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SEE the writer behind the lines when close reading. Fun activity!

Updated: Mar 14

I wasn't convinced my Year 13s (grade 12) were appreciating that there really was a person - an actual real-life person like us - who wrote the words in front of them. To show an authentic and original understanding of a text - to engage in a discussion about its use, perspective, significance and so on - students need to see the writer at work when close reading.

Asking students how they think the writer is feeling, what's missing or why the writer might be writing this text can, for many students, feel a bit abstract. They feel entirely removed from the writer because they live on a different planet. You know how it's kind of a shock when you meet a published author because, for some reason, you hadn't quite processed the idea they're a real person like you? Well...that!

You know how it's kind of a shock when you meet a published author because, for some reason, you hadn't quite processed the idea they're a real person like you? Well...that!

We know it's important that students visualise content when reading - that's why we have them draw pictures of a story in their earlier years. We hope our seniors have mastered that by now (although, nowadays is this just a crazy assumption?), but have we taught them to visualise the person behind that tale? To pretend the writer is right there; you could reach out and touch them they're so close...

I had to do something. So, I did a twirl, my ponytail fell loose, a crash of thunder was heard, and I became...Tearful Tina, the heartbroken writer. Nah, here's what I really did:

Understanding the writer behind the lines when close reading


I wanted students to see a writer who was 'behind the lines', and to ask questions of that writer to get to know how they're feeling, what they're thinking as they write etc. I sat at the front of the room (due to a complete lack of volunteers!), hamming it up as Tearful Tina, woefully tapping at my keys. Students were flies on the wall and wrote questions to put to Tearful Tina.


Students spied on my work - looking over my shoulder to see what Tearful Tina had written. (This is where they came to me and took a pre-printed passage from a pile propped up against the front of my laptop screen.) I didn't tell my students this, but you should note, that Tearful Tina had written a story about a character by the name of Sandra who had been dumped by her boyfriend. This was not a recount or memoir. Tearful Tina was writing from experience and, of course, I was hoping the students would make the connection to appreciate author point of view/perspective. After reading, the students wrote more questions...and YES! They nailed this activity.

Understanding the author behind the lines when close reading

Students wrote questions such as:

  • Are you Sandra?

  • Why do you care so much about this guy when he's dumped you?

  • Have you thought about the guy's point of view?

  • Why are you writing about a painful experience - how does this help you? Doesn't it make you sadder? Why would you do that to yourself?

  • Are you worried that people will read about Sandra and think that must have happened to you?

I then acted the part of Wound-up William who, quite frankly was a bit of a goober and wrote an opinion piece about how he should've passed an assessment, even though he didn't put in the work, and it's all his teacher's fault...blah, blah, blah. We repeated the process, and that was a fun one!

A fun activity to understand author purpose and perspective when close reading

Give it a whirl!

The template and passages I used are available on the right there (all editable), so it's basically a no-prep wonder.

If you want a freebie PDF version (so you can't edit that one), here you go!

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