Archive for July, 2011
Creating Young Writers, ed 3, is scheduled for release on August 11–just about two weeks from now. It feels like forever since I sent in the manuscript, but it’s honestly only been a year. What takes so long, you ask? It’s mainly the layout. This is a complex book, filled with student writing and art, wonderful new writing guides designed for primary writers, modeling samples, book recommendations, photos, and much more. It also includes a CD, which allows for easy duplication of papers and other materials, as well as projection of writing or lessons onscreen.
The BIGGEST change in this new edition is the overall design and organization. It’s totally redone. Readers wanted everything pertaining to a given trait in one place–so now that’s how it is. All information is readily accessible–a snap to find. In one chapter I introduce a trait, present writing guides (aka, rubrics–both primary and advanced), and walk you through some of the best primary writing ever, much of it including art. Then, in the very next chapter, you will find ways to teach that trait: first, a marvelous list of trade books for the trait (well-annotated with many lesson ideas), and second, numerous lessons and strategies, many of them new to this edition. This time around, emphasis is on modeling–showing kids what writing and revision can look like.
The other big change is that this edition, I emphasize the importance of creating an environment in which traits can flourish. That means the traits aren’t taught in isolation, but as an integral part of writing process and writing workshop. All of Chapter 2 is devoted to connecting traits to process and showing ways to launch a smooth-running workshop and feel confident doing it. Thanks to my amazing friend Judy Mazur (of Buena Vista Elementary, Walnut Creek, CA), I had an amazing model of workshop to use as the lynchpin for this chapter. Thank you, Judy. You and your students should have your own reality show.
Lovers of books will be delighted to find that this edition includes many, many more trade books–together with more lesson ideas connected to those books. I’ve included a number of nonfiction titles because more teachers are emphasizing nonfiction, and children tend to write what is read to them. Many students have little other than textbooks as models of nonfiction writing; we need to make this genre more enticing than that. With authors like Ben Hillman, Karen Wallace, Nicola Davies, Sneed Collard and others, we can show them that nonfiction can be as exciting as any story. It can be filled with voice and enthusiasm, and done well enough, can teach readers things they’ll remember forever.
And of course, everyone is concerned about Standards. This new edition shows just how the traits link to the Common Core Standards of Writing (see the post for July 25).
Please remember that date: August 11. And if you would like to pre-order a copy of Creating Young Writers 3/e, or get information for your district, please contact our wonderful marketing director Danae April (yes, her name is like poetry): email@example.com She will be happy to take care of you! If you love the book–and I hope you will–please take a minute or two to write a short review on Amazon. Thank you so much. This book is for all those teachers who know just how hard it is to teach writing in the 21st century, and who do it anyway.
The question I used to be asked most often was “How long should I spend teaching a trait?” It’s been surpassed, handily. Nowadays, the BIG question is this: “Do the traits connect to the Common Core Standards for Writing–and if so, how?” The answer in a nutshell is yes they do indeed–in many ways.
Check out www.corestandards.org if you have not done so already, and click on Anchor Standards–you’ll want to look at both writing and language to get the full picture. Under writing you will see heavy emphasis on the two foundational traits: development of ideas (more simply known as ideas), and organization–especially under standards 1, 2, and 3, which identify the three genres of focus (narrative, persuasive writing or argument, and informative/explanatory writing). We shouldn’t be surprised. Ideas and organization are the heart and soul of the six traits. It’s no secret that if you can write clearly and organize information (in a poem, story, essay, memoir, analysis, lab report, etc.) so that it’s easy to follow, you have much of the writing battle won. There are many more trait connections–but they’re more subtle and you’ll have to dig a bit. By which I mean that the language of the Standards is not always an exact match with the language of the traits. Often the concepts are the same, though–and that’s the key.
The Core Standards never mention voice outright, for example. (More on this later.) But they do mention style (See writing standard 4). Style is an umbrella term that in trait language encompasses voice, word choice, and sentence fluency. They all work together. Notice that standard 4 also suggests that the style should be appropriate to “task, purpose, and audience.” This ability to adjust style to fit context–and to write in a way that reaches an audience–is definitely a component of voice. Take a deep breath and check out standard 5. Now there’s an expansive expectation. We’re covering a lot of territory here: all components of writing process (save sharing, which is not explicitly mentioned) plus courage. I say courage because that’s what it takes to start over with a “new approach.” Revision (standard 5) encompasses every trait with the exception of conventions & presentation. That trait connects to editing (standard 5) and publishing. Note that publishing (including use of technology) is covered in standard 6. In short, because the standards emphasize process (though they call it “Production and Distribution”), the trait connection is very strong–because the whole underlying purpose in even teaching the traits in the first place is to help students become competent, confident revisers. There’s still more, though.
Standards 7, 8, and 9 cover research, which is the location, analysis, and selection of information to share through writing. That links primarily to the trait of ideas (which is, after all, the informational trait). Research has a good deal to do with organization as well, however, because good organization starts with making choices–picking one detail over another. You cannot tell everything about a given topic–so some things wind up on the cutting room floor. People who struggle with choices are usually the same people who struggle to organize their writing.
Finally, note standard 10, which covers writing for two broad purposes: (1) over time, reflectively and with, perhaps, multiple opportunities for revision, and (2) on-demand. Both call for skillful application of all traits, but reflective writing cycles us right back to standards 4, 5, and 6 (For “Production and Distribution” just read “Writing Process”).
The language standards emphasize conventions (1 and 2) and vocabulary acquisition–or word choice (4, 5, and 6). Notice that language standard 3 again references style. Interesting because in workshops (and in Creating Writers), we always talk about the many ways in which voice and word choice influence and strengthen each other.
In summary, the Common Core Standards do not even begin to cover all the nuances of the traits (particularly with respect to voice), but connections abound. And those connections are embedded in skills, such as developing ideas or organizing information; in process, through revision, editing, and publishing; in research–because it has to do with the assembly and management of information; and finally, in “range of writing,” (think purpose) because purpose determines whether traits will be applied hastily (as in response to a writing prompt) or over time, through revision of more complex writing such as a story, novel, report, analysis, or contract.
Come back tomorrow. I’ll be announcing a new book.