Top Ten: Teaching Writing in the Common Core

By Pam Allyn, Executive Director and Founder of LitWorld
Originally published by Pearson on February 18, 2013

Pam Allyn, Executive Director and Founder of LitWorld

We came across this blog, written by Pam Allyn, Founder of LitWorld, and wanted to share it with you as a guest post in The Inspired Writer this month.  If you haven’t heard of LitWorld, check out this global organization that advocates for children’s rights as readers, writers and learners, here. Enjoy these ten writing tips from Pam!

The teaching of writing can be formulaic, but this era requires us to step beyond the confines of formula and really dig deep into craft, synthesis and production.

Here is a Top Ten for how to get students writing for their futures, in a way that is sure to leave you both inspired and ready for tomorrow’s teaching.

  1. Writing short is going to matter as much as writing long. Every student is going to have to say what he or she needs to say in 140 characters. And simultaneously they will also need the stamina to write a longer research paper. Brevity and stamina simultaneously matter. We must help our students rock the house fast, but also dig deep and build their writing muscles for the tasks that require more time.
  2. Writing won’t be contained to a five-paragraph essay. Writing will be fluid and go between many portals, genres, and platforms. For this reason, we must teach our students to be extraordinarily versatile, genre bending, shape forming, idea mastering writers who can write digitally and traditionally fluidly and easily.
  3. Writing arguments will require excellent reasoning. Our students must be able to provide thoughtful and deliberate evidence for the positions they are taking.  These reasons can come from the texts they read but also the lives they lead and the lives of those who inspire them and motivate them to deeper thinking. They must know how to seek their inspirations, and value their sources.
  4. Writing will need to matter to others, and to you. Narrative that means something to you personally but at the same time also has a bigger idea universal to all is in. Navel gazing personal narrative is out.
  5. Writing craft is about surprise. Surprise matters. Invite your students to write something you do not expect them to say, things that surprise you and perhaps surprise themselves. They want to know how to be noticed. And they should be.
  6. Writing cannot be formulaic. The college and career ready student cannot write in formulaic ways. Anything formulaic will be done by a machine or a piece of software. Instead, from the start, our students must be creative synthesizers of ideas and information. The synthesis is the craft. The presentation is the craft. In order to master this creativity, our students must be given a wide range of audience for whom to write. They cannot write just for us anymore.
  7. Writing is a world changer. This is the most interesting, amazing opportunity to positively change the teaching of writing ever. Seize these days and make the most of them. Write with your students. Expose them to extraordinary writers whose writing will floor them. There is more great writing in the world that is more accessible to our students than ever before. From all over the world. It is the best time ever to teach writing, and the best time ever to learn how to write well.
  8. Writing will change your life. Listen to your students’ arguments they make for their ideas, opinions and perspectives on books, life, history, science, music, art and their own life stories. Then ask yourself; what has this writing done to change me? Their words are gifts, and this era is all about words as gifts, the gifts we give each other.
  9. Writing will need to stand out. The world is overrun with texts and opinions. We must teach our students to write in a way that makes their opinions stand out from the crowd, in their own voices and with their own fire, passion, and purpose.
  10. Writing reflects the treasure of life. Every life is a treasure and the trick with teaching writing is to put what is your particular treasure into the world. No one’s life is boring, but anyone’s story can be told in a boring way that does not make the reader care. The fact that you ate an ice cream with your grandma is interesting to you and moves you, but the real essence is how you convey bigger ideas of intergenerational relationships and kindness so that your writing moves others too. Detail and word choice all matter but far more important is the clarity of the overall metaphor. No more small moments for the sake of small moments. We are going large here.

About Pam Allyn

Pam Allyn is the Executive Director and founder of LitWorld, a global organization advocating for children’s rights as readers, writers and learners. She is also the Executive Director and founder of LitLife, a national organization dedicated to school improvement. She is the author of the acclaimed and award-winning “What To Read When: The Books and Stories To Read With Your Child-And All The Best Times To Read Them” (Penguin Avery) and the Complete Year Series (Scholastic), among other titles. Her most recent books are “Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How To Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives” (Scholastic), “Your Child’s Writing Life” (Penguin Avery), and “Be Core Ready: Powerful, Effective Steps to Implementing and Achieving the Common Core State Standards” (Pearson).  Pam is widely known as a motivational speaker advocating for reading and writing as human rights that belong to all people. Her personal quest to bring literacy to every child stems from a deeper desire to bring dignity to every child, and to empower children to read and write powerfully, effectively and with passion in ways that will change their worlds and the worlds of others.