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Developing Shared Belief Statements

Belief Statements

In June of 2021, a small committee of district leaders, teachers, professors from institutions of higher education, and CDE staff convened to begin work on this Framework for Writing Instruction. One of the initial tasks of the committee was to identify a handful of beliefs toward writing and the teaching of writing. Ultimately, the Committee drafted the following belief statements that became important to the future work. What is written below serves as a model for districts (or schools).

We believe that writing instruction …

  1.  approaches writing as a unique and distinct literacy, equally as important as reading;
  2.  is foundational to all content areas;
  3.  offers students opportunities to
  • write to think,
  • write to learn, and
  • write to demonstrate learning;
  1.  emphasizes writing formats, structures, and modes that mirror those found in the real world;
  2.  empowers students to communicate and connect with the world;
  3.  equips students with the ability to apply and transfer the writing process strategically in new situations;
  4.  is a process, rather than a program;
  5.  fosters students’ growth in the writing process and treats the development of “student as writer” with emphasis given to both the writing process and the written product;
  6.  establishes a classroom community of writers; and,
  7.  supports the development of all students toward becoming effective writers (i.e. by attending to culturally responsive instruction, adapting writing tasks to meet students’ needs, providing multiple opportunities for feedback) with expectations that each child will write well.

The Importance of Writing and Writing Instruction

Graham (2019) begins his study by arguing that writing allows students to “learn new ideas, persuade others, record information, . . . heal psychological wounds, . . . explore the meaning of events and situations (Changing How Writing is Taught, 2019, pp. 278-281)” He goes on to say that in school, students write to enhance their understanding of reading and materials presented in class. At work, people write to perform their jobs. In short, we cannot underestimate the value of writing in our everyday lives and the importance of learning this complex literacy. 

The Committee’s first three Belief Statements reflect the importance of developing skilled writers. We believe that writing instruction …

  1. approaches writing as a unique and distinct literacy, equally as important as reading;
  2. is foundational to all content areas;
  3. offers students opportunities to
  • write to think,
  • write to learn, and
  • write to demonstrate learning

Knowledge About Writing

Graham contends that classroom writing practices are influenced by teachers’ beliefs and their knowledge of writing and writing instruction.  He argues that “good instruction requires rich and interconnected knowledge about subject matter and content, students’ learning and diversity, and subject-specific as well as general pedagogical methods (p. 284-285).”

He states that:

  • writing enhances students’ performance in other important school subjects;
  • writing and reading, writing and oral language are related;
  • writing requires the development of specialized language;
  • writing is not a single unitary skill;
  • writing is a social activity;
  • students need to develop a positive identity as a writer. 

The following three Belief Statements support building this knowledge about writing.  We believe that writing instruction …

  1. emphasizes writing formats, structures, and modes that mirror those found in the real world;
  2. empowers students to communicate and connect with the world;
  3. equips students with the ability to apply and transfer the writing process strategically in new situations

Writing Instruction and How Writing Develops

Graham writes “quality writing instruction cannot occur if sufficient time is not available” (p. 288).   Districts and schools cannot ignore the crucial element of time: time for professional learning; time for instruction; time for responding to student writing; and time for professional conversations between teachers in a building.

He continues by arguing that goals, curriculum, and instructional practices are all in the mix for high quality instruction.   While there is no “single agreed-on set of skills, knowledge, processes, or dispositions for teaching writing,” it is important for districts and schools to align “goals, curriculum, instructional methods, and assessments” (p. 288).  In other words, in a school or district, it is important that “everyone is rowing together in the same direction.” In Colorado, local districts set that direction.

The final four Belief Statements support the idea of high quality writing instruction. We believe that writing instruction …

  1. is a process, rather than a program;
  2. fosters students’ growth in the writing process and treats the development of “student as writer” with emphasis given to both the writing process and the written product;
  3. establishes a classroom community of writers;
  4. supports the development of all students toward becoming effective writers (i.e. by attending to culturally responsive instruction, adapting writing tasks to meet students’ needs, providing multiple opportunities for feedback) with expectations that each child will write well.

Again, districts and BOCES may want to convene teachers, literacy coaches, principals, content specialists, special education teachers, English Language Learner professionals, and others to take on similar tasks specific to their own districts. 

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