Digging In

This year my school has embarked on a huge project that I’m really excited about. We have our school using the same rubric for writing argumentatively. We decided last year that we would use the science claim-evidence-reasoning framework to teach argumentative writing. I say argumentative writing loosely here because it fits with many other types of writing as well (analytic, explanatory, etc.), the general principle is the same.

This has done a couple of things with our students that I did not envision would happen at the beginning that are very exciting:

  1. When I go into a room, any room, and I ask the students who has written a CER this year, nearly all of the students raise their hands.
  2. When I ask them to explain it, there is no problem with the process.

Never before have our students had a common language to talk about writing. It was compartmentalized between disciplines. What I told my English students might be different than what the science teacher down the hall might say. While this may be true to a certain extent, having a common language for similar tasks helps students see the similarities across disciplines.

With our staff, this initiative has done some exciting things as well:

  1. In trying to develop a rubric that would work for ALL teachers in ALL disciplines, it has forced conversations about writing. It has created a space to be able to discuss the differences we hold in our content areas when we score a piece of writing.
  2. It has created common language for teachers who “don’t teach writing.” This offers teachers a space to begin the conversation about student writing.

Last week I was able to meet with our science and math coordinator about making changes to the rubric. What they offered me has been an education about how the technical subjects utilize and create writing assignments to access and demonstrate understanding of the content they teach. This meeting was invaluable and helped me understand why this initiative holds power both for our staff, but most importantly for our students.

I am thankful that I teach in a place where teachers are willing to dive in to hard work. They are willing to ask the hard questions and then dig in to answer those questions together.


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