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April 1, 2014
Vol. 71
No. 7

Double Take

Double Take - Thumbnail

Research Alert

The Writing Standards—And Evidence-Based Practices

If you're wondering how well the writing portions of the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy reflect evidence-based practices, a new study looks at just that. Researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Connecticut analyzed the new writing standards to see whether they reference 36 practices that have been shown to improve writing skills. They found that the standards signal fewer than half of these practices in any given grade.
On the positive side, the following practices were "strongly" highlighted in all—or most—K–12 grades:
  • Providing extra time for writing.
  • Teaching prewriting, planning, and drafting.
  • Teaching students how to use visual images to enhance creativity in writing.
  • Teaching text structure.
  • Using a word processor as a primary tool for composition.
  • Teaching transcription skills, such as spelling, handwriting, and keyboarding.
However, the following practices with a strong research base weren't highlighted in the writing standards for all or most grades:
  • Free writing.
  • Process writing instruction, in which students write for real purposes and audiences, engage in cycles of planning and reviewing, and take ownership of their writing projects.
  • Strategy instruction, in which students are taught strategies for planning, drafting, revising, and editing text.
  • Using assistive technology, such as spelling and grammar checkers and software for formatting text.
  • Instruction in summarization.
  • Self-regulation and metacognitive reflection.
  • Using rubrics.
The authors noted that several practices that directly affect writing performance—such as teaching grammar skills and motivating students to write—weren't addressed at all in the new standards.
Authored by Gary A. Troia and Natalie G. Olinghouse, the report, titled "The Common Core State Standards and Evidence-Based Educational Practices: The Case of Writing," appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of School Psychology Review.

World Spin

How to Write an Essay

In South Korea, high schools will soon offer essay writing as an optional subject to help students perform better on the essays they're required to write in their college entrance exams. These essays count heavily toward admission. At Seoul National University, for example, essay scores account for 30 percent of the evaluation, with standardized testing scores accounting for 60 percent and grade point average for just 10 percent.

Online Only

So Which Is It?

"Neither the guests nor Will Ferrell ___ hungry after the feast." Fill in the missing verb: Is it were—or was?
Using examples such as these, NoRedInk helps students navigate their way through the stickier points of grammar. Teachers create customized assignments to target the grammar issues a class, subgroup, or individual student most needs help on. Students can also sign up to use NoRedInk and its tracking system that shows how a writer is progressing in mastering his or her grammar weaknesses.
NoRedInk was created by teacher Jeff Scheur as an alternative to scrawling corrective (and ignored) marks on student papers. When students sign up, they can provide information on their favorite entertainers, sports stars, movies, and so on, and the platform generates assignments that incorporate those favorites.
"Neither the guests nor Will Ferrell"—were or was? Visit NoRedInk for a refresher on this rule!

Relevant Reads

The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well by Paula LaRocque (Grey and Guvnor Press, 2013)
Be wary of jargon. Use the active voice. Get right to the point, and stay there. These are a few of the dozen basic but powerful guidelines that Paula LaRocque explores in The Book on Writing. Writers at all skill levels can benefit from her thoughtful discussion of the writer's craft, illustrated with many examples.
The book also explores the more complex area of story telling devices. In discussing the device "let sound echo sense," for instance, she muses on William Faulkner's choice of a name for the repellent Snopes family at the center of three of his novels:
"Words make more than meaning; they make sounds, and Faulkner knew that SN words often identified something distasteful or unpleasant: snot, snake, snarl, snivel, snob, sneak, snide, snub, snitch, snit, sneer, snoop, snaggletooth, and so forth. He was persnickety about the words he chose, as careful writers are, because he knew that he could get more mileage out of words that had the right sound." (p. 161)

Numbers of Note

96 The percentage of U.S. teachers who say that digital technologies allow students to share their work with a wider and more varied audience.
46 The percentage of U.S. teachers who say that digital technologies make students more likely to write too fast and be careless.
Source: National Writing Project and Pew Research Center. (2013). The impact of digital tools on student writing and how writing is taught in schools. Washington, DC: Author. Based on a survey of 2,462 U.S. advanced placement (AP) high school teachers and National Writing Project teachers.


"For years, we've been offering students extraordinarily thin prompts for their writing. Who is your hero? Pretend you're a raindrop."
<ATTRIB> —Carol Jago </ATTRIB>

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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