Words & The World: A Common Language for Writing

“KIds need to know about words and the world.” In a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, John Collins presented ‘The Ten Percent Summary: the Perfect Writing Assignment?’ His model seems to blend the words/vocabulary with the world/context and audience across the writing process. I appreciated how he began the presentation by identifying three key shifts that are necessitated by the Common Core: building knowledge through content-rich non-fiction, grounding reading/writing/speaking in evidence from text, and practicing regularly with complex texts. Looking at Collins’ five types of writing within the contexts of these shifts creates an interesting framework for teaching writing across content areas.

A key take away, for me, from the presentation was the idea of the ten percent summary. I loved the S “T” A r t model and could definitely see it being used with my upper elementary grade students. In thinking about the I-search project that my 5th grade students recently started, this model lends itself really well to their reading of a variety of informational texts, while summarizing & synthesizing the information they find along the way. I”m not sure what the model might look like with younger learners, but would be interested in also applying it to the work of my K-2 learners in the future.

While I found the presentation to be full of great resources and ideas to try with student writing, I began to wonder about the potential of the writing model. What would happen if we had a common language to do this across grades and content areas? As someone who works with students K through 5th grade, I would love to see some sort of continuity so that we could take the model/skills that each grade level has and run with it. Imagine the powerful summaries students could be writing by 5th grade if the concept was introduced in kindergarten. Perhaps then we could look at not only the words but connecting with the world at every grade level.

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