6 Tips to Successfully Score Student Writing Samples

Scoring a student sample or grade-level appropriate writing with the WriteSteps’ rubrics is effective because it gives your students the opportunity to see how each of the six traits works separately and together to make a strong piece.

Devin Dusseau-Bates, a 3rd grade teacher using WriteSteps, shares her tips on making the most of the six traits rubrics. Using the six traits rubrics helps students identify their own areas of strengths and weaknesses, which really boosts student confidence. Continue reading “6 Tips to Successfully Score Student Writing Samples”

Promise and Paradox: Writing in America’s Schools

Image of student-author by WriteSteps. The Common Core writing standards demand something new to overcome decades of flat test scores despite promising advances in pedagogy. Promising advances such as writer’s workshop have changed the face of writing instruction, but national measures still tell us that two-thirds of our graduates can’t write. How do we solve that paradox?

Why do America’s children write so poorly? Writing instruction has seen a lot of innovation since I was a kid. Like many of my peers, I struggled with writing under the old system of the 3 A’s – assign, assume, and assess. My teachers assigned a topic, assumed we could write about it, and assessed our finished pieces.

Today’s kids have it better. Yet there’s still a disconnect. Despite the advances in instruction since I was a child, most teachers still don’t teach writing well. On the last national writing assessment (the NAEP), less than a third of 12th graders, and less than a quarter of elementary students, could write proficiently.

Continue reading “Promise and Paradox: Writing in America’s Schools”

My New Year’s Resolution: Turn Frustration into Fuel!

Suzanne Klein's inspiration for WriteSteps was sparked for her own search for teacher-friendly solutions for writing instruction as a first-grade teacher. The inspiration for WriteSteps came out of my own search for teacher-friendly writing solutions when I was a K-5 teacher.

K-5 writing instruction has taken some baby steps forward since I first began offering WriteSteps lessons outside my own school in 2007. Because the many state standards elevate the teaching of writing at all grade levels, I see more districts starting to take writing seriously.

But we have such a long way to go! As I travel the country to address school leaders about writing, I still find teachers everywhere who are completely lacking the support they need to give their students the gift of clear written expression. I just feel so disheartened when I hear their stories.

Continue reading “My New Year’s Resolution: Turn Frustration into Fuel!”

3 Secrets to Great Conferences with Young Writers

Conferencing with the teacher is a time of personalized coaching and encouragement for students practicing Common Core Standard writing skills. Conferencing individualizes instruction and reinforces new skills, ultimately helping K-5 students discover their power as writers.

“Teaching writing must become more like coaching a sport and less like presenting information. You have to do more than call out the errors.”

~Lucy Calkins

Conferencing lies at the heart of effective writing instruction. Why?

Because writing, unlike other subjects, offers no single correct answer. In some ways, writing is like playing a sport. You have to put a variety of skills together to hit the target. As teachers, we demonstrate the rules of the game and guide our students in strengthening their performance. Like the coach who offers personalized advice to help each athlete improve, we give individualized feedback that accelerates learning. Continue reading “3 Secrets to Great Conferences with Young Writers”

Is the Pencil Becoming Obsolete?

Though K-5 students are required by the Common Core to practice writing with digital tools, writing by hand seems to stimulate brain development far more than keyboarding. Though K-5 students are required by the Common Core to practice writing with digital tools, writing by hand does far more to stimulate brain development.
Helping children become stronger writers while making sense of the Writing Common Cores can be challenging. WriteSteps offers techniques that bring teachers and students success; this is what we want to discuss in our newly launched blog.

For our first post, however, we want to join a different conversation: the question of whether handwriting instruction in elementary classrooms should go by the wayside. This has been hotly debated ever since “Handwriting is History” first appeared online. Throw in the fact that the ELA Common Cores are silent on the topic of handwriting (while saying plenty about essential writing skills), and the decision by some districts to make handwriting instruction optional after second grade — what are teachers to do?

Continue reading “Is the Pencil Becoming Obsolete?”