all students.

Here you’ll find advice from colleagues on teaching signature ERWC activities, such as descriptive outlining and rhetorical analysis. You’ll also find strategies for designing a year-long course, teaching a particular module, or using the ERWC Assignment Template to create your own units. And we’ll share “think pieces” on some of the larger issues that impact our work as educators, including the importance of culturally sustaining pedagogies.

We hope these bite-sized bits of professional learning sustain your connection to the ERWC community (now over 15,000 educators strong!) and support your essential work in the classroom. We’d love to hear from you, too, about how you make ERWC work—and how you make it better.

ERWC has always been about more than the modules. Teacher collaboration and expertise are the magic ingredients that make the curriculum effective. We’re delighted to invite you to join us in spreading more of that magic around!

To subscribe to the ERWC blog, please click on the button that says, “Follow.” Submissions for blog posts may be sent to Jennifer Fletcher at jfletcher@csumb.edu. Please see the publication criteria on the “Writing for the ERWC Blog” page. For more information on the California State University’s Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC), including how to register for an ERWC workshop, please visit the following websites:

ERWC Online Community:
https://writing.csusuccess.org/
CSU Center for the Advancement of Reading and Writing: https://www2.calstate.edu/CAR/Pages/erwc.aspx
ERWC Workshop Registration:
https://www2.calstate.edu/CAR/Pages/professional-learning-workshops.aspx

Jennifer Fletcher is a Professor of English at California State University, Monterey Bay and the Chair of the ERWC Steering Committee. You can follow her on Twitter @JenJFletcher.

Scaffolding Student Writing Using Mentor Texts

By Robby Ching

We all need scaffolds when we face an unfamiliar writing task. As a brand new ESL coordinator, I was asked by my boss to write a memo to a university administrator. I’d been a graduate student working in dusty library stacks and a college ESL teacher. I’d never seen a memo, let alone written one. So I wrote what I thought was a memo but failed to copy him on it. When he asked to see what I’d written, he yelled at me so fiercely for not copying him that I left his office shaking. What I now know I needed was a mentor text–a model of what a memo is and what it looks like. Then I would have seen the cc: line–problem solved.

A perennial question for teachers working with students who are developing academic literacy is how to provide scaffolding for academic writing while preparing them to become independent writers by the time they leave our classes. How much is too much? And how can I teach my students to find their own scaffolds? Mentor texts are an inquiry-based way to help students learn how to create their own scaffolds. 

When students analyze a professional text or a well-written student text, you can guide them as they discover what makes that text successful. For example, in the Juvenile Justice 12th grade module, which I wrote, students write an open letter about juvenile sentencing as their culminating writing task. I received feedback from teachers who piloted the module that students were unsure how to write their own open letters, so I built in an activity that engages them in looking at an open letter of the teacher’s choosing As an example,I suggested one about Colin Kaepenick’s decision to take the knee before a game but proposed that they find one with currency when they teach the module). Students work in a group to analyze the key rhetorical features of the letter (Who is it written to? Where was it published? What caused the writer write it? How is it structured? What rhetorical appeals does it make to its readers?).

Students identify success criteria for an open letter–several characteristics that they think all effective open letters should have. The teacher then guides the whole class in compiling a set of criteria that can guide their writing. This last step gives her a chance to shape the criteria that she will use to grade their work while ensuring that students have ownership of what those criteria are.

While it’s tempting to tell students directly what form their letter should take and what each part of their letter should do, and how it should do it, students can end up like me–utterly perplexed when confronted with a new genre and what the expectations are for it. If somebody had taught me how to figure out for myself the answers to those questions, I could have avoided a painful experience. And now when mentor texts for every conceivable genre are only a few key strokes away, how empowering it is to teach our students how to make use of them instead of relying on us.   

Robby Ching is a professor emerita at Sacramento State in English and a member of the ERWC team since 2002. She has written many ERWC modules, most recently those with an ELD focus.

Getting Ahead of Falling Behind

By Carol Jago

Carol Jago

In a recent poll by Common Sense Media, 59% of teenagers said that online learning is “worse” than in-school learning. Although it is always difficult to know what students mean by “worse” and “much worse,” it seems they prefer learning in-person to learning on a screen. Along with missing the social aspects of school, 61% of respondents report that they are worried about falling behind academically.

I wondered how these students calculated what it meant to “fall behind” and how many of them were doing anything on their own to prevent academic stagnation.

I don’t want to pretend that many students possess the creative genius of Pratchett or Westover’s tenacity, but I do believe students’ capacity for independent learning can be and needs to be nurtured.  Too many teenagers equate learning with seat time, believing that as long as they take the quizzes, turn in the papers, and earn credit for a course, they are acquiring an education. Unfortunately, we teachers are substantially responsible for this false assumption. When all we demand is compliance, students fail to develop the intellectual muscles they need to learn on their own.

An autodidact is a person who is largely self-taught. Such individuals typically possess an enormous thirst for learning and often find school tedious, confident as they are in their ability to learn on their own. Terry Pratchett, whose fantasy novels have sold over eighty-five million copies never attended university and said he felt sorry for anyone who had. Ray Bradbury insisted that his education took place in the library reading, reading, reading. The late great playwright August Wilson dropped out of school in ninth grade but continued to learn by spending long hours reading in the Pittsburgh public library. And then there is Tara Westover’s story from Educated.

What if the educational chaos of the current school year could be turned to education’s long-term advantage? What if we embraced the goal of building students’ independent learning muscles? What if students began to realize that they actually enjoyed reading about what interested them? What if they felt the desire to write about what they were reading? You probably think I am in cloud cuckoo-land, but we find ourselves in circumstances ideally suited to independent study.

I have always found that when students want or need to know something their inner autodidact springs to life. Consider the technological skills today’s teenagers possess, the complicated video games they play, the song lyrics they know by heart, none of which they learned in class. Students are able. They are just not practiced at initiating the process of learning when it comes to schoolwork. Let’s turn the tables on young people worried about falling behind by challenging them to accept responsibility for their own education.

Resources for organizing an inquiry-based classroom abound, but maybe the simplest and best approach is to ask:

  • What do you want to learn?
  • How can I help?

At a time when traditional classroom protocols seem to be in constant flux, let’s work toward nurturing the autodidact within ourselves and in our students. Learning shouldn’t stop when the bell rings or the Zoom meeting ends.

Carol Jago is a long-time high school English teacher and past president of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is the author of The Book in Question: Why and How Reading Is in Crisis. You can contact her at cjago@caroljago.com.

Reading Like an Author

By Chris Street

Have you ever tried to explain to someone else why you liked a particular piece of writing? It can be difficult to find the language needed to explain exactly why a particular piece resonated with you. Trying to discern how authors make their writing powerful, beautiful, emotional, or descriptive is tough to do.

Yet when we demystify authors’ styles we can learn how writers accomplish the incredible things they do with words. For example, by looking at how writers use active verbs, sentence variety, precise nouns, rhythms of language, vocabulary, organizational schemes, sensory details, repetition, parallel structures, and punctuation—we can begin to acquire the language needed to discuss the ways in which their writing appeals to us.

Another way to consider this is to ask yourself a question: If you were going to replicate the style of a piece of writing that you admire without copying the exact words, how would you do it? It’s not easy to focus your attention to look at a piece of writing this way, but this is what careful readers do when they are trying to learn the craft of writing.

Reading like an author is a skill that all aspiring writers learn to do. Reading like an author helps you to discover different stylistic devices, find various ways to engage readers, and leaves you with a greater awareness of how to target your writing for specific audiences.

As teachers you are all already accomplished readers. Now, I’d invite you to try reading like an author.

For teachers interested in learning to write articles for publication in professional journals this would mean reading the kinds of journals that might publish one’s work. For teachers more interested in writing successful grant proposals this might mean reading previously funded grant proposals as a way to internalize the features of writing that separate the successful from the unsuccessful proposals. The same would be true of aspiring bloggers or web site developers. The models are all around us. All we need to do is read them carefully—as potential authors—and we will surely learn important lessons about the craft of writing.

Since part of our work as English teachers is to support students as they strive to make connections between the texts they read and the writers we want them to appreciate, we can apprentice students in the task of reading like an author by modeling for them how this text-based task is performed. As with all complex literacy tasks, learning to read like an author takes time and guidance. The strategic guidance we can offer students is that much more powerful when we are able to model for students what it means to “think rhetorically,” as an author would. As we uncover the power of an author’s craft for students, we enable students to feel that they are personally part of a larger discourse community, or conversation. And when we help unlock the power behind an author’s words, we allow students to feel they have increased power over the texts they read. Reading like an author can indeed be a transformative event for developing writers, allowing them to see themselves as rhetorical writers who can apply their newly learned skills as they write with increased confidence, skill, and power.

But students are not likely to learn to read like an author unless we model for them what this looks like. As an example, here’s one of my favorite pieces of writing and a few words describing why I like it:

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” (The Outsiders)

The opening words to S.E. Hinton’s short novel immediately ensnare me in her world—the world of a teenager coming to grips with a gritty reality. The crisp words offer a glimpse of the main character and narrator while hinting at the struggle of good versus evil that will occupy the mind of the young story teller.

Hers is a book that tells the truth about life through a teenager’s eyes. The eyes that adjust to the bright sun are Hinton’s eyes, the eyes of a teenager who wrote The Outsiders “because I wanted to read it.”

Using just 29 words, she makes me feel the same way.

Chris Street is a Professor of Secondary Education at California State University, Fullerton, where he also directs the masters program in secondary education. He helps lead the statewide implementation of ERWC as a professional learning facilitator, module author, and member of the ERWC Steering Committee.