Common Core and state-specific next generation standards are placing increased emphasis on the skills students will need to be successful in higher education and the workforce. One of the most significant shifts that has come with this is a move towards writing requirements. Earlier standards asked students to draw heavily from their personal experiences and opinions for most writing assignments. New standards require students to carefully read and comprehend more complex texts, including many more non-fiction works, and then develop evidence-based persuasive and informational writing.
Helping your students grasp these complex, evidence-based writing skills can be challenging. However, they are absolutely essential to success on Common Core and state-specific high-stakes exams, and are hugely helpful in laying a foundation for post-secondary success. Try these three strategies in your classroom to help your students become strong, confident writers!
1. Write an “executive summary"
Literary non-fiction and informational texts can be dense and intimidating to students at first. Help your students learn to pare down documents like this to their most meaningful themes and ideas by making summarizing a common classroom assignment. Give your students reading passages that stretch their attention spans, then ask them to write a brief “executive summary” that states what the text is and what major point(s) it makes. Helping your students become well-versed in efficient, analytical writing is something they are sure to thank you for later—even if it elicits a few groans during the process.
2. Ask to Analyze: “What does this mean for us?”
The ability to react to something that is read or observed is key to effective evidence-based writing. This skill allows students to go beyond simply recounting information to offering actual analysis. In elementary school, this is often referred to as making “text to self” connections. Give your students the chance to apply this comprehension skill by practicing analytical writing in the classroom. You can do this by providing them with a scenario and a piece of text to go along with it. Then, ask them to write a reaction to the text in the context of the larger scenario. The key to these assignments is being able to ask and answer the question “What does this mean for us?” Newspaper articles can be a great source of material to use in exercises like this. For example, you could find an article in your local paper about candidates in an upcoming municipal election. Have your students read the article and journal a brief reaction discussing how each of the candidates’ platforms would affect citizens in terms of policies put in place and projects pursued if they were elected.
3. Be opinionated!
Giving students the freedom and opportunity to form their own opinions is one of the most empowering things that educators can do. However, teaching students how to go about formulating and presenting those opinions in a thoughtful manner can also be one of the most challenging tasks that educators face. So, give your students plenty of practice with your classroom writing assignments. Ask your students to offer their opinion along with the reasoning behind it. Have them incorporate the sources of their information within their writing, and offer explanation of why they trust those sources.
Challenge them further by asking your students to vary the lengths of their persuasive writing, sometimes requiring that they fit all of their ideas into a very condensed, concise piece, and other times asking them to expand on their ideas in a meaningful way. The ability to formulate clear, supported opinions like this is a sign of deep understanding, and is an underlying goal of Common Core and state-specific next generation standards. It’s also a skill that is a true asset to have in the working world, and will serve your students well when they are embarking on their careers.
Interested in learning about how your school or district can partner with Edmentum for rigorous, standards-aligned English language arts and writing curriculum? Check out our new ELA Courses from Plato Courseware!