5 Surefire Writing Strategies You Can Borrow from Social Media Right Now

Somewhere, someplace… there’s an essay due. And there’s a student (maybe even you!) who is staring at a blank page. Even after all the in-class lessons and maybe even tutoring for writing, the time has come… but the words won’t spring forward. Maybe the essay is due soon, and you need a solution. Maybe you’ve even made an outline and have plenty of research notes, but aren’t sure what to do next.

“Why does this have to be so hard?” You think as you bring up your Facebook or Instagram app and comment on a friend’s post. “Why can’t it be as easy as my social media feed?”

It can beCaptivating Instagram Writing. Whether we’ve noticed it or not, millions of students across the world are writing, each and every day. They’re posting their reviews of their favorite movies, adding their opinions in the comment sections of blogs, even sharing ideas that interest them deeply! Why, it’s a writing revolution!

So if writing on social media comes so naturally, why does our essay have to be so difficult? Is there anything we can learn from all the writing taking place on social media that can make it easier?

Yes! Let’s take a look at some writing strategies borrowed right from the writing habits you use every single day.

1. Consider Your Audience – It’s all about captivating them

It’s probably pretty obvious whenever you post to social media: you’re considering how your friends and family will interpret what you’ve said. But it goes much further than that: you want to capture your audience’s attention, not bore them to tears. The same goes for your essay audience. In many cases, your audience is the same friends and acquaintances (plus your teacher!) that you interact with on social media. What would interest them about your topic? What would convince them about your argument?

2. Build Your Network – Think of citations like a friends list

Whenever you tag a friend in a photo or give them a shout out on a comment, what are you really doing? Drawing attention to how awesome they are and giving them a little credit. Citations and quotations are exactly the same. By including quotes from other authors, you’re showing how your ideas, reasoning, and even your values are supported by people you respect (and who are respected by others). You even give credit by “tagging” the author so your audience can connect with them if they want! Citing your sources is a way to show how vast your intellectual network is. Don’t be afraid to show it off.

3. Share Something You Find Interesting – Connect the dots between facts & ideas

You don’t just post or share anything on your social media network; you share what you find interesting or are passionate about. Once you’ve thought about what will captivate your audience, share with them what you find most fascinating about your subject or topic. Is it weird that the character in the book you’ve read was driven by their past? Have you considered how your topic might impact the world for people your age? This is your chance to tell your readers, more formally, what you think. Connect those dots!

4. Apply Those Filters – Put ideas through a new lens to show multiple perspectives

Just like vintage filters make images look like they’re from another era or a vignette might focus in on one part of a photo, multiple perspectives give you the opportunity to play with ideas exactly like photos. In previous essays, your teacher may even have asked you to respond to possible criticism of your main writing points. Basically, you were considering multiple perspectives on the same topic and highlighting just how different the same topic can be to different people. Well, a neat trick is to use this technique all the time, the same way you would use multiple photo filters on Instagram to make a beautiful collage of images. Analyze your points from different perspectives to fully illuminate it.

5. Add Your Hashtags – Organizing the points you’re making… #awesome

While you can’t use hashtags in your essay (I know, I know!), that doesn’t mean that your main points don’t act in a very similar way. Hashtags come in all shapes and sizes, essentially letting you (and the online world) pull together and organize many photos, videos, and posts. Your essay’s main points are like the hashtags sprinkled throughout your feed. By using them again, you return to and remind your audience of what you find important about your subject. Best of all, your essay will be organized around the central points and ideas that guide your audience through what you’re thinking. Like with our other techniques here, you have the chance to play around and have a little fun, so your writing is a reflection of your own customized voice and thoughts.

Invented Spelling

Ideuz Furst, Speling Sekont: The Power and Purpose of Invented Spelling in Writing Development

Recently, a 4th grader told me, “I’m not a good writer.” When I inquired why, he shared, “Well, I don’t know how to spell a lot of words.” He’s not alone. In a recent Writing with Design poll, nearly 40% of students in 2nd through 8th grade reported that they often change the words they write to ones they know how to spell because they don’t want to make a spelling mistake.

Many parents also believe that spelling (and handwriting) are synonymous to writing. While spelling is certainly a needed set of skills to write; it is by no means synonymous.

The focus of writing should be more about the cultivation, organization, and sharing of ideas than proper spelling.

Trees

With over 50 years of research (Adams, 1991; Bissex, 2004; Burns, Griffin, and Snow, 1999; Chomsky, 1976; Clay, 1985; Clarke, 1989; Clay, 1975; DiStefano and Hagerty, 1985; Gentry, 1982; Hodges, 1981; Lutz, 1986; Rasinski and Padak, 2004, Read, 1975)  showing the powerful connection between writing development and invented spelling, I am a huge supporter of this stage of spelling development. Invented spelling, the spelling of words they way the sound instead of by conventional spelling rules, strengthens sound symbol correspondence and encourages fluency and risk-taking in writing. In addition, it builds writers’ confidence and supports their experimentation with unfamiliar words.

Yet, it is not enough for teachers to solely encourage writers to use invented spelling in their independent work. Like all aspects of writing, teachers must model invented spelling, too. Nor is this stage of spelling only for our youngest writers. The 4th grader who resisted writing because he didn’t trust his spelling skills needs to be encouraged to spell inventively just like the 4 year old who is just learning the sounds of letters.

When students observe their teachers being inventive in their spelling during the brainstorming stage of a piece of writing and even in the composition of the first sentence draft of writing, they develop a strong sense of how to trust their spelling knowledge and try different spelling options to eventually discover the accurate one. As Burns, Griffin, and Snow (1999) assert, “When children use invented spelling, they are in fact exercising their growing knowledge of phonemes, the letters of the alphabet, and their confidence in the alphabetic principle. A child’s ‘iz’ for the conventional ‘is’ can be celebrated as quite a breakthrough! It is the kind of error that shows that the child is thinking independently and quite analytically about the sounds of words and the logic of spelling.” (p. 102)

Spelling is a work in progress

Spelling is a work in progress

In the picture of a teacher’s model of invented spelling, notice that blanks are incorporated to encourage students to think about what letters could possibly be a part of the words. In addition, the second ‘e’ in “tree” was written in red to highlight to students it is not a sound they will hear, but rather, a spelling pattern they are learning and can try again in the future when they hear the long e sound in a word.

In older grades, model for and with students all the spelling patterns they know that can make the sounds in each syllable to see which version of the word “looks familiar.” This will encourage them to stretch their spelling knowledge through experimentation with spelling patterns.

So, incuraje studints to trust their branes and focus on the brillient content thay want to share insted of having purfect spelling. Once the ideas are shared, thin spelling can be refind and emproovd.

 

Enhancing Writing Strategy #1: Highlighters Highlight!

highlighter student

When it comes to improving the quality of student writing, highlighters are a powerful tool to teach students how to enhance their own writing. How? The answer lies in the purpose of a highlighter: to emphasize something of importance and value; to bring attention to what’s most significant.

By tasking students to highlight the words and phrases they think are most sophisticated, descriptive, vivid and precise in their writing*, they learn to be mindful of the quality of their writing (instead of solely focusing on just getting DONE with it) and are able to articulate what is impressive in other pieces they read.

As they highlight, advise them to ask themselves, “What is going to cause the reader to picture what I wrote about? What is the reader going to remember most from my piece? What words and phrases am I most proud of using?”

To build this self-reflection skill, first begin by reviewing samples of writing as a whole class. Discuss and analyze the words and phrases students offer as the strongest in the sample piece. Be sure to ask for their reasoning with questions such as, “Why did you choose that particular phrase? What about the word choice makes it impressive?”

Next, have students exchange their own writings with a partner with the task of highlighting the 3-5 strongest phrases and words in the writing. In a brief peer conference, students can share why they highlighted the different words and phrases as they read their partner’s piece. Never forget peer feedback is ten times more powerful to students than teacher feedback.

Also, before students turn in writing to you, whether it’s a sentence or an essay, frequently task them to highlight their most sophisticated words and phrases.

With future writings, the question “What would a reader highlight as they read my writing?” becomes more and more a part of their composition process, encouraging them to choose sophisticated, descriptive, vivid and precise words as they write. No writer wants to finish a piece of writing and feel there is nothing worth highlighting.

By simply drawing attention to word choice through these activities, students learn how to be mindful of the quality of their writing. Who knew highlighters could reinforce writing skills so powerfully?

*Writing with Design strongly recommends not using words like “best” to describe word choice, because “best” is too vague. Strong writers strive for sophistication, descriptiveness, vividness, and preciseness of language, so use those as the search parameters for evaluating word choice in writing.

Put Down the Red Pen

20081203_RedPensLet’s be honest with each other: Revision is the most dreaded step in the writing process, both for students and teachers. Why? To be blunt, often times it is a colossal waste of time, because it usually consists of students receiving back their writing with markings all over it, only to mindlessly rewrite it a second time, with maybe (if we’re lucky) some of the corrections added in. When this is the revision process, writing ceases to be a creative process and instead becomes a rote, dreaded hand-cramping task.

As educators, it is important to remember that the hand making the corrections is attached to the brain doing the learning. Thus, when students’ writing is returned already corrected for them, whether they’re 5 or 15 or 45, one of the most important processes: the refinement of their written thoughts, becomes pacified and a message of “I know better” is conveyed.
More importantly, a student’s written piece must be revered as the work of art (and heart) that it is. Few things feel more vulnerable than expressing one’s thoughts, feelings, and new-found knowledge on paper to be analyzed and critiqued. Just as we would object to art teachers painting on work in students’ portfolios or piano teachers interrupting performers to play the sonata better, so, too, must we question the underlying message teachers send when they return writing covered in red ink.

So what are teachers to do? It’s simple but oh so difficult to do; it’s remembering the answer to this question, “Who, ultimately, is the only person who can improve student performance?”

The answer: The student.

Indeed, teachers can begin to transform the revision process by putting down their correcting pens and instead engaging students in lessons and activities that will show them how to critique and augment their own writing.

Through future blogs, we’ll offer specific ways to enhance and upgrade the revision process to make it the respected and vital element of writing it is intended to be, all the while remembering it’s our job as educators to provide the tools and resources for revision and model using them so that students can then use them as they revise their own writing.

But for now, put down the red

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.

If You Give Students Sophisticated Word Choice

hp-009_1zInspired by one of our favorite children’s books, we know if you give students Sophisticated Word Choice, they’ll want to use them in a sentence.
When they use them in a sentence, they learn the power of vivid language.
When they understand the power of vivid language, they’ll want to learn more interesting words.
When they learn more interesting words, they’ll want to make their sentence a Power Sentence.
When they write a Power Sentence, they’ll want to write another.
When they write another, they’ll be amazed at their own abilities.
When they’re amazed at their own abilities, they will want to write more and share it with their peers and families. When they want to write more and share it with their peers and families, they’re ready for the next Level of Writing!

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.

 

And We’re Back!

6712852The late summer and fall of 2013 was a time of tremendous work behind the scenes of The Learning Project. With the start of 2014, we are eager to start sharing all that we have created, enhanced, and designed. We are so grateful for all the teachers and students we work with across this country, because it is their enthusiasm, their questions and requests, their success that keeps us constantly thinking about how to improve our products and services. So get ready, because in 2014, the best is yet to come!

Mind Designs are the Roadmaps to Writing Success!

4148522With the summer travel season in full swing, one of the most important items to pack for a road trip is a map.  Whether it’s a paper map or a GPS device, having a plan to reach a destination makes it easier to get there.  Without an accurate map, travelers might struggle to find their way. Whether they have to stop and retrace their route because they realize they are headed in the wrong direction or, even worse, they end up in a different place than they intended, when there’s a destination but no map to get there, road trips become torturous. Planning the route saves time and frustration and ensures travelers get to their intended destination!

Recently, I scored a batch of writing from three classes that illustrated the impact the “roadmaps” in Writing with Design has on the quality of student writing.  What struck me about the classes I analyzed was how much scores improved when students use the Mind Designs, the road maps, to plan their writing.

In two of the classes, I noticed that the writing was unfocused.  Their scores reflected this.  I could see that students struggled to get their ideas on the page because they had no plan. They were lost on their route and many ended up in destinations that were confusing and way off track.  In the third class, student scores were significantly higher.  As I scored this class, I noticed that students were using a Sequence Design to plan their narratives.  Clearly, the teacher had taught students how to use the Design to effectively organize, or map out, their writing.  Their writing was focused, well structured, and on prompt.  Good planning also freed students to be more creative and add more details.

As an independent Writing Analyst for Writing with Design, I can attest to this: Mind Designs give students a roadmap to success in writing!

-Angela
Writing Analyst for Writing with Design

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