Common Core and Writing to Win

We welcome the appearance of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). They confirm that our standards-based approach to learning has been a solid choice for the last three decades. CCSS standardizes the names of the genres of writing. It also adds the requirement that all student writing in­clude evidence from reading texts that students are assigned or find in their study of ELA, science, social studies and career-technical-agriculture education.

Our writing-based learning routines provide what you need to make sure that your students are meeting Common Core Standards.

 The 10 Common Core standards for writing are easier to understand in four groups:

  1. Standards 1 through 3 deal with text types (genres) and purposes for writing. These standards also address numerous skills important to each of the three umbrella genres the standards cover: narrative, opinion / argumentative (persuasive), and informational / explanatory texts (these last two are not identical, but are closely related).
  2.  Standards 4 through 6 deal with the “production and distribution” of writing, using the writing process to create, design and publish your work.
  3. Standards 7 through 9 deal with “research to build and present knowledge.” This includes exploring ideas, gathering information, and synthesizing that information in a way that makes large volumes of information easy for readers to understand.
  4. Standard 10 deals with the “range of writing” – calling for students to write in two ways. They need frequent experiences with short spontaneous or on-demand writing (as in a learning logs, short-answer essay questions, state and national writing assessments) and longer, extended writing over a period of time (research reports, essays or term papers, journal articles or collections of writings).

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Standards 1-3 include many skills, including these six that students learn.

  • developing ideas (mental pictures)
  • organizing information (making the ideas flow easily to and for readers)
  • maintaining the right style (using words precisely (voice) to reach and retain readers)
  • writing introductions that engage readers (leads of a few words or multiple paragraphs)
  • writing conclusions that bring closure and complete understanding for readers
  • conventions that support the other skills

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Students use words to reproduce their ideas (mental pictures) differently in an argument than they do in a narrative, but “idea development” is important regardless of the writing text or purpose. Similarly, good leads for a newspaper story, a mystery, a cookbook or a play will be entirely different. Yet good leads matter in all writing, from textbooks to poems to contracts.

Standards 1 through 3 only offer us “umbrella” genres. Narrative, opinion/argument and informational/explanatory.

· Narrative (K-12) writing includes personal narratives like most students write all through school. It also includes biographies and autobiographies, journals, some news stories, drama, some poetry, history, song lyrics, television and movie scripts and more.

· Opinion Pieces (K-5) / Argumentative (6-12) writing in a school context usually focuses on the persuasive essay. Yet in fact, persuasive writing can also include character sketches, feature articles, newspaper columns, speeches, editorials, reviews, proposals, letters, entire books, advertisements, journal articles and many other forms.

· Explanatory and Informational writing are linked because they both share inform­ation. Yet explanatory (K-12) writing does not demand immediate or ongoing research; it draws on what the writer already knows. Informational writing requires research for new or current details and a synthesis of information from multiple sources that need sorting out. Both are important, but the distinction matters because while explanatory writing fits into spontaneous, on-demand writing, informational writing does not since research takes time.

 

Key point about the best writing of student, teacher and professional writers alike:

Most of the world’s best writing is a mix of genres. All writers know it’s as difficult to write in one genre as to cook with one ingredient. A good story may be just the way to compel voters to support a school bond measure. A writer may end an informational piece on whales with a persuasive paragraph on curbing the pollution of oceans. Writing by nature blends genres. Recognizing this helps you realize how important it is that the common core integrates reading and writing for not just ELA, but for Science, Social Studies, Business, Agricultural and Technical Education.