Craft Coding


Through this activity, students focus intently on the craft of a relatively short piece of text.  They read through the text multiple times, each time focusing on different element of craft.   They mark the text using a color code to indicate which words in the text are most associated with each element of craft.     



Catherine Ullman-Shade

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Inferring
  • Synthesizing

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers


  • Identify the text or portion of a text that you want students to read.  You should select something relatively short, that is fairly challenging, and that is well-written. You may want to rewrite/print this text with extra-wide spacing to allow for multiple underlines of a given word/line.
  • Before completing this activity, students should be familiar with the following basic elements of writing craft: narrative technique, persona, point of view, description, mood/tone, action, dialogue, and sense time/place.  If students are not familiar, then you should plan lessons to teach these ahead of time.  You can also choose to focus this activity on fewer of these elements (2-4 of them instead of all 8). 
  • Create a display or handout with a code, connecting each of the target craft elements with a particular color.  Gather enough pens, markers, colored pencils, or highlighters of each color for each student.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher briefly review the concept of close reading. Teacher briefly review the target craft elements, and displays a chart in which each is identified with a particular color. Teacher models reading aloud a text multiple times, and coding the words in
    It can be helpful to model using a familiar text, or a text that precedes or is related to the one the students will be reading. 
    Think aloud as you are modeling, and explicitly explain how the word(s) that you read indicate an association with an element of writing craft.  Then, use the appropriate pen color to underline word(s) with the related craft.
  2. Students read the text once all the way through, and try to get a general gist of meaning, and generally engage with the content.
    Students can read alone or in pairs.
    As students are reading, circulate among them, briefly checking in and asking them what they are noticing and thinking.
  3. Students choose the element of writing craft they want to focus on first, and find the appropriately colored pen. Students read through the text again, looking for the words/lines that best reflect this element of craft. They underline these pieces of t

    Circulate as students are working, helping to draw their attention toward potentially relevant lines, and asking them about their thinking.

  4. After the first pass, students choose the next element of craft they want to focus on, find the appropriate pen, and read through the text again, this time seeking/coding the second craft element. Students continue with this iterative process until they

    Circulate as students are working, helping to draw their attention toward potentially interesting words and lines, and asking what they are noticing. 

  5. Students get into pairs, and share their marked-up texts. They compare, and discuss similarities/differences. Each pair picks one craft element, and presents what they noticed/discovered to the larger class group.

    Circulate as students are working, sitting with each pair for several minutes.  Listen to their ideas, and help them to consider ideas they may not yet have considered. 

  6. Students reflect on their learning alone or individually, orally or in writing.

    Students should respond to questions including:

    • How does this process help you to understand the meaning of a text? 
    • What is the value of rereading?
    • How might this activity help you to improve your writing?
    • How do the different craft elements work together?
    • When might this activity be most useful for you?  When would it not be helpful?
Downloadable Resources 
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