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By Suzanne Klein on 10/21/2013 12:47 PM

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. (Click to Tweet!) For example, if a student recognizes that they have a strength, called a glow, in the area of organization, but a weakness, or grow, in word choice, then they have something very specific to focus on as a writer rather than just on writing as a whole.

Continue reading to learn Devin's six tips!
By Suzanne Klein on 6/26/2012 9:45 PM
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.

How do we reconcile promising changes in writing pedagogy with this reality? That calls for a quick history lesson in writing instruction.

Message Over Mechanics

New approaches for young writers emerged in the 1980’s when process writing made its way into American classrooms. The whole language movement had made its impact on reading, and now Donald Graves and Donald Murray brought a similar holistic approach to writing.

By Suzanne Klein on 1/6/2012 12:33 PM
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 Common Core elevates 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 Common Core 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.
By Suzanne Klein on 10/24/2011 10:14 PM
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.

 

In the writing workshop model, conferencing is the primary vehicle for this individualized instruction. Yet during WriteSteps professional development days, teachers ask more questions about conferencing than anything else. Here are the most common obstacles we see to successful K-5 conferencing:
By Suzanne Klein on 10/17/2011 2:24 PM
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.
There's been a lot of talk about ditching handwriting instruction  -- some districts are making it optional after second grade! WriteSteps is not a handwriting program, but we're impressed by research that connects old-fashioned pencil and paper skills to higher-level brain development.

WriteSteps focuses on the essential writing skills outlined in the ELA Common Cores (including digital tools like keyboarding), but also gives children plenty of practice writing by hand.  Have you seen the surprising research on handwriting and the brain?
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