Write to the Text

 I am a fan of Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week.  His website is loaded with weekly articles you can use to give students interesting topics to which they can write.

I recently read an article in Education Week and asked the author, Anothy Cody, for permission to turn his article, Color Coded High School ID Cards Sort Students by Test Performance, into an assignment for students.

I set up the assignment in a modified version of Article of the Week.  I modified the directions and numbered each of the lines in the text.   The numbered lines support students in citing the text during classroom discussions.

Download the assignment:  Assignment:  Argumentative Paper

The assignment includes a Writing Checklist, which you can download separately.


A quick-write is a literacy strategy that can be used in any content area.  In this activity you give students a topic or let them choose one of their own and then give them five minutes or so to write quickly about the topic.

I’ve included brief directions for using Quick-Writes with your students and an example of how to have students fill in their writing logs.

Download the materials now and give the technique a try!

Using Data to Form Flex Groups – Kindergarten Writing

You’ve likely heard about using data to inform student achievement.  You’ve also likely used assessment data from your state tests to try and do that.  There are many ways to use data, including the kinds of data you collect in your classroom.  This short piece describes how to use data from a rubric to form flexible groups for instruction.  Download the pdf to learn more about how to use this data strategy.

You may also want to download a copy of the kindergarten rubric that is used in this strategy.

An Activity to Help Students Write Conclusions

Have you ever struggled with helping students write a good conclusion?  This is a simple and powerful activity I designed to help students understand the difference.  Download the pdf of the strategy, which includes directions, a template, and an answer sheet for this activity.  I designed this for the elementary level, but this is easily adapted to the secondary level by using more sophisticated examples.  The Hot Miss phrase is from Amy Hooper, a wonderful teacher at Axton Elementary in Virginia.

Unpack the Content

Here is an example of a standard that needs to be unpacked. 

W.PS.01.01 Michigan

Develop personal style in oral, written, and visual messages in both narrative (e.g., natural language, specific action, emotion) and informational writing (e.g., sequence, specific vocabulary, visual representations).

Remember that part of unpacking a standard is determining what it is you want students to learn.  The standard provides insight as to what to include in the unpacking.  For the narrative writing, the standard states to develop personal style using natural language, specific action, and emotion.  For informational writing, the student is expected to develop personal style in sequencing, specific vocabulary, and visual representations.

 Here’s how I unpacked this piece after brainstorming with a wonderful group of first-grade teachers.  If you’re like me, it helps to see the big picture of the standard – which includes the content.

Once you’ve unpacked the standard, you have a content tool to use throughout the school year.  The list of actions gives you words at your fingertips you can use when talking with your first-grade students.  The list of emotions does the same.  In the sequence list, you’ll see starter ideas for the good things you’re already doing with your students; intentionally use sequencing words with students.  As for the column that lists visual representations, remember to pull out those sequence words and use them again and again and again.