I've been spending a great deal of time in local districts with writing. Some are Step Up trainings, some are Six Traits, and some are a magical combination of both. I don't think there really is one right answer with respect to writing - there are so many variables to deal with!! First and foremost seems to be the comfort level of teachers with teaching writing. In fact, so much has to do with whether or not teachers view themselves as writers!!
But the bottom line is that we need to start pulling together and working with our students on writing. There is power in the ability to express your thoughts clearly - and we have an obligation to teach our students how to be successful in writing. Some are naturally gifted and will buck at the thought of constraints - others need to have very specific guidance to write well and may never progress beyond basic organization and word choice. But we need to teach them.
Curriculum Design for Writing Instruction by Kathy Tuchman Glass provides a nice key for districts looking to develop a writing curriculum. While it is grounded in the Six Traits, it is the process that is key in this book.
In a nutshell, here are her curriculum design elements:
1. Identify grade level content standards for writing: What do I want my students to know and be able to do?
2. Create a teacher rubric witha clear set of criteria for
writing assessment: What are the key criteria for achieving these
standards and assessing students?
3. Craft a student checklist to guide students through the unit and
help them state objectives and self-assess: What do students needs
to know and learn as they progress through the unit and how will they be
4. Design lesons to achieve standards: How do I guide
and assist students to achieve the criteria?
Now - these may seem simple and obvious to some, but I have yet to work in the district that has done this and used it across all grade levels. Note that many have tried to accomplish this but actually using the rubrics and sharing them openly with students and using them as guide for lessons in writing is not something that I have seen. (If you are doing it - please comment and tell us what is working!!)
I am excited because I have been working with a district that I think is on the cusp of developing just this. They have a solid plan and they have extremely dedicated teachers - I guess only time will tell but I am keeping my fingers crossed!