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What should be my end-of-year writing focus?

april 20, 2021

As teachers are preparing to wrap up a school year disrupted by the pandemic, many are wondering what to prioritize in their writing instruction.

Regardless of whether students are in first grade or high school, a focus on informative writing, and skills that are specifically tied to the traits of ideas and organization, will be essential to accelerating learning and addressing learning loss.

Our first goal is to have students writing as much as possible in these remaining weeks. So, identify concepts that your students have learned in various subject areas—topics they already have background knowledge on. Using these, students can immediately start writing using information, details, and vocabulary that they are familiar with. (We don’t want them to have to read, research, or learn something new in order to start writing.)

And don’t plan for big products with lots of revision. Use these last weeks to execute a lot of first-drafts only.

Now armed with topics to write about, students need explicit instruction on how to write well. This means targeting the skills that fall under the trait of ideas. Provide instruction on:

PRIMARY TEACHERS: Target these same skills while honoring the developmental stages of your young writers. Expect students to add details and elaborate, although it may come in the form of pictures rather than paragraphs or words rather than sentences.

Regardless of the grade level, make idea development your top priority. We want kids writing longer and stronger pieces by the end of the school year.

After increasing the amount of information students include in their writing, then focus on the trait of organization. While this typically includes an emphasis on the 3 parts of a whole piece—the introduction, body, and conclusion—put all of your year-end emphasis on the middle.

Whether students are writing steps in a procedure, describing facets of a concept, or explaining big ideas in a topic, push them to group related details together into logical chunks. Meaty middles are much more valuable than any creative hook or clever conclusion.

As you’re planning writing instruction for these last weeks of school, avoid the temptation to do a little bit of everything. Although narrative, persuasive, and argumentative writing are necessary, if students haven’t developed skills to elaborate on information, they also won’t have the skills to develop a story or argue a position.

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