As teachers and students are becoming acclimated to new writing standards and Common Core requirements some are finding that writing has changed, from the purely creative to writing in all content areas.

New Writing Standards and Common Core

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In the early elementary school grades, Zachary Davis and his classmates at Belle Chasse Primary School in  suburban New Orleans wrote almost entirely from personal experience: describing their ideal vacation, trying to convince readers that a longer school year would be a good (or bad) idea, penning a letter about their adventures during summer break.

That all changed this school year.

As a fourth-grader, Zachary more rarely writes stories or essays based solely on his experience or imaginative musings anymore. Instead, it’s all about citing “textual evidence.”

“In third grade they would just ask us to, like, describe your dream store. It was easy to me,” said Zachary, adding that he enjoys the new challenge.

New Writing Standards and Common Core

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Much to the delight of writing enthusiasts, the curriculum standards known as the Common Core stress the importance of students’ putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) across all subject areas. The standards also specify that students — even those in the youngest grades — should cite evidence from readings as they write, and not just invent stories or opine based on prior knowledge. The Common Core, adopted by most states, does not constitute a federal curriculum or mandate specific readings. But it does spell out skills that children should learn by different grade levels (such as understanding place value in first grade) and general education principles (such as incorporating nonfiction readings in English and multi-part word problems in math).

The students at Belle Chasse Primary might not be ready to compare the existential quest of “Moby Dick” to “Waiting for Godot,” but they are doing a lot more writing based on what they read. Zachary and his classmates regularly use paired nonfiction passages as the basis for persuasive essays. For one assignment, they read a description of Louisiana’s Avery Island followed by one of a bayou swamp tour, and then wrote about which destination they would prefer to visit based on examples in the passages. In the past, they might have been asked to argue a similar question based solely on their own experiences.  Zachary said the hardest part is figuring out the main ideas of the passages, which he then uses as “evidence” in his persuasive essay.

“It’s been a huge wake-up call that writing is important.” Lucy Calkins, Teachers College Reading & Writing Project.

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New Writing Standards and Common Core

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