Your Words Can Change the World

Be bold -- not kind of bold.

Young writers in after school classes at my local ES are writing strong opinion speeches, letters and essays. Five brave teachers are learning the writing workshop, process approach as we adapt the best of grades 3 and 4 from Lucy Calkins UOS for Common Core writing into one unit.


Our work features the workshop strategies EL writers that best support them.

Working with “down drafts” in which they write “fast and furiously” frees the students from worrying too much about correct written English while they get their thinking on paper.  We are excited to see the volume of writing they are already producing with the shift from error correction mode.  (Later we will revise and edit.)


The principal gave our opening session a huge boost, by asking teachers their opinion about a school change she know would matter to the students.  What do you think of the idea of allowing students to wear jeans with their spirit shirts on Fridays? 

 Teachers are modeling “boxes and bullets” to give students oral strategies for exploring their opinions and support, and showing them the basic structure that essayists and speech writers use to plan while they think. Students “write in the air” and rehearse aloud with a partner.  The great thing about these strategies is that students do a lot of front end revision before they’ve even written the first draft.

Boxes and bullets is part of “essay boot camp” in the UOS, designed to teach the general structure of essays, without forcing student writing with formulaic lessons.  Students write personal essays on topics that matter to them and learn to revise them to persuasive arguments.


Students enjoy the social interaction and the creative, club-like atmosphere teachers have established. 

 Students are collecting their own ideas and being encouraged to write “flash drafts” from their basic box-and-bullets plans.  They have looked at their school through two lenses:  what is broken that I’d like to suggest fixing — and what is beautiful that I’d like to call attention to.  Giving students choice gets buy in.

Teachers are brave and bold as they read new curriculum and try out new strategies every Monday and Thursday, in addition to their busy regular classroom assignments.  Teachers are introducing student checklists, (student facing rubrics) to show students how to set goals for their own work and move themselves up the continuum of the Common Core learning progression for opinion writing.

We’ll find out on Monday if the principal was persuaded by the video speeches and written essays.

Next post, we’ll continue to build build stamina and volume with free writing. Students will be exploring addressing their audience, categorizing their reasons, balancing support, revising while writing, and creating powerful introductions and conclusions.





One thought on “Your Words Can Change the World”

  1. Both teachers and students are really benefitting from this after school program LB. The pictures and your words capture the panicky feeling of trying something new, but this is the best kind of “new” to try out. Applause to these brave teachers and to you for putting it together and doing the tough work of seeing it through.
    What an exciting time!

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