A Division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Heinemann

Hidden Gems

Naming and Teaching from the Brilliance in Every Student's Writing

Katherine Bomer

ISBN 978-0-325-02965-8 / 0-325-02965-2 / 2010 / 216pp / Paperback
Imprint: Heinemann
Availability: In Stock
Grade Level: 3rd - 8th
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    "Open Katherine Bomer’s staggeringly beautiful, generous book—you may realize that you have never before see your students’ writing at all."
    Lucy Calkins, Author of Units of Study for Teaching Writing

    Hidden Gems will transform the way we read student work.
    Thomas Newkirk, Author of Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones

    You don’t get true, fire-in-the-belly energy for writing because you fear getting a bad grade, but because you have something to say and your own way of saying it.
    Katherine Bomer

If you’re like Katherine Bomer, you’ve grown weary of searching for what’s wrong in student writing, and you want better ways to the respond to pieces whose beauty and intelligence doesn’t shine on the first read. Now she shares how she learned instead to search—sometimes near the surface, sometimes deep beneath—to find, celebrate, and teach from writers’ Hidden Gems.

"My hope is that as teachers we can respond to all students’ writing with astonished, appreciative, awe-struck eyes," writes Katherine. Through protocols, sample assessments, and demonstrations with actual student work, she shows how to bring the brilliant facets of your writers to the surface as you:

  • spot hidden stylistic gems in writing that is unconventional or vernacular
  • uncover content and organizational gems even when you don’t find the subject matter engaging or significant
  • respond by naming and celebrating writers’ gems instead of hunting for mistakes
  • give lasting compliments using the inspiring language of published writers that motivate students to keep writing, revising, and polishing their gems.

Accept Katherine Bomer’s invitation to read work “by young, unseasoned writers the way we would inquire our way into a poem by Nikki Giovanni, Jimmy Santiago Baca, or Naomi Shihab Nye and to notice the quirky brilliance and humor, the heartbreaking honesty, and surreal beauty in even the slightest bits of writing.” You’ll soon discover that student writers often perform remarkable feats in the craft of writing, and that you can achieve remarkable results with them when you uncover theirHidden Gems.

I. An Expanded Vision of Quality

1. What If We Just Relaxed and Stopped Caring What the Neighbors Think?

2. What Voices Dance in Our Heads as We Read Student Writing, and Where Did They Come From?

3. What Can We Learn from Reading Widely in Modern Texts and Naming What We Admire?

4. How Can We Use New Language to Effectively Speak to Kids About Quality in Writing?

5. Where Can We Find Fun Phrases for Talking About Writing?


II. Response to Student Writing

6. How Can We Read Student Writing to Find the Hidden Gems?

7. How Can Generous and Careful Reading of Student Writing Tell Us What to Teach?

8. What Can We See in Student Writing When We Read It with Colleagues?

9. How Do We Think Through Official Evaluation and Grading as Response to Student Work?

10. How Can Teachers Become In Charge of Celebrations as We Revalue Student Writing?



A. General Protocol for Reading Published Texts

B. Looking Closely at Qualities of Writing: Four Possibilities

C. Looking at Whole-Class Writing

D. Looking at Individual Student Writing

E. Looking at Whole-Class Writing (Variation)

F. Looking at Individual Student Writing (Variation)

G. Detailed Protocol for Reading Whole-Class or Individual Student Writing

H. Looking for the Good Stuff in Your Partner’s Writing

In Depth

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“Open Katherine Bomer’s staggeringly beautiful, generous book—you may realize that you have never before see your students’ writing at all.”

—Lucy Calkins

Author of Units of Study for Teaching Writing


In this generous and passionate book, Katherine Bomer invites us to move beyond the reductive language of rubrics and traditional assessments.  She calls upon us to approach student writing with the seriousness and sensitivity—and the expectation of pleasure—we too often reserve for published literature. Hidden Gems will transform the way we read student work.

—Thomas Newkirk

Author of Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones

“This book won’t tell you how to see the beauty in the hidden places, but…brilliance that ALREADY exists on the pages of our young writers. Brilliance is there, and Katherine simply illuminates this for us. Then, she takes us by the hand and shows us how to see it, what to say to our kids, and how to invite our colleagues along. Bonus: The appendices are filled with concrete ways to immediately implement the ideas you read about!”

—Linda Reyes, Teacher, New York City

Outstanding!! I purchased the book based on a recommendation from Leah Mermelstein. I used it in preparation for a presentation I was doing around assessment and student writing with K-2 teachers. We used Katherine Bomer's protocol for looking at writing and I couldn't believe how our thinking about student writing changed from a skills perspective to one of meaning. Absolutely wonderful read!! Your understandings will deepen and grow!

—Sheila Meade (Schenectady, NY) 9/5/2010

“Seeing how she works with kids—like Garrett—I could imagine how I would do this with my own students. Bomer urges teachers to engage in professional discussions with colleagues as they study students’ writing. The protocols in Chapter 8 were perfect for our department’s PLC work— looking at one student’s writing or samples from an entire class.”

–NCTE Talking Points

PD Resources From Katherine Bomer


  • Invite Katherine Bomer to speak at your school, district, or conference through Heinemann Speakers.

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