Responsive Writing

As a part of Authentic Tasks or Projects, students working on CCSS ELA Standard 9 can use the computer, printed materials, and video to learn and use new content. Students take notes from different media and synthesize it to write their products for an authentic audience. Working in Standard 9 adds rigor to the higher levels of thinking like comparing, contrasting, and synthesizing text to create new ideas and arguments.

Writing units in typical curriculum teach students to use generative writing where they have ideas and convey their experiences or thinking. However, we need to add rigor around writing to prompts, addressing questions, arguing author intent, and so on.

CCSS ELA Standard 9 is a good place to add this rigor. Students need to be able to “produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to the task, purpose, and audience.” Standard 9 demands new skills in writing about multiple texts in multiple media formats.

Students need to learn ways of not only organizing their thoughts (Venn-diagram, comparison tables –attached), but learning what evidentiary arguments look like in writing, not just in conversation.

What would it look like if we focused on writing coherent and clear paragraphs on specific topics, prompts, and questions to assess mastery of Standard 9 (See below for some examples)? Using exemplars to clarify your expectations for students and having them help develop Standard 9 rubrics would help focus the learning and increase their ability to compare and contrast multiple texts in rigorous ways.

Here are some writing prompts that focus on critical thinking  from Tomasek, T. (2009). Critical reading: Using reading prompts to promote active engagement with text.

Identification of problem or issue- What problem is the author identifying? Who does the problem relate to? For whom is this topic important and why?

Making connections—integrating their experiences with what they are reading. How is what I am reading different from what I already know? Why might this difference exist? What new ideas are here for me to consider? Why am I willing or not willing to consider them?

Interpretation of evidence—using multiple texts. What inferences can I make from the evidence given in the reading sample? What relevant evidence or examples does the author give to support his or her justification?

Challenging assumptions—What kind of assumptions is the author making? Do I share these assumptions? What information builds my confidence in the author’s expertise? If the opportunity arose, what questions would I pose to the author?

Making application—using what they have learned. What advice could I add to this reading selection? On what basis do I give this advice? Looking toward where I want to be in two years, what suggestions from the reading make the most sense to me? 

Taking a different point of view—considering diverse ideas. What would I point out as important about this topic to others who either question or disagree with my point of view?

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