Achieve Writing Mastery
How persistence and practice can promote college readiness in your learners.
By Matthew Spinogatti
E.L. Doctorow once said, “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining is not writing. Researching is not writing. Talking to people about what you are doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” With the recent rollout of the Common Core standards, as well as the first year of SBAC testing, many elements in the field of education are up in the air. We can expect to see many things change over the next few years and some things may even be abandoned all together. However, one element that will not change is the re-discovered dedication to writing.
Why Writing and Why Now?
When reading the Common Core standards in any subject area it is clear that there is a focus on literacy (reading and writing). This will become increasingly evident across all disciplines and subject matters as the Common Core rollout continues. Students will be expected to read and write, extensively, in all classes.
According to Writing Instruction That Works, by Arthur Applebee and Judith Langer, learning to write effectively within a discipline is part of that discipline’s knowledge base—not simply another context to practice English language arts. This means that students should not view having to read and write as solely a “language arts” practice, but as an educational foundation. According to that same resource, pupils are currently not writing very much. A typical secondary student is expected to produce about 1.6 pages of writing per week in English and 2.1 pages for all other subjects combined. In addition, 40% of 12th graders report hardly ever being asked to write a paper of three or more pages. Based on these statistics alone, learners will not be college and career ready by the time they graduate from high school.
Techniques to Increase Writing Mastery
1. Write often and with varied prompts. The key to mastery with any skill is repetition and practice. In short, pupils need to write more and not just in language arts class. Writing can take many forms in a classroom and can be done for many different exercises. Get creative and put aside time for writing.
2. Understand that all writing is fundamentally argumentative. There are many different types of writing that we are meant to “study.” Narrative, persuasive, character analysis, etc. However, all of these styles still have elements of argument in them. In addition, all writing done in other courses will most likely be argumentative. Students will be taking a stance on some topic or subject and supporting it with relative material. Use this to your advantage and find ways to encourage them to have academic debates with their writing. To get you started, try this resource
3. Teach pupils to break through format restraints. Students are taught to write formally through many different formats. We use thinking maps, graphic organizers, colored pens, and many other techniques in an attempt to teach them how to write properly. This is fundamental for many skills that are the building blocks of writing. However, these formats should be considered rudimentary. In order for individuals to reach a level of writing that can be considered college ready, they need to adopt their own style and system of writing free from format restraints. That is one way to achieve writing mastery.
The Essence of Communication
Literacy is a fundamental building block of education for a reason. Communication lies at the very core of our society. Because of this, the Common Core anchor standard for writing states, “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” This skill will be essential regardless of our pupil's college or career path. The only way to get there is through achieving writing mastery.
What are some ways that you increase the level of writing mastery in your classroom? Share your ideas and practices with the Lesson Planet Community.