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Writing in Different Ways

posted Apr 21, 2018, 2:00 AM by HSD Principal
In this article about varying students' writing assignments in order to practice writing from differing perspectives. Author Lauren Porosoff makes three suggestions:
  1. Move from "I believe" to "We believe" - Instead of having students simply write their take on a topic or idea, have them think about what positions different groups would take on the subject and write about why they would hold those positions.
  2. Move from "What I Know" to "What Can I Learn?" - Instead of having students give the information they know about a subject (eg. Here's what I know about the triangle trade), have them write to think of potential questions about a topic. That provides student choice and can take learning in unanticipated directions.
  3. Move from "Here's My Story" to "Please Tell Your Story" - Students are used to talking about themselves from their own perspective, but they can benefit from having to invest in learning and telling the point of view of another. 
If you have student write arguments, Linda Friedrich, Rachel Bear, and Tom Fox offer For the Sake of Argument to help students write persuasively by thinking of it as dialog and not a debate. Their method is based on these principles:
  • Focus on a specific set of skills or practices in argument writing that build over the course of an academic year. These include organizing evidence and responding to opposing viewpoints.
  • Provide text sets that represent multiple perspectives on a topic, beyond pro and con, with a range of positions, information modes, genres, and perspectives, using videos, images, written texts, infographics, data, and interviews.
  • Use iterative reading and writing practices that build knowledge about a topic. These might include interviewing community members, doing detailed research, and beginning to craft their claims.
  • Support the recursive development of claims that emerge through reading and writing. These are manifest as students gather information from text, consider multiple angles on a topic, develop and revise a claim, and write a full draft.
  • Help students organize and structure their writing to advance an argument. Have students read exemplary op-ed articles, thinking through the decisions the writers made and how they organized their sources. A key takeaway: there isn’t one right way to write a persuasive piece.
  • Embed formative assessments to identify areas of strength and inform next steps for teaching and learning. Especially important are one-on-one conferences with students to focus, encourage, tweak, and if necessary redirect their efforts.