Welcome to Read – Write – Connect, Inc.

the Internet home of Leah Mermelstein.

Best Writing consultant 002 copyLeah is an internationally recognized literacy consultant who specializes in K-5 Reading and Writing Workshop. She is the President and CEO of Read-Write-Connect, INC. She is also the author of Reading/​​Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom, (Allyn & Bacon), Don’t Forget to Share (Heinemann) and the co-author of Launching the Writing Workshop (with Lucy Calkins) (Heinemann).

Selected Works


Quality Writing Instruction
This brand new DVD will assist teachers with high quality writing instruction.


Don’t Forget to Share: The Crucial Last Step in the Writing Workshop
This brand new book will show you how to make your share sessions more instructional.


Reading/Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom: Find the Clarity and Then Blur the Lines
This book demonstrates how through careful, explicit assessing, planning, and teaching every student can understand and use the reading/writing connection to become stronger readers and writers at the same time.

Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum: Launching the Writing Workshop
This book shows teachers how to launch a joyful and rigorous Writing Workshop in their classrooms.


E-mail the author

Authors Guild


Leah Mermelstein
536 Grand Street, Ste. 501,
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(917) 503-1947


1Leah best writing consultant 1.4 copy

Blog Posts are Below:


Qualities of a Self-Directed Writer


This summer I’ve been hard at work writing a draft of my new book that is about creating self-directed learners in the Writing Workshop.  Today as the school year begins for many of you I want to give you a taste of my new book.  Specifically,  I want to share ten words I use to describe a writer who is self-directed. I am purposely using the word self-directed rather than independent because I think the two words, although share some things in common have some substantial differences as well.  I’m hoping posting these words will start an interesting dialogue.

A common misconception about self-directed learners is that some kids are able to do this, while other students are not.В  My belief, which I share throughout the book, is that we as teachers can help all of our students become more self-directed if we organize our classroom towards this goal, as well as create a climate that encourages self-directed learning.


So here they are!


1.В  Independent before Interdependent

2.В  Risk Taker


3.В  Confident


4.В  Engaged


5.В  Excited


6.В  Persistent


7.В  Resilient


8.В  Resourceful


9.В  Self-starters


10.В  Self-regulators


I would love your thoughts on the following:

Are there other words that you would use to describe self-directed writers?

As you begin  your year, do you see kids who either possess or don’t possess these qualities? I would love to hear the stories of the students that you are actually meeting.

What are you planning to do in your classroom to encourage more of these qualities?



12 Responses to Qualities of a Self-Directed Writer
  1. Ryan Scala
    August 29, 2012 | 11:24 pm

    Great topic – Although I don’t know if I would say that a self directed writer isn’t interdependent. I feel like a self-directed writer is absolutely interdependent rather than dependent. This does not mean that they are not independent, rather a self-directed writer knows how to draw on the resources of a writing community to remain resilient and sustain their energy for writing. I think that a writer who is self-directed is able to seek help from the appropriate places and is able to name the kind of support that would most benefit them. A self-directed writer is able to articulate the kind of help that they need and can draw on a repertoire of strategies to lift the level of their writing through conversation. I am not sure how I would name this as a quality – insightful, responsive, keenly aware, an awareness of their writing history. I think that the best way to nurture this sense of self-directedness is to leave room in your curriculum for students to chart their own course. A unit on independence is so essential if kids are going to develop a sense of agency and I always feel like I see the most investment when students have ‘choice’ about mode and message. In WW, we often do a lot of guided choice – you can write about a topic that you choose AS LONG as it is personal narrative. It feels a lot like old school Writing Workshop – However, I think we need to strike a balance – when teachers plan curriculum – today it feels like the course is all laid out before students walk through the door – the pendulum moved from total choice to little choice. Great food for thought – Leah – I will definitely be thinking more about this as I move into the year.

    • Leah Mermelstein
      August 30, 2012 | 12:05 pm

      Hi Ryan,
      One of the many reasons that I love blogging is it helps me to get clarity on my thinking. I am lucky to have so many, smart, talented and dedicated readers!!!!! Your response has me thinking more about the quality of being independent before interdependent. I’m not sure if I’m off in my wording or if we disagree so I’ll explain further and see what you think. I purposely used the word “before’ because I think that a vital part of learning in Writing Workshop is being interdependent upon one another. After all, it is helpful to get assistance from others. But with that being said, I do think that sometimes it can backfire and turn into something not so helpful. Specifically, I think going to someone else too quickly can get in the way of kids becoming more self-directed. The easiest example I can give is spelling help. A child is about to spell a word and realizes/or thinks she needs help. Her knee jerk reaction is to ask someone else. She asks and she gets an answer. My worry is that she will begin to rely on others for spelling help without seeing the potential within herself. I think it’s common to ask for help before you try it yourself and often if you give yourself a moment to try it you actually will realize that you don’t need the help. And if you do go for help it should be after you try something yourself first. It’s not that I want kids to only be independent and never go for help. I just want them to trust their own abilities first as I think this goes a long way in kids being self-directed. I would love to know yours (and really everybody’s) thoughts on this. By the way, your blog is awesome.

  2. Cheryl
    August 29, 2012 | 11:47 pm

    I can’t think of a word that would capture this idea. I think that the writer has to see why her writing matters to her as a writer and to her as a person. What’s the value of this for me?

    • Leah Mermelstein
      August 30, 2012 | 12:06 pm

      Very interesting thought…I don’t know the word either but it does belong…I’ll keep thinking anyone else have a word that describes what Cheryl said above??

  3. Anmarie Galgano
    August 30, 2012 | 2:14 am

    Purposeful, maybe? I’ve been doing some thinking about this lately, and am going to try and plan my writing minilessons in a format I learned at TC a few years ago…What? By? Why? I think I’ve always included the What and By, but I don’t think that my minilessons gave equal weight to the purpose of the strategy or skill I was teaching. Can’t wait for your book!

  4. Leah Mermelstein
    August 30, 2012 | 12:10 pm

    Hi Anmarie,
    I think purpose is so important and I think it’s one of the ways that you get kids to be self-directed. When you know why you are doing something you have what I have hard Patrica Cunningham call “Cognitive Clarity” You can get cognitive clarity by doing what you said: making sure you are explaining the purpose whenever you teach. You can also give kids cognitive clarity by having regular celebrations as it helps kids understand that one reason to write is for an audience. I think that when a person has cognitive clarity they are bound to be more excited and engaged in the work they are doing. Thanks for sharing and I hope to see you soon!

  5. Angela Baez
    August 30, 2012 | 2:02 pm

    “Such an important topic!” is what I kept thinking as I read your post. And as the author, you must agree, which is what drove you to write this book (how self-directed!) You noticed a need, and so you wrote. In that way, I think your above conversation with Cheryl and Anmarie about purpose is so right on. I’ve been pondering HOW to create self-directed writers, and I keep coming back to building our kids’ sense of urgency. They have to see their message as important – to the world or to just themselves. Janet Wong’s You Have to Write crosses my mind here.

    Your discussion about “independent before interdependent” made me think of another word: deliberate. Maybe self-directed writers are deliberate? You said that you “purposely” chose to use the word “before” to most accurately convey your meaning. When I think of students who I would describe as self-directed, i think of the smart and deliberate (with a reason) choices they make – craft choices, genre choices, and habit choices.

    …I purposely chose to use both ‘smart’ and ‘deliberate’ because i think there may be a distinction there too…

    • Leah Mermelstein
      August 30, 2012 | 4:41 pm

      Yes, I do think this topic is essential to the success of Writing Workshop. There is a misconception at times that if you establish a Writing Workshop where kids choose their own topics and then create a plan for the year, your kids will be self-directed. It’s just not true. It takes a lot of work, not just in September but across your year. My book will show folks the different ways that you can think about creating self-directed learners in all aspects of your teaching.

      I think there is a distinction between smart and deliberate. I think deliberate conveys better what you’re trying to say. A self-directed learner is deliberate. They know why they are doing and why they are doing it. They are not just following directions. Thanks for your comments..I have a feeling that deliberate will find its way into the opening chapter (with thanks to you of course!!!)

      What’s so interesting is that we can help kids to be deliberate by being deliberate ourselves…telling them why we are teaching what we are teaching. We can also ask them on a regular basis why they are doing what they are doing so they begin to get used to being deliberate…

      I hope the start of your year is a GREAT ONE!!!

  6. Marjorie
    August 31, 2012 | 12:11 pm

    I would add the word “reflective.” This word might describe what Cheryl said about why writing matters to the writer. Self-reflections can lead to understanding and growth.

  7. Leah Mermelstein
    August 31, 2012 | 12:14 pm

    I agree, Marjorie! Thanks :) I just ordered your book and can’t wait to read it. Have a great start to your year.

  8. Renee Dinnerstein
    September 14, 2012 | 12:15 am

    Would “inspired” fit in here?

    • Leah Mermelstein
      September 14, 2012 | 12:40 am

      Yes, I think so..thanks everyone! Your thoughts and comments really help me to think through the ideas I’m trying to write about. :)

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