December 18th, 2012
Question 7: With all of the emphasis on Common Core reading and math, it seems like writing is being left behind. What one strategy do you think is the easiest for teachers to implement in a school where writing is now on the back burner?
Jeff’s response: I hope that the common core doesn’t leave writing behind. I don’t see evidence of this in the documents, but I think you are talking about the panicked process schools go through when they are afraid of poor performance in math and reading. And, yes, often when the school’s or district’s focus is reading, writing does get “left behind” in terms of the amount of time it is given or the amount of writing students do.
Letting writing lose focus, however, is very short sighted as writing and the study of writing models will be the very thing that will help students understand author’s purpose and many of the higher-level reading skills the Common Core requires. Not to mention the complex higher order thinking it takes to compose and revise.
You ask for one writing strategy. If I could only have one, this is the most elegant writing strategy I know. It’s a combo of a short read-aloud and a series of free writes. Find a short effective example of the kind of writing students are studying—narrative, informational, explanatory, or argument.
Share the example aloud. Ask students, “What words or phrases stick with you?” Discuss and name their responses. They tend to be effective writing strategies that they highlight. Then, read aloud a second time. You may even have students follow along on a copy of the text. Then ask what else stuck with them. Name again the things they highlighted as ways writers successfully achieve the type of writing you are studying.
After the read-alouds and discussions, students do a quick free write and share. Repeat the process over three to five days, capturing the essential elements of that type of writing on a wall chart. Next, students pick one of the pieces they’ve started in one or two of the free writes and develop that into a fully-processed piece of writing. (FYI: All three of my books have selected model or mentor texts that can act as the springboard to these lessons.)
Entry Filed under: Writing