5 Major Instructional Time savers!

Step #2

Let me guess. You’re surprised. How can writing possible save time?

I know how you feel. I felt the same way early in my career, but then a good number of teachers I worked with helped me see that systematic writing could indeed save some very valuable time.

You see, nonfiction writing is not teaching about writing.

Teaching writing is where ELA teachers use their state ELA standards to nurture students’ craft and skills as growing writers. Here are some features of teaching writing – agreement, argument / opinion genre, body paragraphs, capital letters, citation, character sketch, close, commas in a series, conjunctions, compare-contrast, editing, essay, examples, explain a process, figure of speech, final draft, first draft, idiom, indent, informational genre, introduction, main idea, narrative genre, organization, paragraph, parts of speech, peer response, reposition, prewriting, pronouns, publish, punctuation, quotation, related details, revision, rubric, self-assessment, sentence, simile, style, synonym, text structure, thesis statement, topic sentence, transitional words, vocabulary of the standards, word choice …

Nonfiction writing lets students use their level of writing to practice explaining what they understand about any lesson taught, on any day, in any class. Dr. Fulwiler’s The Journal Book promoted nonfiction writing first in the 1980s. Doug Reeves tested it with dozens of schools in the early 2000s. The data is still clear and powerful.

100s of teachers and students across the southeast have helped our nonfiction writing strategy evolve into this time-saving form.

Using nonfiction writing to learn is here where teachers of ELA, math, science, social studies, or any standards-based course coach students as they write what they understand. The features of nonfiction writing are 1. Short, 2. Nonfiction, 3. Assigned at least three time / week 4. Key vocabulary of a lesson provided 5. Critical-thinking writing prompts 6. Scored first by the writers 7. Confirmed by a peer

With these features, our classroom action research shows that nonfiction writing immediately increases student engagement, the rate of learning, and yes, saves a visible, significant amount of time.

In short, nonfiction writing frees up the greatest amount of time for your teachers.

The big value-add? Systematic nonfiction writing consistently produces double-digit gains in student scores on state tests of writing, reading comprehension, and all course content. Classroom action research data is clear! All stakeholders will be rewarded, especially the students.

Under the watchful eye of four conscientious teachers, the critical-thinking strategies of nonfiction writing improve much more than student writing.

Scroll down to the grade levels you lead.


Kindergarten teacher

Understanding how student writing creates meaning – 

The Remember Game shows students that what they write or draw on paper help them remember what they were thinking. That’s writing at its most basic.

“My writing / drawing helps me remember what my teacher said to remember.” Box 1 – The Little Red Hen (today’s read aloud book) Box 2 – three happy ghost (the week of Halloween), as so on … Using the Remember Game at least twice a week helps me chart my students’ progress through nine Stages of Developmental Writing. They move from Pictorial Writers to Sound Makers and Borrowers to Sentence and Story Makers.

Six more writing strategies in my Applied Vocabulary teacher manual make sure all my students can write personal stories or summaries of 3+ sentences by May.

learn more video clip – Remember Game


Grades 1-2 teacher

Summarizing what I read / learned – 

The Copy and Continue strategy provides a scaffold for primary students to move from writing about personal memories to writing about the ideas of others. This is a big step.

“I had never thought of prompting students with a sentence to copy and then asking them to include half of the provided key vocabulary of a lesson to summarize the lesson. It’s so simple … and magical. Their writing produces surprising insight. My grade 1-2 Applied Vocabulary teacher manual includes five more critical-thinking strategies that take my students’ writing to the Depth of Knowledge 1 and sometimes DOK-2.”

learn more video clip – Copy and Continue


Grade 3-12 teacher

Vocabulary building – The Quad Cluster strategy helps students explain the relationships among the key vocabulary words in a unit of study.

The Quad Cluster strategy never lets me down. In every new unit, I serve up four key vocabulary terms for students to analyze. They love explaining how one word is different and how the others are alike. They’ve even noticed deeper relationships like cause-effect, part-to-whole, and synonym / antonym in their writing vocabulary.

With five other critical-thinking strategies provided, short writings three days / week keep students thinking sharp. 15-20% more of my students score as proficient science-learners than in previous years. I’m so proud of them. The possibilities are limitless.

Before Applied Vocabulary critical-thinking prompts, I felt like I was just going through the motions of teaching.”

learn more video clip for grades Quad Cluster


Grades 3-12 teacher

Opinion / argument skills – 

The Either … Or strategy lets students figure out on their own how to finetune personal opinions and position more formal claims in written arguments.

“We had just finished 19th-century history that includes westward expansion and explosive immigration. This carefully worded prompt moved my students into DOK2-3 like nothing I’ve ever seen – Which is more American, immigration or expansion? 50% of the class chose each side and participated in an amazing and relevant discussion. We now use an Either … Or prompt in every unit of study!

My teacher manual lists specific guidelines for creating the questions for an Either … Or prompt. With five other critical-thinking strategies provided, Applied Vocabulary has helped me keep nonfiction writing simple for my students.”

learn more video clip for grades Either … Or


Three more time-saving strategies to follow!

Time saver #1 – Teacher Efficacy

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