Pondering Writing Assignments, Motivation, and the CCSS

     Hello!  I'm getting ready to present at IRA's annual conference this weekend:  "Quick Bursts of Writing Across the Curriculum:  Powerfully Heighten Learning, Engagement, and Meet Common Core Reading, Writing, & Speaking/Listening Standards (what a mouthful for such simple strategies!)."  If you've followed the blog, you know about Quick Bursts.  Here's a recent update of the Prezi I made related to the topic: 
"Writing to Learn: Quotes and Notes to Ponder." 
     As I review the "Quotes and Notes" and sit back to ponder :), I'm encouraged, as are other proponents of writing, how the CCSS emphasize writing throughout.  Classrooms should always be about writing around one's reading and expressing opinions/arguments, exploring information, researching questions, and developing stories, all for varied purposes and audiences.  My fear is that these might become merely assignments to be graded and checked-off.  In our zeal to meet the standards, we must remember to couch all this writing within meaningful and motivating contexts.  One of my favorite ways to do this is to work with students to discover real world purposes to write and take the writing outside the classroom.  For example, we'll develop opinions about products (cookies, toys, games, apps, etc.) and send them to the companies (just google to find the address or email of the company's headquarters--you'll often get a response back), or post opinions on Amazon about books we've read. 
     Using technology to reach out also packs a punch.  After completing research, we've made "Photo Stories" of our findings (Photo Story 3 for Windows--free and easy to use!), presenting the information in a lively, engaging format.  Posting them to our school website widened our audience.  What a frenzy of excitement!  Our fourth graders worked collaboratively to write informative pieces, then distilled these down into "Keynotes" on ipads (great higher order thinking--reworking the content by moving from one genre to another).  Imagine, fourth graders chomping at the bit to present their keynotes!  Why not compare characters by synthesizing thoughts to create simple analogies then posting them on Twitter?  Using technology to develop and present writing definitely lights a fire.  One of my favorite books on the subject is Julie Ramsay's Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing? from Stenhouse.  (Don't miss Julie's IRA session of the same name Sunday afternoon!)
    Whatever methods we use to teach the standards, they ought to help students develop the habits and joys of writing, in addition to knowledge and skill with genres and processes.  This is best accomplished within a community of writers who share and develop their voices together.  Plus, we mustn't forget the daily importance of informal writing (like the Quick Bursts), the value of writing shorter pieces, or the need for students to come up with their own purposes to write (after all, that's one thing real writers do--as an adult author, nobody sat down and told me to write books). In the end, we want skillful writers who not only choose to write but love to write!  Take good care and enjoy your writers!

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