Different Approaches

I was looking at the CCSS for Writing and my eye lingered a bit extra on CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Trying a new approach. Easy to say, but what might that mean to a student? Often when we guide our students (especially younger ones) in writing, we introduce them to a strategy, they use the strategy to plan, create a first draft, then go through partner or individual revisions and edits. Basically, they keep working on that first draft until it's slightly better. What if that first draft just isn't working well, though?

We want students to know there are many "new approaches" they could try. They could reflect on the Framework for Learning and identify areas they didn't really explore before they started working or they could think about the strategies they've learned and pick a new one and go back to pre-writing. You may even challenge students to think differently. For example, ask them to turn Problem-Solution Notes into Cause-Effect Notes. They might find that one idea construction works better for expressing their ideas than the other. Or maybe it didn't work well but the exercise helped them identify new details to add to their writing or inspired them to try some different transition works or sentence formats. I doubt "new approach" is meant to be a full "back to the drawing board" step but instead a way to break out of writer's block or to directly address a weakness.

But no matter what, when helping students look at possible new approaches, you must have them reflect. They must must MUST reflect on what worked for them and what didn't. Otherwise, none of those new approaches will stick and become a tool they can use the next time. Take a look at the example below (click the image to enlarge). Students reflected on what type of note-taking technique worked best for them: Power Thinking or Two-Column Notes. Obviously both can be used for pre-writing and one student in their reflection even noted that they felt Power Thinking would be easier to convert to writing. What a great connection! That students clearly owns atleast one approach to writing organization.

Powers versus Two Columns

Also, a quick something to consider: I serve as a Writing Coach for my lcoal school district. That means I go in and meet with students to review a draft and bascially ask them questions about their intentions, provide some suggestions about gaps, etc. Then, I return a week later to look at their subsequent draft. It's a great way to get the community into the schools and to show how people who aren't "writers" (i.e., journalists, novelists, etc.) use writing in their jobs. Heck, look at me! I do a lot of writing in my job but I'd never describe my job as "writer". Our Writing Coach project is based on one started in Missoula--take a look at that link to understand more about the process. Maybe something like this could work in your school?



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