LiteracyTeacher Preparation

My Top 10 Questions for Elevating Students’ Writing (and My Own)

Teaching writing doesn't have to be complicated.

It can be a real challenge for teachers and administrators to weave together all the different standards and priorities. At one school recently, a principal shared that he wasn’t sure how to help teachers manage all the different demands from the district:

  1. increase writing across disciplines
  2. emphasize quality discussion and questioning techniques
  3. increase student engagement in terms of Depth of Knowledge

I love moments like that because it’s where I feel like I can be of greatest strategic help in a school. The answer is simple: Let’s help teachers increase the quality of their writing instruction by emphasizing questioning techniques that increase students’ depth of knowledge about writing. He loved it.

Throughout classroom visits, teacher meetings, and team planning, teachers asked me what kinds of questions I would ask if I were in their shoes. Here’s my Top 10. See what you think.

High-Leverage Writing Questions

DOK 3 Rationale

1 What really works about this sentence/paragraph AND what really does not work? This question forces students to articulate two opposite qualities of the sentence at once.
2 Why do you think the author chose that specific word or phrase? This question makes students imagine the author’s rationale for writing the way s/he did, which can then be challenged and questioned.
3 What is the worst word or phrase in this sentence/paragraph? Explain why. By explaining why a word is worst, students have to understand what the sentence is trying to do and how the word relates to other words in the sentence.
4 Rewrite this sentence three different ways that would make it way better. In writing three different ways, students compare and contrast different versions and in discussing the pros and cons of the sentences they can question and challenge the author’s choices.
5 What is the best word or phrase in this sentence/paragraph? Explain why. By explaining why a word is best, students have to understand what the sentence is trying to do and how the word relates to other words in the sentence.
6 What verb could you change in this sentence/paragraph in order to make the writing better? Focuses students on the role that verbs play in writing while forcing them to critique the efficacy of the author’s choice.
7 What adjective would you add or change in this sentence/paragraph in order make the writing better? Focuses students on the role that adjectives play in writing while forcing them to critique the efficacy of the author’s choice.
8 Rewrite the sentence/paragraph using at least one word or phrase from your favorite sport. Explain what effect the word or phrase has on the quality of the writing. This is a playful way to borrow language from beyond academia. By explaining the effect students are forced to think strategically about authors’ word choices.
9 Add three words to this sentence that radically improve it. Explain why you chose the three you did and why they improve the writing. This is a playful way to experiment with revision. By explaining the choice and the effect of the word choice, students are forced to think strategically about authors’ word choices.
10 Using the same number of words, rewrite this sentence so it is more interesting than it is now AND so you don’t lose any of the original meaning. This is a playful way to experiment with revision. By giving students a chance to rewrite a sentence within prescribed parameters, students are forced to think strategically about the author’s craft.
Tags
Show More

Related Articles

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close
Close