As Language Arts Coordinator, I taught several teacher workshops on writing. In addition, after the workshop, I went into teachers’ classrooms and taught their students while they observed and then observed while they taught in order to give them feedback. This method of teaching writing is called the Six Writing Traits, and it is brain-based.
It is based on giving students a writing prompt and a rubric first, then students read and analyzing authentic samples of writing, they brainstorm and complete a web, write a draft, edit their writing, incorporating the six writing traits and finally, publish a final copy, usually for a real audience (blog/class website/bulletin board/class sharing). This is usually done over a period of one week, but it can also be done in one day or one lesson once the process has been taught.
This method substantially increased standardized test scores in writing, not to mention it had a positive effect on other subjects that require a high level of writing, such as science and social studies. Even with a population of ELL and some with learning difficulties, this method really works to increase the standard of writing!
Writing for the REAL WORLD…
As you will see, the standards for writing are high. This is a 5th grade student (final copy):
Expository Essay- Pink Dolphins (typed version)
Narrative Essay-Riding a Bike (5th grade student)
Book Review -Persuasive- Horrid Henry (6th grade student)
Andrea -Story of Black Beauty - (6th grade student) This story was written by an ELL student, she came in 4th grade speaking very little English, and this is what she wrote in 6th grade…AMAZING!
Book Review - Reading & Writing – Teacher’s Notes and Directions for SMART Board:
My Class Writing Blog:
I also believe in giving students an opportunity to write freely about topics that interest them outside of the curriculum. This gives them a chance to practice their writing skills for an authentic audience. A blog is the perfect platform to allow students to create posts and comment on each other’s posts. Of course, all posts and comments are moderated by the teacher. This writing is not graded, but students have the option of using a blog post to later publish during writing class.
Using Google Docs:
Using Google Docs to correct student writing and also to work on collaborative writing scripts, such as class plays.
More about teaching the writing process…
Students first read, discuss and analyze a sample of quality writing. Then students brainstorm ideas using a web or similar. When the web has sufficient ideas and details, they may begin writing. The idea is that they write creatively first, then go back and edit their own writing, using the COPS editing method where each color pen (or using the computer) is used for a different grammar focus.
Capitalization = Red
This method of teaching grammar within the context of student’s writing is preferred to teaching grammar as a separate entity. It is my opinion that grammar should be taught as mini-lessons (not necessarily to the whole class) that relate to student errors and are ever changing dependent upon the students’ needs. Finally, the follow up via one-on-one conferencing with students is extremely crucial to enhance improvement and learning. In these conferences, I explain how I graded the rubric and any grammar corrections.
Results in my classroom have shown this method to increase student achievement tremendously, especially in ELL students. This is indicated by the WRAP test (a standardized writing test scored once per year by people not affiliated with the school). Also in my observations of student achievement, improvements were seen over a matter of months.
Here is an example of a new ELL student’s first writing assignment at our school:
First draft -COPS corrected - (teacher modeled paragraph 1, we did paragraph 2 together and student did paragraph 3 on his own)
This is the STUDENT’S FINAL DRAFT (based on incorporating all corrections above & this would normally be incorporating “self-edited” corrections, but in this case the teacher helped because it was his first time):
ASSESSMENT OF WRITING
This is the RUBRIC showing how the writing was assessed based on the various, but specific criteria in writing. Notice he meets the standard in ideas, organization, word choice, sentences but approaches the standard in conventions (grammar/spelling). All drafts plus the rubric would be stapled and sent home to parents to sign so that they are seeing the entire writing process. These categories are similar to what parents and students see later on the report card as well. This works great for being able to show improvement in specific areas.
Student’s self reflection at the end of the semester (he self-selected the writing assignment above for his portfolio, not because it was his best sample, but because it showed his learning).
“In the second semester we did lots of cool writing but the most I learned was writing a story about a pet. We had to write a story about a pet that we had or have. I learned how to do COPS (Capitalization, Omission, Punctuation, Spelling). Another thing I learned was how to write with dialogue. It was hard at the beginning, but I learned well. I could improve by practicing how to write neater and catching all of my mistakes.“