Frequently Asked Questions


Teaching WritingCity

Q1. What is WritingCity?
Answer:
WritingCity is a complete K-5 writing and grammar program with an unparalleled focus on every element of the writing and grammar/conventions standards. WritingCity includes day-by-day lesson plans with explicit instructions, embedding the highly-respected educational best practices and strategies of: 6 Traits of Quality Writing, Writer’s Workshop, Madeline Hunter’s Lesson Plan Format, Multiple Intelligences, Marzano’s 9 Strategies, and Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Q2. Is WritingCity a supplemental program?
Answer:
No, WritingCity is designed to be a stand-alone writing program with a complete year of writing lessons.
Q3. Why do we need WritingCity?
Answer:
WritingCity provides a complete framework; it spirals the teaching of skills throughout a grade and between the grades. Also, the lessons are scaffolded and provide a gradual release of responsibility within a grade and between the grades. Therefore, using WritingCity provides an organized and coordinated system of teaching writing for your school that individual teachers cannot do on their own.
Q4. Can the WritingCity curriculum be personalized to meet different teaching styles, student needs, or to be used in conjunction with a reading program?
Answer:
WritingCity is designed around a writer’s workshop model. Thus, it provides the teacher with a basic structure from which to launch a more personalized program. Mini lessons and teacher modeling allow teachers to be true to their own personality and style. Lessons can be taught in conjunction with a reading program.
Q5. How does WritingCity support blended learning?
Answer:
WritingCity and Write About have come together to bring you CaptivationStation, a blended learning, digital writing platform. WritingCity video lessons, known as Captivators, provide daily instruction, and Practice pages provide directions for daily writing practice. Write About is the digital platform where the students draft, revise, edit, post, and publish their writings. The CaptivationStation platform can be used to provide a blended learning experience. It frees teachers to move from being the disseminator of the lesson to being a coach or mentor who is available throughout the Writer’s Workshop. Captivators can also be used independently from the digital writing platform.
Q6. Do students practice response writing?
Answer:
Students respond to texts of all types in Grade 3, 4 and 5. There are lessons in which students are taught how to respond to literature, opinion, and informational texts. There are, also, lessons that include text dependent questions; and students are taught to find and cite pertinent information in their responses.
Q7. Are assessments included in WritingCity?
Answer:

Yes, The culminating activity of each unit is a Formal Core Writing piece. This piece acts as a summative assessment. The instrument used for scoring is a rubric, specifically designed to emphasize the use of the 6 Traits of Quality Writing and state standards associated with the text type that taught in the given unit.

The Formal Core pieces require stamina, because the students write over several days and revise and edit their pieces. There is also an opportunity for on-demand writing. Anytime a one-day prompt is assigned, the writing can be timed and collected as an additional assessment piece.

There is an opportunity for a pre and post-assessment at every grade level.

Formative assessments are included in the independent practice and closure section of many lessons. Teachers can use these to inform their instruction.

Q8. How much time is needed to teach all the WritingCity units?
Answer:
WritingCity lessons are designed to be taught a minimum of three days a week in kindergarten and first grade. In the second through fifth grades, a minimum of four days a week is necessary. If you prefer to take longer with the lessons, you may find it beneficial to extend to a five-day-a-week schedule.
Q9. Does WritingCity use the Writing Process?
Answer:
Yes, WritingCity breaks the complex act of writing into manageable parts. Learning the writing process helps students understand that good writing takes practice and that their writing will improve with each step. It is helpful when teachers explain that the process is not linear and that writers will often move back and forth between the steps.
Q10. Does WritingCity follow the Writer’s Workshop format?
Answer:
Yes, WritingCity follows the lesson steps of a Writer’s Workshop and uses a Madeline Hunter-type lesson plan format as the framework. Each WritingCity lesson utilizes the following steps: Anticipatory Set, Input, Modeling/Guided Writing, Checking for Understanding, Guided Practice, Independent Practice, and Closure.
Q11. Is modeled writing a part of WritingCity?
Answer:
Yes, modeled writing is a very powerful tool, whether in the form of sharing and analyzing student work, showing excerpts from picture books, or demonstrating teacher writing. Modeled writing provides the opportunity to load each lesson with multiple teaching points at various skill levels, and therefore, is a natural and practical place in the lesson to differentiate. When teachers share modeled writing to teach specific skills, students watch and listen with the expectation that they will be using these same skills on their own at some point soon.
Q12. Does WritingCity teach revising and editing?
Answer:
Yes, revising is taught beginning in Kindergarten. Editing is added toward the end of first grade. After that, all units include editing and revising. Revising and editing with peers is modeled and included in grades 1-5. Also, checklists and visual aids are provided to create a structured approach to revising and editing.
Q13. Does WritingCity teach handwriting?
Answer:
Although WritingCity doesn’t teach handwriting, our sister site, VocabularySpellingCity offers Handwriting Practice worksheets that can be created from your word lists.
Q14. How does WritingCity address varied student ability levels?
Answer:
WritingCity has been tested in proven effective in many kinds of classrooms. All students can meet the assigned task. However, they will be doing so at different levels of proficiency. Understanding that every classroom is full of varied ability levels, WritingCity curriculum creators provided many opportunities for differentiated instruction.
  • Conferencing – Teachers conference individually or in small groups selecting one or two teaching points appropriate for individual students.
  • Rubrics – Teachers can point out each student’s unique strengths and weaknesses and can use these for individual goal setting.
  • Spiraled lessons – This design allows students many opportunities to gain understanding of a skill and to “master” it when they are developmentally ready.
  • Closure and Checking for Understanding
    • “Exit tickets” are presented at the end of some lessons. They present a quick review of the lesson with a set of questions designed for different levels of thinking and skill ability.
    • Sharing is a typical closure activity. Sharing opportunities give students the chance to see and accept various levels of writing ability. All work is celebrated.
    • When checking for understanding, teachers give students an opportunity to interact with the modeled text at their own skill level.
  • Product expectations – Teachers may vary their expectations on graphic organizers and final writing projects based on individual student abilities.
  • Differentiation Strategy note – You will find strategy notes in some lessons for differentiating instruction for students who are working at a higher or lower level than the class in general.
  • For ELD– There are many aspects of WritingCity that are helpful with English Language Learners and students with learning challenges:
    • planning sheets – vocabulary help can be given at this step
    • graphic organizers – organizational steps help students who are trying to translate while they think and plan
    • scaffolding – Gradual Release of Responsibility
    • modeling and guided practice – include lots of oral language from the teacher as well as from students
    • repeated phrases and gradual increase of sophistication of vocabulary (shades of meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and grade appropriate vocabulary)
Q15. How does WritingCity provide support for special education students?
Answer:
In addition to the answer above, it is helpful to know that the planning sheets included in all of the units help students organize their thoughts. These graphic organizers, along with multi-sensory techniques such as color-coding which are integral to the WritingCity approach, can be especially helpful for students with learning disabilities who need to break skills down into manageable parts. (See the answer above regarding “varied student abilities.”)
Q16. Do students do both free choice and prompted writing with WritingCity?
Answer:
Yes, there is a mixture of free choice and prompt writing in every WritingCity unit. Free choice writing nourishes creativity, which boosts students’ confidence and motivation to communicate their own thoughts and feelings. Prompt writing is the vehicle for creating assessment pieces, practicing and demonstrating certain skills, and preparing for authentic writing in the work place.
Q17. What kind of support can we expect after purchasing WritingCity?
Answer:
Two PD On-Demand videos, a Kickoff and a WritingCity tutorial, are included in the “set up fee”. Greater levels of PD support are available based on the level of purchase. See the order form for details. Free online support via email, Facebook, or by phone is also available. Our WritingCity teacher leaders are excited about fielding your questions and hearing your ideas! Additional Virtual or In-Person PD Available: We believe that a well-supported teacher is more likely to develop new practices and sustain them over time. That is why we have made professional development a top priority. We will design the PD to fit your needs. We offer Train the Trainers sessions, half day or full day In-service sessions, and most often grade level coaching sessions. The WritingCity coach meets with small groups of teachers during the school day for one hour or more. Roving substitute teachers, are arranged for by the school to cover classes so that a student-free day is not necessary. Several things can occur during coaching. Examples include: answering questions and concerns about current units, joint scoring of student writing, non-evaluative observation and feedback on teaching, modeling of conferencing with students, and setting goals for next steps.

Teaching the State Standards

Q1. Which state standards does WritingCity teach?
Answer:
The WritingCity Curriculum teaches all of the writing and grammar/conventions standards. Every WritingCity lesson teaches or reviews at least one standard. These standards are assessed at the end of each unit through the use of a standards embedded rubric. The Standards Correlation Charts show a specific count of how many times each standard is taught in each unit for each grade level. The charts are available on the website. The Pacing Guides serve as a scope and sequence, a schedule, of when the standards and the text types are taught.
Q2. Do students write in the different text types (Opinion, Informative, Narrative, and Research)?
Answer:
Yes, each WritingCity Unit focuses on a “text type.” While learning the elements of each text type, students practice Focus Skill Writing to reinforce the specific skills each text type requires. These practice opportunities are usually short in duration, and serve as preparation for Formal Core Writing pieces. Students not only write pieces from each text type, they, also, respond to texts of all types in Grade 3, 4 and 5. There are lessons in which students are taught how to respond to literature, opinion, and informational texts. There are, also, lessons that include text dependent questions; and students are taught to find and cite pertinent information in their responses.
Q3. Does WritingCity cover language standards?
Answer:
Yes, WritingCity addresses all standards related to writing, grammar, and the conventions of standard English. Almost daily, teachers demonstrate grammar rules in the context of student writing samples and modeled writing. Students practice and demonstrate knowledge of these grammar conventions in their daily Focus Skill writing, in revising and editing lessons, in every Formal Core Writing piece, and when scoring writing pieces with the 6 Trait Rubrics. Grammar instruction is integrated into the writing instruction and allows students to learn about grammar while writing. If teachers need more assistance in teaching a particular grammar skill, they can reference the Grammar Guide in the teacher resources. There are language standards which are requirements for teaching reading, and speaking, in addition to writing. Therefore, WritingCity has made an effort to cover standards dealing with knowledge of language and vocabulary acquisition and use. However, some of these language standards will be better taught in a reading or speaking curriculum, or during conferencing sessions.
Q4. Do the standards/teaching points spiral within a grade level and between grade levels?
Answer:
Yes, WritingCity lessons are organized as a spiraled sequence of instructional units that reinforce the standards taught. Each unit presents New Focus Skills (NFS), which students then practice many times throughout the unit. It is not expected that every New Focus Skill will be taught to mastery in the same unit in which it is introduced. Students practice these same skills in subsequent lessons as Review Focus Skills (RFS), and over time, they achieve mastery as each skill is integrated into their writing habits.

WritingCity Technical Questions

Q1. What are the technical requirements to use WritingCity?
Answer:

WritingCity works well across a variety of devices and browsers! Here are some guidelines that will ensure you have the best experience.

  • General Settings
    • Javascript enabled
    • Cookies enabled
    • PDF reader for printable activities and reports
  • Desktop / Laptop / Notebook / Chromebook
    • Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 10
    • Mac OS 10.9+
    • Browsers
      • Google Chrome (for best experience)
      • Firefox
      • IE11 / Microsoft Edge
      • Safari
  • Apple Devices iOS 11+
  • Android OS 4.4+

If you are having technical difficulties, please send a detailed description of your issue to: [email protected]. In order to help us serve you better, please include the following items in your email:

  • Operating system (ie. Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Mac OS 10.9, Apple Devices iOS 11, Android OS 4.4, etc.)
  • Browser Name and version number
  • Type of internet connection (Dial up, DSL, Cable)
Q2. What are the technical requirements to use Engagers?
Answer:
Users with SMART boards should use the SMART Notebook software that is provided with their SMART board. Users without a SMART board or SMART Notebook software can purchase SMART software through SMART Technologies.
Q3. How do I contact Technical Support?
Answer:
If you are having technical difficulties, please send a detailed description of your issue to: [email protected]. In order to help us serve you better, please include the following items in your email:
  • Operating system (ie. Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Mac OS 10.9, Apple Devices iOS 11, Android OS 4.4, etc.)
  • Browser Name and version number
  • Type of internet connection (Dial up, DSL, Cable)