January, 2013 E-Newsletter

Common Core Writing Tips

Writing Prompts to Help Students Deal with Tragedy

TeacherStar Contest!

Staff Spotlight: Nicole Simms

Coming to a Conference near You!
"Common standards ensure that every child across the country is getting the best possible education, no matter where a child lives or what their background is."
~Gov. Roy Romer

Common Core Writing Tips for Parents of Elementary School Students
With the Common Core State Standards coming into effect in 2014, it is important that parents are educated on the new standards. Many parents are still unsure what exactly the Common Core changes entail, or what they can do at home to help their children with the transition. We encourage you to copy and paste the following tips into your classroom or school newsletter and pass it on to parents of your elementary students:

Important transitions with the Common Core
Previously, schools have concentrated primarily on narrative writing such as storytelling and personal narratives. The Common Core writing standards will also emphasize informative, research, and opinion writing.

Writing at Home
Those of you that encourage journaling at home should start asking your children to research something of interest to them and then write down facts from their research. This will help prepare your children for the informative and research writing components of the Common Core writing standards. For opinion writing, have your children write a letter that convinces you to change their bedtime or buy them something, etc. Make sure they back up the letter with supporting evidence.

This is an example of a paragraph planning sheet parents can use at home to assist with writing. Visit our parent resource page for more resources to share with parents.


The writing Common Cores say students should write pieces over short periods of time as well as over extended time frames. Therefore, encourage your children to write chapter books as well as daily quick writes.

For additional resources and activities that help children bring focus and organization to their writing a home visit the WriteSteps parent resource page!

Tips were provided by Arlynn King, Professional Development Coach at WriteSteps. Arlynn King has 37 years of elementary teaching experience.

Writing Prompts to Help Students Deal with Tragedy

The unspeakable events at Sandy Hook Elementary School have shaken the WriteSteps team to the core, like so many people around the world. Many of us are former elementary school teachers and educators, so this tragedy felt very personal. We are still trying to make sense of the events in Newtown. Though this senseless act can never be explained, we hope those personally affected can find comfort from the outpouring of love that is being sent to the victims and families.

We were inspired by the Act of Kindness campaign that has kicked off, due to a tweet from NBC News’ Ann Curry. WriteSteps is participating in the campaign in a number of ways. We created writing prompts to help students express themselves during a time of grief and/or tragedy. Writing can be very therapeutic and is a wonderful tool for students.

Click here to be directed to our writing prompts blog post and make sure to pass the prompts on to anyone that will benefit from them. Stay tuned for more Acts of Kindness from the WriteSteps team!

WriteSteps is Searching for TeacherStars like You!
Be a TeacherStar©!
If you are a current WriteSteps teacher we have a contest for you! We know from experience that modeling is a powerful tool. One of the best ways to teach an effective lesson is to watch someone else teach it first. We are seeking a dream team of teachers to educate other teachers around the nation with WriteSteps lessons. This is an opportunity for you to show off your teaching craft and make an impact outside of your classroom nationally.

We are asking you to submit a video(s) teaching a complete WriteSteps lesson. Our goal is to have all of our lessons videotaped and posted on eWriteSteps, so teachers around the nation will be able to watch master teachers teaching WriteSteps lessons.

Teachers whose videos are chosen for eWriteSteps will receive:
  • A $250.00 Visa Gift Card
  • Have their lessons included in eWriteSteps
  • Be recognized on our website and social media channels
Are you ready to take the next step and share your WriteSteps lessons with the nation? If you are a current teacher using WriteSteps please contact Cheryl@WriteStepsWriting.com to receive the guidelines for the TeacherStar© contest!

Staff Spotlight: Noteworthy Nicole
With a positive outlook and engaging personality, Awareness Ambassador Nicole Simms brings not only 15 years of elementary school teaching experience to the WriteSteps team, but also a passion for writing and helping children through the various organizations she is involved in.

Nicole is an avid writer and has written teacher guides for leveled readers. "I started telling stories to my kids when they were young, especially around campfires while camping. I just love hearing and telling stories," says Nicole. "Recently, after a fun trip with girlfriends to Finger Lakes, I was struck with the idea of writing a travel story for kids. I am just about to finish that book and then move on to something else."

Awareness Ambassador Nicole Simms, with her husband Jon Simms, near their cottage on the Ausable River in Wilmington, NY.

Other than writing, Nicole loves to travel and read. She also enjoys hiking, skiing, swimming, and kayaking with her husband, family, and friends, in Maine and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Spirituality is important to Nicole and she is currently a volunteer for an anti-child trafficking organization.

WriteSteps on the Road
We have a busy few weeks sharing insights on K-5 writing and grammar for the Common Core in Nashville, Denver, and Milwaukee! If you are in the area stop by and say hello to the WriteSteps team! We’ll be holding drawings for lessons too, so come see us and register to win!

January 21, 2013, Nashville, TN
Awareness Ambassador Kim Gates will exhibit at the National Title 1 Conference, located in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center. Come say hello and get all of your Common Core writing questions answered!

February 6, 2013, Denver, CO
WriteSteps will exhibit at the Colorado Council International Reading Association’s Conference on Literacy, at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. Stop by our booth and say hello to our Awareness Ambassador Kim Gates!

February 7-9, 2013, Milwaukee, WI
Stop by the WriteSteps exhibit at the Wisconsin State Reading Associations’ 2013 Convention, and learn more about our research-based, award-winning, 100% K-5 Common Core writing and grammar program!


"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
~Theodore Roosevelt