Maybe you’re thinking, “What does she mean? That’s just bad grammar.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “Write less … more ? How is that even possible?” I had to read it several times to myself before I realized that is the perfect way to describe writing in the primary grades for CCSS.
CCSS is being assessed with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in Washington. The ELA standards are broken into four claims – reading, writing, listening & speaking, and research. Because ELA is tested in all testing grades, all four claims will be assessed. This is very different from the MSP, where in many instances, all grades would focus on reading comprehension and math. Specific grades would add in a focus that was tested in their year, such as 4th grade being the most worried about writing.
All teachers are focusing on writing now. And writing looks different. SBAC explicitly calls out writing NOT being formulaic. Some success could be found in MSP writing scores by encouraging students to use a strong process for writing. Additionally, starting in 3rd grade, all students need to be able to write for three purposes – narrative, informational and opinion (argumentative in grade 6 and beyond).
The item specifications have changed my instruction. It is still important for students to be able to go through the entire writing process and create a complete final product. First of all, creation of a full piece that has been thoroughly edited is an important life skill that is necessary in many professions. Secondly, writing over time is part of the CCSS. Thirdly, Claim 4 of ELA requires research and a response that is a complete work of writing. However, more than ever, I am focusing on developing strong smaller skills in writing.
In Claim 2, students are asked to complete what are called, “brief writes.” While there are many stems, they all center around developing one part of a piece of writing to make it stronger. For example, students could be asked to read an opinion piece of writing and create an introductory paragraph to set up the claim. They could be asked to write an ending for a narrative story. They could be asked to more clearly write a conclusion for an informational piece of writing.
Students need practice with this focused form of writing. For me, this means I have become more deliberate about my writing mini-lessons. I will teach writing a setting for several weeks to my 2nd graders. During this time, we only write settings. All kinds of settings. Most of the time, we never finish the story. Then we will move on and work dialogue between a main character and narrator and do the same kind of practice work.
Using the brief write stems has helped me become more deliberate in my instruction. Of course instruction of the entire writing process is important and must take place, but my entire writing block does not look like kids moving clothes pins up and down a “prewrite, rough draft, revise, edit, publish” chart any longer. My primary kids will have plenty of experience writing to improve work.
How has your writing instruction changed with the expectations of CCSS and SBAC?
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.