Composition: 5 Useful Books for Teaching Writing

5 useful books for teaching writing


Teaching writing can often a more subjective process, but there are many books published that propose help for not only teachers but students.  I don’t endorse the types of texts that undermine the power of grammar and mechanical knowledge for students; communication hinges on being able to write correctly.  However, as a teacher, we look for various methods to teach proper communication without the dreadful sentence diagramming for days on end.

Here are a few texts that have really helped me in creating more relevant writing activities that get students engaged but also stress the power of written communication:

Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts

Kelly Gallagher has written several writing and reading texts for teachers, and I have bought the two listed here because they’re fantastic! His texts are geared for secondary English/ELA/ESL teachers, but I’ve found great ways to adapt the activities for remedial and college English.

In Write Like This, Gallagher emphasizes the importance of modeling and how teachers can utilize it in a writing classroom. In terms of communicating, Gallagher walks the walk; his book is concise and easy to read.  Each chapter includes lessons for writing and application, as well as modeling.  I love his approach, and if a teacher needs practical, daily ideas for writing activities (that engage students, might I add), then this one should easily be in his library.

Teaching Adolescent Writersby Kelly Gallagher

This was the first Gallagher text I read, and it really underlined, for me, how to approach teaching adolescents students along with students who had high school level writing skills. Again, Gallagher’s text offers daily writing classroom ideas like “Pimp My Write.”  We still watch clips of the MTV show, “Pimp My Ride,” in class and use an adapted part of his lesson because it works well.

The STAR revision strategy is great for helping students with specific actions in the revision process. His introduction chapters often include well researched information on his reasons for approaching writing the way in which he does, and it helps to take a fresh view on why writing skills, for students, is essential in our world.

Ten Things Every Writer Needs to Knowby Jeff Anderson

Through Goodreads and Amazon reviews of Kelly Gallagher, I noticed many readers mentioned Anderson’s texts which I finally read this summer.  In the same vein as Gallagher, Anderson publishes texts that are practical, smart, and easy to incorporate in different levels of classes.

Anderson begins the book with a list of ten things every writer should know, and then proceeds to create a chapter on each, like energy.  This book is such an excellent source for writing teachers.  Anderson really works to create realistic writing lessons that incorporate fiction and non-fiction – learning writing by valuing reading! For example, he uses a section from Collins’ Hunger Games to show how appositives can give the reader more information.  Then, he proceeds to unpack a writing lesson that invites the students to imitate that grammatical structure.  This book is geared toward secondary classrooms, so I’ve taken it apart to adapt it for basic composition classes, but it really is valuable in all of its ideas.

Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson

This text is broken up by common editing issues, and Anderson goes through the mechanical rule, gives examples, and discusses how to get students to recognize and utilize the editing issue.  I really enjoy how he does this because it’s great for students to spend time on how the grammatical structure can impact the content of a sentence and thus, an entire piece of writing.

I highly recommend this book, especially in tandem with his other books for ideas on teaching revision, mechanical and editing writing lessons with great examples.

The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing (2nd Edition)by Michael Harvey

Harvey begins with a wonderful introduction into his first chapter about being a concise and effective reader; his book reflects that concise written power in its length and information.  This book is an essential for college writers and teacher; particularly, his discussion of “The Pompous Style” in academic classrooms and how that it a disservice to students who try to jump the bar in how their writing sounds, but not in what it actually means or says.  


The imitation of what students think is academic actually leads to cluttered writing.  Harvey includes numerous revised examples that really show the reader, sentence by sentence, how clear, precise writing is the best way for communication.

These are a few of my most highly recommended texts for the writing classroom. Please, share your own teaching texts!





  1. ” imitation of what students think is academic actually leads to cluttered writing” – oh, that’s so true! Usually their prose is heavy with malapropisms too!

    A very useful selection of books all round – thank you.

    Can I also recommend the rather old but very useful 13 types of Narrative by Wallace Hildick. Hildick applies various narrative methods to a single plot outline, to demonstrate how different techniques gain effect, a simple idea brilliant done. Very useful for able teens or any adult writer. It is out of print but secondhand copies are around.

    Visiting via the Kidlit blog hop.

  2. Brittany, thank you so much for this post. I like how you include the books and also a brief explanation of the key points you walked away with after reading the book. I think this list would be a great asset to teachers everywhere. I’m soooo pinning! Thanks for joining us in the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

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