By Jill Eurich
Assistant Director, Intermediate/Middle School Trainer, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative
In the past few months I have posted a series of blogs about inquiry. In light of that work I wanted to recommend Katie Wood Ray’s Study Driven to you. At the heart of this book is this essential understanding: “Framing instruction as study represents an essential stance to teaching, an inquiry stance, characterized by repositioning curriculum as the outcome of instruction rather than the starting point.” P. 19
This book is divided into three parts. In the first section Katie deepens our understanding of how study, as both a noun and a verb, help us, as teachers, and our students analyze the kind of writing we are going to produce ourselves. By studying a stack of writing similar to the writing we will create, we become familiar with genre, audience, purpose, content, craft, voice, length and conventions. Katie also helps us think about the concept of, “Before Revision, Vision.” P. 35 In other words, to effectively develop and revise a certain kind of writing, we as writers, can’t envision the kind of writing we first need to envision what that writing is like. Some of the ways Katie Wood Ray expands on this topic of study in the writing workshop is to address Selecting Texts to Anchor Close Study, Reading Immersion in Close Study, Writing Under the Influence in All Phases of Study and The Tension of Time, the Promise of Depth. These and other chapters help us with rationale and best practice around this method of teaching.
The second element in this book is a Craft Pause that happens at the end of each chapter in the first section. This is an exploration of craft moves you might discover with a close study of text. It provides rich examples of a variety of writing instruction we can teach our students, as we, and they examine text closely. It helps us think about these craft moves but also implies that this is just a small taste of the endless ways we can learn from writers.
The last part of the book provides information on a wide variety of units of study we can engage in with our students. The Study Possibility is briefly described. There may be an example of the kind of writing provided followed by suggestions of resources where that kind of writing can be found. This might include picture books, magazines, collections, excerpts and newspapers. The idea of learning about writers from other writers is an exciting prospect but finding a pile of appropriate examples is daunting so this becomes an invaluable resource.
If you are not already familiar with it, I strongly recommend you put Study Driven at the top of your professional booklist of “must read” for the summer. It eloquently articulates how and why to take an inquiry stance in our teaching. “Inquiry does not narrow our perspective it gives us more understandings questions and possibilities than when we started.” p. 26-27
Ray, K.W. (2006). Study driven: A framework for planning units of study in the writing workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.