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By Annie Sheehan • August 3, 2018

5 Ways to Fix Your District’s Writing Mindset

This blog post has been adapted from the content shared during the webinar 5 Ways to Fix Your District’s Writing Mindset.

Only 9% of ELA middle school lessons include opportunities for extended writing. Consequently, just 24% of 8th graders are able to write at a proficient level.

To improve the quality and frequency of student writing, consider implementing the following shifts in your district:

#1: Writing Assignments → Writing Choice

Move from standard, one size-fits-all writing assignments by embedding opportunities for student choice throughout the writing process. Giving students choice helps them develop an engaging and personal connection with their writing. This results in a higher level of success, as studies show disengaged students are 10 times more likely than their peers to say they don’t do well in school. Teachers can give students the choice to decide an opinion, a topic, vary in genre choice, or even just add illustrations. These small changes allow students to hold some autonomy over their writing, leading to higher confidence and achievement.

#2: Free Writing → Exploration

Replace open-ended free writing with more structured writing exploration. For some students, a blank page can be overwhelming and lead to writer’s block. Districts can scaffold the writing process by asking students to write in response to digital resource. By kicking off the writing process with online texts, teachers can model different forms of writing and encourage creative and critical thinking.

#3: Pen and Paper → Digital/Multimedia

Today’s students shouldn’t be writing every assignment by hand. In college and careers, students will be expected to use technology write for an online audience. Incorporating technology throughout the writing process can make the revision, peer review, and revision process easier on teachers and students alike.

The 21st Century Writing Workshop: A District Handbook

Download this eBook to access strategies districts can implement to enrich writing instruction with technology.

Get the Free Handbook

#4: High Stakes, Once in a Blue Moon → Low Stakes, Every Day

In many districts, students only write a few essays each semester. When students are only writing once in a blue moon, how can we expect them to perform well on these assignments? Mary Gurley, Director of Curriculum at eSpark Learning, advises that districts embed writing throughout every school day. “You can use 5-10 minute quick writes, writing in response to reading, daily reflections and journals, exit tickets, and more in-depth research projects to bring writing opportunities into every lesson,” she explains. “Not every writing assignment needs to be graded, but by having students write for a few minutes every day, you’ll make the composition process less intimidating.”

Not every writing assignment needs to be graded, but by having students write for a few minutes every day, you’ll make the composition process less intimidating.

#5: Private → Public

Writing should be a collaborative experience! Peer review helps both the writer and the reviewer identify areas of strength and areas for improvement, and having students publish their work can renew their engagement in their writing. Bringing in experts or sharing student work with readers outside of the classroom can go a long way toward making writing a collaborative, motivating process.


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