Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing: A Star is Born

Writing has taken a starring role in the newest edition of the Partnership for the Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) resources called the Model Content Frameworks 2.0. You may access the resources at and, in the latest online documents, you may search exclusively for each grade level as a separate tool.

What is highlighted for daily practice is routine writing. In the past, writing as a learning tool (taking notes, keeping a science notebook etc.) tended to be sidelined in favor of writing to demonstrate learning or communicate (essays, letters, reports etc.). Researchers like Steve Graham emphasize the importance of teaching students how to use writing as a tool for remembering and synthesizing information. In addition, routine writing supports the writing fluency that learners need to be facile with handwriting/typing that aids in the ability to get your thoughts and ideas out fluidly.

Writing is an essential ingredient in the implementation of the 2011 Curriculum Framework. It is integrated with reading, research, and speaking/listening. The writing called for by the standards requires that students have a flexible understanding of how to analyze, summarize, and synthesize knowledge accrued from reading, listening to classmates, stating and defending their own thoughts, and putting additional information with a first or anchor text. What are some of those skills; what is some of the knowledge needed to be successful?

Summarizing texts requires understanding that the author had a purpose and reading the text to demonstrate what those purposes are. Students need many models of annotated text and practice annotating themselves as well as knowledge of how best to record and keep notes for various purposes. Writing about the text deepens the understanding the reader has. Recording notes helps students practice putting important ideas into their own words.

Models of specific texts are helpful as ways for students to deconstruct the elements of various genre.
Students may also be given opportunities to imitate elements such as structure, style, or language. examining text closely improves both reading and writing. It is important to remind students to read as if they are authors and to write with an audience in mind.

Writing can be used a s a tool to analyze and critique texts. Students learn from separating the parts of a text, making connections and interpretations throughout the text, connecting problems with solutions and causes with effects. Teacher questions that send students back into the text to search for such ideas promotes student critical thinking, increasing the building of knowledge. Students link prior knowledge and ideas from other texts on the topic to the propositions in the text being examined. This kind of thinking supports development of argument skills - claims and logical reasoning.

Synthesizing information from several texts builds even greater knowledge and challenges students to make sense of differing ideas. Research requires making choices among texts for those most relevant - a very important skill in itself. Additionally, students need to learn how to organize the information they collect, put it together in a coherent thesis, all while avoiding plagiarism.

Writing is a wonderful star that brings together the biggest standard shifts - increase complexity, build knowledge, and value evidence. Writers become more proficient readers, writers, and speakers. Writing brings it all together.