The Value of a Consistent Writing Process for Schools

Feb 20, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

A History of Inconsistency

Over the course of my thirty-four-year career as an elementary school teacher, I taught at seven schools in three school districts in three different states. The districts ranged from rural to suburban to inner city, each with a prescribed curriculum—usually in the form of an adopted textbook series—for reading, math, science, social studies, spelling, and even handwriting. The one exception? Writing. For most of my years in the classroom, not one school or district had a required writing curriculum or uniform approach to teaching writing.

My experience is not atypical. Teachers have always been expected to teach writing, but until the advent of state standards in the mid-nineties, most were given free rein to decide what—and how—to teach the subject. When standards began to dictate the “What,” the “How” was still left primarily to teachers to figure out for themselves. Teachers’ reports to and data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicate that despite an increased emphasis on writing and the teaching of writing over the past several decades, “there remains considerable variation in actual patterns of instruction.” (Applebee and Langer 2006) More recent teacher surveys reveal that nearly all language arts teachers are “at least somewhat reliant on materials they’ve developed or selected themselves.” (Will 2016) This laissez faire approach to writing instruction has not served students—or teachers— well.


A Better, More Consistent Approach to Writing Instruction

When it comes to teaching a skill like writing, consistency in method promotes consistency in quality. When teachers are left to “do their own thing,” students learn different approaches, use different methods, and hear different terminology in each classroom. Mrs. Thomas may use a Writer’s Workshop method; Mr. Garcia, a worksheet and textbook approach; and Ms. Johnson, a hodgepodge of random activities and assignments that she finds on Pinterest and writing resource books from the teacher supply store. In some middle and high schools, students may be expected to use one writing method in English class and something entirely different in social studies. While it’s true that variety is the spice of life, it is not the most effective way to teach students to write well. Such inconsistency hampers progress.

Imagine instead a school where every teacher has been trained to teach a writing process that furnishes a consistent method of core instruction from classroom to classroom, from grade level to grade level, and across subject matter. As students progress from class to class, teacher to teacher, and from year to year, they practice a common process, hear and use a common language, and meet a common set of expectations. The result? This consistency in method, language, and expectations creates a school where students thrive and writing skills soar.

If you are looking for a consistent and effective writing method for your school, we invite you to learn more about IEW’s Teaching Writing: Structure and Style process which is transforming writing instruction teacher by teacher and classroom by classroom. 


Works Cited

Applebee, Arthur N. and Judith A. Langer, “The State of Writing Instruction in America’s Schools: What Existing Data Tells Us.” Center on English Learning & Achievement. 2006. University at Albany. State University of New York.

Will, Madeline. “As Teachers Tackle New Student-Writing Expectations, Support is Lacking.” Education Week Spotlight. 20 June 2016.

Jean brings 34 years of classroom experience to IEW, having taught grades 1–6 in New York, Virginia, and in California, where she taught sixth-grade language arts in the Rocklin Unified School District. She was introduced to IEW in 2001 when a colleague shared Student Writing Intensive videos at weekly school staff meetings. As a result of student progress and teacher enthusiasm at her school, RUSD brought Andrew Pudewa to Rocklin many times over the next several years to train district teachers, resulting in improved student writing and test scores district-wide. Named Rocklin’s “Elementary Teacher of the Year” in 2001, Jean was also included in the 2004 and 2005 editions of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.

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