National Writing Project

Resource Topics

Teaching Writing - Style and Rhetoric

Additional Resources

Looking for Sources of Coherence in a Fragmented World: Notes Toward a New Assessment Design

December 2010
Kathleen Blake Yancey
Kathleen Blake Yancey examines the similarities and differences between assessing coherence in print and in digital text and proposes a heuristic key to multiple patterns that both composers and readers can use to create coherence. More ›

Book Review: The Vocabulary Teacher's Book of Lists by Edward B. Frye

July 2009
Melanie Rawls Abrams
With its lists of words arranged by category, The Vocabulary Teacher's Book of Lists is surprising, bemusing, wildly informative, and practical. More ›

Dancing with the Authors: Teaching Sentence Fluency

April 2008
Bev Matulis
By making use of a new "featured sentence structure" each week, Bev Matulis, who is with the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, demonstrates strategies that model and reinforce varied sentence constructions in this chapter from Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning through Student Work. More ›

Growing Writers: Considering Talk, Time, Models, and Purpose

April 2008
Renee Webster
In this chapter from Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning through Student Work, Renee Webster, who is with the Red Cedar Writing Project, describes how she supplements her first grade writing workshop by using the text of picture books to provide models of techniques—such as "sound words"—that students integrate into their writing. More ›

Making a Successful Punctuation Lesson

January 2007
Mary K. Tedrow
Tedrow describes the interweaving of elements that went into creating one effective lesson: appropriate material, pedagogical knowledge, collegial exchange, and her students' readiness. More ›

One Idea—Many Audiences

May 2007
Ann Dobie
Dobie describes how she transformed a graduate research paper on teaching spelling into an academic conference presentation, a professional development workshop, a journal article, and then a book. More ›

Place-Based Poetry, One Step at a Time

The Quarterly, 2005
Ann Gardner
Gardner's student, who had never seen a free-form poem, writes successfully in free-form style when he is exposed to works in this mode and led through a revision one step at a time. More ›

The How of Writing: First-Graders Learn Craft

The Quarterly, 2005
Glorianne Bradshaw
For her first grade class, Bradshaw adapts techniques she learns from upper grade teachers, working with Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books. The techniques include sentence modeling, show not tell, onomatopoeia, the "good beginning," and others. More ›

Writing with William

The Quarterly, 2005
Margaret Simon
Simon describes tutoring a fifth–grader in writing, introducing him to techniques such as sentence variety. His writing remains lusterless. Then he chooses a topic he's passionate about and finds his writing voice. More ›

Beyond Primer Prose: Two Ways to Imitate the Masters

The Quarterly, 2004
Romana Hillebrand
Writing teachers commonly provide students with models for imitation. Hillebrand adds a level of analysis to her imitation exercises that helps students understand the nuts and bolts of what they are doing. More ›

Book Review: The Muses Among Us, by Kim Stafford

The Quarterly, 2004
Richard Louth
Richard Louth reviews The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft, an autobiographical collection of essays by and about the writing life by Kim Stafford. More ›


The Quarterly, 2004
Randy Koch
A poem by Randy Koch. More ›

Keith's Question

The Voice, 2004
Bill Connolly
Prompted by a student-writer's question, high school teacher Bill Connolly reflects on why writing groups in the summer institute are so powerful. More ›

On the Experience of Writing: The Title Fight

The Quarterly, 2004
Michael W. Smith, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm
Michael Smith and Jeff Wilhelm share a few words about the experience of writing and publishing "Reading Don't Fix No Chevys": Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. More ›


The Quarterly, 2004
Kim Stafford
How does a writer make a happy story warm but not saccharine? Kim Stafford writes that the way to achieve this balance is to stay alert for images and details that create edge or contrast. More ›

The Five-Paragraph Theme Redux

The Quarterly, 2004
Elizabeth Rorschach
Rorschach argues that the preset format of the five-paragraph essay lulls students into nonthinking conformity. She contends that teachers obsessed by form become fellow conspirators in the triumph of form over content. More ›

A Geography of Stories: Helping Secondary Students Come to Voice Through Readings, People, and Place

The Quarterly, 2003
Phip Ross
The following excerpt from the newly released National Writing Project/Teachers College Press book articulates how students' awareness of personal identity contributes to a unique sense of voice. Here, Phip Ross elaborates on how the transcription of people's experiences and surroundings can create an immortal and meaningful expression of who we are in relation to our communities. More ›

Dead or Alive: How Will Your Students' Nonfiction Arrive?

The Quarterly, 2003
Nancy Lilly
Lilly describes how she helps her students recognize that the skills that elevate fiction are the very skills needed to write strong nonfiction, including science writing. More ›

Sentence as River and as Drum

The Quarterly, 2003
Kim Stafford
Stafford encourages students to try paragraphs made up entirely of either long or short sentences, eventually creating paragraphs that embed both "the roll of the river and the beat of the drum." More ›

The Politics of Correction: How We Can Nurture Students in Their Writing

The Quarterly, 2003
Linda Christensen
How do we help students gain fluency in Standard English without obliterating their home languages? The author provides some answers: through scientific assessment, structured minilessons, and respect for home language. More ›

Writing in Home Dialects: Choosing a Written Discourse in a Teacher Education Class

The Quarterly, Spring 2003
Eileen Kennedy
Kennedy, who teaches speakers of Caribbean Creole, uses the authentic language of her students to help them develop stronger voices as writers and become more competent writers of Standard English. More ›

Creative Copying, or in Defense of Mimicry

The Quarterly, Fall 2002
Rebecca Dierking
A student question about the difference between plagiarism and mimicry leads Dierking to a deeper understanding of her students' need for clarity. More ›

Giving Children a Voice and Venue After 9/11

The Voice, September-October 2002
Rus VanWestervelt
Inspired to capture moments and reflections that could be lost forever, VanWestervelt launched the 9/11 Project, which received over 200 student submissions for inclusion in the book September Eleven: Maryland Voices. More ›

The Field Trip Within

The Quarterly, Summer 2002
Peter Trenouth
Trenouth describes how he helps his student-writers take in more of what they see, resulting in detailed writing that embraces new interpretations and conclusions. More ›

Visualizing Vocabulary

The Quarterly, Summer 2002
Eileen Simmons
Simmons presents a series of creative activities that have advanced her high school students' vocabularies and impressed on them the power of words. More ›

A Place for Talk in a Writers' Workshop

The Quarterly, Fall 2001
Erin (Pirnot) Ciccone
When fifth grade teacher Erin Ciccone tries to replace her Monday morning "gab sessions" with "serious work," she realizes that these sessions are necessary components for leading students to strong writing. More ›

Undrowning: A Rediscovery of the Power of Student Voice

The Voice, January-February 2001
Nannette Overley
Attending an NWP–sponsored Centre for Social Action meeting, Overley, a teacher at an alternative school in Santa Cruz, California, realizes that her best teaching has resulted from following a process similar to CSA's. More ›

Tensing Up: Moving From Fluency to Flair

The Quarterly, Summer 2001
Suzanne Linebarger
Fourth grade teacher Linebarger describes how she helped her students introduce narrative tension into their already prolific writing. More ›

It's a Frame Up: Helping Students Devise Beginnings and Endings

The Quarterly, Winter 2001
Romana Hillebrand
Hillebrand describes how a carefully crafted frame can give a piece of writing a deeper sense of meaning and a way into and out of the assignment that escapes the over-used traditional patterns. More ›

Listening to College Writers

The Quarterly, Winter 2001
Anne-Marie Harvey
Harvey moves toward "giving students enormous latitude . . . asking them what they most need to say in relation to the course work," allowing forms that could be written, visual, oral, or musical. More ›

Hear Our Voices: Students from 1969 to 1999

The Voice, March-April 2000
Judy Bebelaar
Bebelaar contrasts the writing of the students she taught in 1969 with those she teaches in 1999, finding that students now fear not the violence of war abroad, but rather new violence nearer home. More ›

Hawai'i Teachers Say "Use Local English"

The Voice, May-June 2000
Suzie Jacobs
Jacobs describes efforts by Hawai'i teachers to provide legitimacy and teaching strategies that bring local language into classroom use. More ›

It Ain't Just Quaint

The Quarterly, Spring 1999
Anna Collins Trest
More ›

Mi Voz Suena Asi (My Voice Sounds Like This)

The Quarterly, Fall 1998
Cathy Carmichael
Carmichael demonstrates how she brings Pablo Freire's concept of "generative themes" into her ELL classroom, facilitating the expression of student voices and awakening social consciousness. More ›

The Red and the Black

The Quarterly, Winter 1997
Laurie Bottoms
The writer expresses her enthusiasm for yearbook writing—messages that reflect many types and kinds of writing—as a genre directed at a real audience. More ›

Logorrhea or The Dangers of Unprotected Lex: Confessions of a Word Junkie

The Quarterly, Fall 1996
Charles Waterworth
Waterworth's brief memoir documents the unorthodox uses of language in his dysfunctional family and his own growing belief that he could "do anything with words." More ›

Metaphor and Reflective Teaching

The Quarterly, Fall 1994
Martin White
White, co-director of the New Jersey Writing Project, describes what happens when, in his summer NWP workshops, he has teachers finish the sentence "Writing is . . ." by drawing a picture. More ›

OP 14. Shirley and the Battle of Agincourt: Why It Is So Hard for Students to Write Persuasive Researched Analyses

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Occasional Paper, 1989
Margaret Kantz
Kantz connects recent research on expository writing with a discussion of common student problems in writing a term paper. More ›

TR 33. Social Context and Socially Constructed Texts: The Initiation of a Graduate Student into a Writing Research Community

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, July 1989
John Ackerman, Carol Berkenkotter, Thomas N. Huckin
The authors examine a case-study doctoral student's writing development as he learns how to produce the type of academic prose valued by the professional community. More ›

What Good is Punctuation?

The Quarterly, January 1988
Wallace Chafe
The writer answers the question he poses by advancing the argument that punctuation calls awareness to and develops a sensitivity for the sound of written language. More ›

Style Study: One Connection Between Reading and Writing

The Quarterly, July 1987
Rebekah Caplan
Caplan describes how she works with concepts of "telling" and "showing" in writing, as she introduces models from professional writers and asks students to put these concepts to work as they develop their own styles. More ›

TR 05. Properties of Spoken and Written Language

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, May 1987
Wallace Chafe, Jane Danielewicz
The authors discuss important linguistic features that characterize different types of spoken and written language, from dinner conversations to academic papers. They analyze the reasons for these language differences. More ›

Teaching Writing: Analyzing the Craft of Professional Writers

The Quarterly, October 1987
William Winston
The writer details how he puts to work the sentence and paragraph modeling strategies of Francis Christiansen in a junior high school classroom. More ›

TR 11. Punctuation and the Prosody of Language

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, October 1987
Wallace Chafe
Chafe explores the relationship between what he calls the covert prosody of writing (that which in speech would be elements such as pitch, accents, and rhythms) and the relation of this prosody to punctuation. More ›

Thinking Made Easy: Ten Tentative Steps Toward Wisdom

The Quarterly, June 1986
Art Peterson
Peterson provides an exercise that asks students to examine problem paragraphs of an essay together and devise an appropriate question to direct the writer's rethinking. More ›

Writing Fiction: A Self-Interview

The Quarterly, March 1983
Donald Murray
Murray lets us in on writing advice he gives himself and his students, addressing such questions as "What do you mean by voice?" and "How do you organize a story?" More ›

Book Review: Style: An Anti-Textbook, by Richard Lanham

The Quarterly, February 1981
Annette Drew-Bear
Drew-Bear writes sympathetically of Lanham's contention that in writing we have many selves and many motives and that finding our rhetorical selves is what style is all about. More ›

Moffett, Freshman Comp, and the Teaching of Writing

The Quarterly, November 1980
Richard Murphy
Murphy rebuts the "implication" of Moffett's essay "Confessions of an Ex-College Freshman" that good essays can be written without skills in vocabulary, organization, and logic and that to teach these skills is "regressive." More ›

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