During my time in education I have worked with a number of school districts. Having been in charge of educational technology during most of my time I have been called upon to provide technological resources that can help these districts improve writing. Teachers and administrators across all grade levels have sought out my knowledge on digital writing resources in order to fill their toolbox, engage students, and increase the quality of writing. While I have successfully curated a number of resources and found success with implementing technology to improve writing, I have concluded that the best way to improve writing is not high tech at all.
What I believe is that writing can be improved by the following:
Consistency - Writing should be interdisciplinary. The expectations for writing across disciplines should be somewhat uniform. While the expectation of a DBQ writing in social studies may be different from a character analysis in English the fundamental components of a quality written piece should be consistent. Common rubrics, writing mini lessons, graphic organizers and common vocabulary should be part of inter department collaboration.
Writing Every Day - Students should be provided with an opportunity and expectation to write in every class, every day. Do Now and Closure activities may provide opportunities for reflection or quick writes. Art and Music classes may provide opportunities for reflection and critique. Publishing a class blog or threaded discussion provides a writing opportunity that extends the school day.
Publishing - Here is were technology provides the most value. Students should be given the opportunity to write for an audience. By publishing student work we provide them with an authentic task that is engaging and may be rich with feedback. Google Docs provides opportunities for students to publish electronically. The documents may be shared for peer review. A class blog or online discussion provides opportunities for students to publish for an audience. Requiring students to publish on online discussion boards, blogs, or just publishing their writing on social sharing sites provides a voice, a global audience and intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to produce quality work.
When a school, not a teacher commits to a collaborative effort to improve writing that is when we can expect change. Professional development and common planning time should be focused on defining good writing, developing and sharing rubrics, graphic organizers, mini-lessons, and common vocabulary. When teachers are provided such a tool box with time to review and discuss the results we can have an expectation of growth and improvement.