Innovative Strategies for Writing Success

We know that writing is important. In an information economy, more graduates will be required to be writers and analytical thinkers. The writers of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have intentionally designed standards, with a new focus, to show the increased importance of writing. As more students are heading towards a workforce that demands a post-secondary degree, a growing number of our young people need to know how to write effectively and experience success in writing different types of texts and for varying audiences.
We are in the midst of a revolution in the way we teach. Technology is providing opportunities for flipped and blended classroom experiences, as well as increased personalization in pace and place for learning. As Susan Oxnevad, an educator and EdTech consultant writes in her article Three Ways to Empower Common Core Writing, “Technology can be a powerful tool to facilitate changes in writing and research that can transform traditional assignments into engaging, deep learning experiences.”
The new more rigorous expectations for writing within CCSS require a new approach to teaching writing. Curriculum Associates provides research-based instructional tools for educators that are flexible and adaptive to help all learners achieve and succeed. The Ready Writing program – new for grades 2-5 – aids in teaching writing based on the new, rigorous CCSS in English/Language Arts, making writing from sources the center of learning in all writing types – opinion, informative/explanatory, and narrative. Students learn to use writing as a tool for thinking and clearly communicating their knowledge to share information and persuade others.
In order to help teachers best prepare for implementing CCSS, it’s important to have materials that are rigorous enough to meet the new expectations and ensure all students are successful.
Let’s take a look at a few successful strategies for teaching writing.
Writing goes beyond the ELA classroom.
With CCSS, writing standards now emphasize the importance of writing related to specific content such as science, social studies, and math. Writing across the curriculum is happening in schools across the US because of the new standards. Research also shows that students who write while learning content actually learn more content.
As Ian Faley, national writing consultant with the National Writing Project, says, “an emphasis placed on writing in all subjects is the best way to show students that writing is valued broadly.” It is important for students to work within each course to develop a style, format, and learn accepted conventions; so students learn that writing happens in every discipline.
Writing goes beyond the personal and into research.
Students are now being asked to go beyond autobiographical and personal/reflective types of writing and write about specific content or topics. Even opinion pieces go beyond giving a personal opinion and expect students to provide rationale and evidence for their arguments. Teachers need effective curriculum and tools for teaching students how to conduct research and make successful arguments. Tech should be used to help students process information and formulate research-based ideas for their writing. Google Research Tools help power research-based writing across content areas.
Teachers who write alongside their students, have their students write frequently (“Stop, Drop & Write” and other freewriting exercises) and encourage a culture of writing to help demystify writing for their students and create successful learning outcomes in the process.
Grammar and conventions are taught through application.
Writing is about application. With CCSS, there is less emphasis placed on diagramming sentences and learning specific grammar rules and more emphasis on teaching conventions through the editing of student writing. In Blogging as Writing Curriculum, Susan Lucille Davis has an excellent set of unit plans for teaching students to write in blog-style. She cites many excellent reasons to teach writing using blogging, including authenticity, receiving and giving feedback (conventions, grammar, and style), and connection with real world work for positive change. There are plenty of websites that help students design their own blogs, including WordPress and Blogger.
Teachers model writing strategies and write alongside their students.
The best writing teachers see their job as helping students overcome their reluctance to writing. Teachers should be modeling best practices in writing and providing coaching and effective feedback. The Ready Writing program shows specific student examples and includes teacher feedback support.
Teacher and blogger John Hardison recommends specific tech tools that teachers can use and model with their students, including mindmaps to help students organize their writing, and classroom management strategies such as Google Drive (or other digital backpacks) so students can save (and share) their writing with their teacher, other students, and their families.
For more on best practices for teaching writing, an Ed Week webinar featuring Dr. James Cunningham, professor emeritus of literacy at UNC-Chapel Hill, is set for October 8th. Please continue to follow the series, Spotlight on Writing: Preparing Teachers and Students for New Writing Expectations sponsored by Curriculum Associates.
Spotlight on Writing: Preparing Teachers and Students for New Writing Expectations is a series sponsored by Curriculum Associates in partnership with Getting Smart. The series features an October paper titled College and Career Readiness Standards in Writing: Strategies for Success in K-5 by James Cunningham, Professor Emeritus of Literacy Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. As part of the series, Cunningham, who was on the Text Complexity Committee for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts , will be the featured guest on an October 8th webinar moderated by Adam Berkin, Vice President of Product Development at Curriculum Associates. The paper will be accompanied by blogs that feature best practices for school leaders and instructional coaches when guiding teachers and students on success in implementing new writing standards.

Bonnie Lathram

Bonnie Lathram is a student advocate and former teacher.

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1 Comment

Susan Lucille Davis

Thanks for the shout out, Bonnie! This is a thoughtful, helpful piece.

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