Common Core State Standards

But I wrote FOUR pages!

Excited school girlFrom my teaching career, there is one defining moment that continues to guide the mission of Writing with Design. Early in the school year, Cheyenne, a third grade student eagerly brought me her writing one morning. “Look what I wrote, Mrs. Parks!” she exclaimed. “I wrote FOUR pages!” I matched her enthusiasm as I told her I would read her story during lunch. 

Her story began: One day I walked up to my friend and I said, “Hi.” She said, “Hey.” I said “What do you want to play at recess today?” She said, “I don’t know.” So I said, “Do you want to meet at the swings?” She said, “Sure.”

The dialogue continued on to page two, three, and four. The entire piece was nothing but questions and answers, exchanged between third grade BFF’s.

As Cheyenne and I conferenced about her writing, it became clear to me that she knew the quality wasn’t great. She knew her piece wasn’t very exciting or interesting. What she was proud of was that she had written FOUR pages. She thought that would impress me “But, Mrs. Parks, I wrote FOUR pages!” she said with a confused brow.

It was in that moment that I realized how important it is for students to understand quality and length of writing are not synonymous. There is no status gained from being able to write a certain length, if quality is not present.

Fast-forward seven years, I continually observe many Cheyenne’s in classrooms across this country. Length is still very much the focal point for many students as they either proudly showcase their extra long pieces of writing, or as I hear them begrudgingly ask, “How long does it have to be?” Whether it’s with Cheyenne’s enthusiasm that they show off the length they were able to write, or want to know the length requirement so they can meet the bare minimum, the focus is on the wrong component of writing.

Writing with Design focuses on strength before length, on quality before quantity. Otherwise, writing is a waste of time for students to produce and teachers, fellow students, (you, me!) to read.

There is a process to great writing. There are steps and structures that allow for students to truly find their voice and tell a story worth telling.

Indeed, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the Cheyenne’s of America’s classrooms grasp the notion that writing is not about filling up a sheet of paper; that the process, not just the product, is to be revered.

Righting Writing in Middle and High School

3339783Lately, during sessions with middle and high school teachers, one question continues to be asked. “How often do you recommend that students write in my classroom?” Our response, “Daily.”
This might just be one sentence, but still, writing is happening daily, in every class. If you guided students through writing one high quality sentence per day, each week you’d have a powerful paragraph, and each month you’d have a Level 9 piece of sensational writing. Just imagine if you wrote 2 sentences some days… maybe even three! World, watch out!
To be frank, writing across the curriculum isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. Writing, Common Core style, is a true team effort. This is not an ELA thing. It’s an every department, every teacher, every student thing. Writing can be time intensive, and at times, we will design it to be in every class, but generally, on a daily basis, writing can be a quick yet powerful task.
Our request of you: make writing a priority, a daily priority. Have high expectations. Use Writing with Design’s Rubrics to explain what those high expectations are. Use the rubric software to track growth (it will happen and it will be amazing!). Model great writing. Guide students through great writing. Work on transitions. Work on sophisticated word choice. Work on closings. In a word, write.
So, let’s get writing. What do you say?

 

6 Ways Writing With Design Helps You ACE the Common Core Writing Standards

6 Ways Writing With Design Helps You ACE the Common Core Writing Standards

Writing with Design:

1. Aligns 100% to Common Core Standards
As Writing with Design is implemented, you can rest assured your students are mastering every writing skill. From the writing prompts to the rubrics to the skill focus activities, every aspect of Writing with Design focuses on the Core.

2. Makes Writing Accessible for Every Student
Whether students are 5 or 15, our approach lets you meet every student where they are and grow their writing skills to impressive levels. Within a year of implementation, students will be ready to articulate well their thoughts in writing on any next generation assessment.

3. Incorporates Relevant and Meaningful Writing Across the Curriculum
Since Common Core believes that every teacher is a literacy teacher, Writing with Design provides opportunities for high quality writing in every class. With lengths of writing activities spanning one sentence to essay-length, we make it practical to incorporate meaningful and doable writing into every class anytime.

4. Creates a School Culture Focused on High Quality Writing
Our approach teaches students the structures and strategies of strong writers. Since we focus on quality, students quickly learn what it takes to write with sophistication and voice. With the same rubrics used to assess writing in every class, expectations remain high every time students write.

5. Provides Relevant and Real Time Feedback from Writing Analysts
We let you know how students are performing three times per year through formal writing feedback from skilled writing analysts. Plus you will have access to students’ scores on writing assessments and assignments on our web-based software, allowing you see real progress in real time.

6. Gives You Everything You Need to Confidently Teach Writing
A comprehensive manual + a constantly growing online bank of resources = everything you need to effectively teach and incorporate writing in your content area, from introducing a writing prompt to honing specific stylistic skills. No other program supports teachers with as many ready-to-use and purposeful writing activities as Writing with Design. Plus, ongoing support via follow-up workshops, webinars, and online chats provide you with the support to make teaching writing enjoyable and purposeful. We work with schools for several years to cultivate a strong writing culture that lasts and lasts.

Ok, 7 reasons why…

7. Cultivates a Love of Writing in Students
Be prepared to be amazed as students become eager, confident writers! Teachers often comment that students ask to write about activities throughout day because they have the skills to convey their thoughts and want to showcase what they can do.

 

Just How Far We’ve Come

2023999Before spring break, several of my 2nd grade students came up to me and asked for paper to take home. My first thought was that it was so they could draw pictures and color. “No, Mrs. Plescher, we want to write!” Isabella informed me.

In that moment, I felt as though one of my year’s goals had been accomplished. I set out the year, using Writing with Design, to empower my students to be confident, eager writers. Realizing they wanted to spend time over their break thinking and writing showed me just how far they had come since September. The same students who rushed through writing, who were resistant to writing more than two sentences, who often said, “I don’t have anything else to write about,” now had the motivation, desire, and pride to write independently.

Writing is now an integral part of our classroom culture. As a teacher, I used to think, “What can I possibly write about this week?” Now, my students and I often say, “Oooh! Let’s write about that!” several times during each day. From working on sophisticated words to creative titles to strong endings, we have all come so far with writing this year!

 

 

 

Top 10 Ideas about Writing I Learned or Had Reaffirmed This Week

  1. Writing with Design allows students’ brilliance to shine.
  2. Mind Designs structure and focus writing in a way nothing else can.4545336
  3. It’s transformative to watch a student gain confidence as a writer during a lesson on how to use search engines to find powerful synonyms.
  4. There is nothing more affirming than hearing 3rd grade boys comment, “This is so cool! Writing is fun!”
  5. Writing with Design gives teachers the confidence and the tools to cultivate incredible writing skills in their students.
  6. Without a doubt, transitions add sophistication to every piece, every time. Indeed!
  7. Narratives are about creating experiences for the reader, not telling the procedural actions (then…and then…and then…).
  8. Posting the Mind Designs students create as they plan their writing  along with the high quality draft is critical to show that great writing doesn’t just happen. It’s planned.It’s reworked. It’s revised.
  9. If the Mind Designs teachers and students created to plan their writing aren’t messy, something still needs to be revised!
  10.  Teachers make all the difference and 30+ % increases in state writing test scores are possible. Just ask Holly. Her story is coming soon. Be prepared to be inspired.

Mind the Gap! Understanding the spectrum of skill development

 

When it comes to cultivation of student skills, I usually hear, “That’s too difficult for students,” or “They should already know how to do this!” Does anyone else see the gap in logic here? For example, transitions words and phrases are an elusive component to writing that add impressive sophistication to any piece. In our research, we’ve concluded that most high scoring pieces contain about a transition word or phrase per sentence.

As part of Writing with Design, we begin teaching transitions words in kindergarten! In kindergarten! Why? Well, why not? Writing is a development of skills, skills that contain a spectrum of sophistication. Certainly, the transitions we expose kindergarteners and 1st graders to are more concrete and straightforward than the transitions we expose 4th or 9th graders to. However, the key is they are exposed to transitions. They experiment with them. They learn how to bring transitions into their writing. And guess what? Their writing sounds even more amazing!

By seeing every skill within writing as a part of every grade level’s focus, just at different points on the spectrum, the gap in logic between “that’s too difficult” and “they should already know this” is eliminated. The focus, rather, becomes “Where are they on the spectrum? What’s the next step?”

 

Writing skills=incredible life opportunities

As a middle school student, I had no idea just how powerful and transformative writing would become
in my life. As I began to win essay contests, the momentum began to build. Writing 2162302empowered me, gave me confidence, and helped me find my voice. By the time I graduated from high school, I had amassed over $250,000 in scholarship funds. Most of the scholarships were essay contests and every single one required written responses at some point during the process.
Why is my life’s passion to cultivate students’ thinking and writing skills? Writing transforms lives and creates incredible opportunities. As Common Core emphasizes writing across every curriculum area, the need for meaningful writing activities has grown in importance. If you are a classroom teacher, contact me for specific essay opportunities you can tie into your curriculum.
Writing is skill that opens doors to incredible life opportunities. If you are a teacher, what writing opportunities are you offering your students? If you are a student, how are you cultivating your writing skills to bring more of life’s amazing opportunities to you?

Step Right Up! Strengthening the Muscles in Sentences

POP QUIZ TIME!

What’s the difference between these two sentences:  1. Kids are amazing and creative. vs. 2. Creative kids are amazing thinkers.

A: Sentence 1 is stronger and more sophisticated in structure.
B: Sentence 2 is stronger and more sophisticated in structure.
C: Both sentences are equally as strong and sophisticated.

The correct answer is B: Sentence 2 is stronger and more sophisticated in structure. Why is that the case? It has to do with the muscles of sentences: adjectives.

There’s nothing grammatically wrong with sentence 1: “Kids are amazing and creative.” It’s just there is no power in that sentence structure: noun verb adjective conjunction adjective. Predicate adjectives are weak. They just so happen, however, to be the most natural and common way of speaking and so, by default, writing.

The structure of sentence 2: “Creative kids are amazing thinkers,” is adjective noun verb adjective noun. Now there’s a muscular sentence! Do you hear the power when adjectives precede nouns? Said simply, get rid of predicate adjectives!

It takes deliberate focus and practice for writers of all ages to learn the power of adjective placement. But, when they do, their writing can flex some major muscles!

Writing and thinking change lives. Forever.

Critical thinking and writing are exponentially growing in importance as Common Core Standards upgrade and refine the skill sets students are expected to develop.

Kindergarteners and AP English students will utilize the same skill sets to think, read, speak, and write. The only difference will be the task’s developmental level of complexity.

How has your school vertically aligned skill development not only for school achievement success, but also to give students the thinking and writing skill sets they need to be successful in life?

Indeed, it is an exciting time to be a part of education in this country as the paradigm shifts away from content-driven activities and assessments, to what educators have known for decades matters most: thinking, speaking, listening, and writing.

 

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