What Teaching Writing In The 21st Century Might Look Like


So I was looking through an old Animal Farm unit of mine when I found some notes I had written that sketch a basic outline for a “writing” unit (i.e., a unit designed primarily to produce a piece of writing that’s gone through the entire writing process) from my second year of teaching.

Rough as it was, it highlighted a couple of things: how much work writing really is, and how much writing has changed with the advent of not simply word processing, research, and even social media, but the constantly fluid nature of many types of published writing today: the updated blog post, the revised social media post, the constantly updated eBooks, patched and revised video games, and even re-mixed and mashed videos, essays, and other media forms.

So I thought I’d share it here, if for no other reason for non-English Language Arts, Literature, or Composition teachers to get a basic feel for the general pattern of a writing unit, especially as many new academic standards such as the Common Core call for literacy (reading, writing, fluency) to be taught across all content areas.

Note this is a fairly standard approach to the writing process and basic research papers. Not much pie in the sky here on purpose. It appears in note form below, with certain terms highlighted for emphasis.

1. Pre-assessment on standards, writing process

2. Thematic hook; highlight existing/prior knowledge through basic literacy strategies, form alpha blocks to a journal prompt to a quick debate or customized team-building game; review old work, ideas, notes, or even published writing

3. Use QFT or similar strategy to move from topics and issues to questions

4. Quick search prevailing opinion, angles, and depth of work on issue or question (i.e., Google, YouTube, and social media search the topic for blog posts, videos, “likes,” and other data that offer a rough sketch of what has already been said and done with the topic or question).

5. Develop a working thesis (look at thesis examples and thesis evolution)

6. Conduct preliminary research using both physical and digital resources (while understanding the pros and cons of each)

7. Identify and analyze potential multimedia and divergent sources

  • Identifying specific assignment research requirements
  • Identifying and understanding specific requested style (MLA/APA, etc.)

8. Preliminary choice of publishing media (essay, video, web page, twitter feed, etc.)

9. Audience Analysis based on metrics and data

10. Collaboration (in-class via P2P and through social media; focus on content, thinking, perspective, and position, not the writing process; activities include write-arounds, journaling, Paideia, debate, fishbowl, etc.)

11. Pre-writing via physical or digital media

12. Research, sharing research through workshop model, social media, etc.

13. Model and assess in-text citations

14. Thesis revision (model possible revisions of thesis statements; share thesis statement revision)

15. Continue research via physical and digital media

16. Draft due (give feedback on Thesis, Audience, Purpose, or Supporting Details only)

17. Revision pyramid or continuum (assess big idea behind revision; A.R.M.S.—Add, Remove, Move, Substitute)

18. Writing Workshop: Revision by workstations based on assessment results and use of revision continuum; often items like structure, relevancy of research, thesis clarity, introductions and conclusions, language, transitions, formatting issues, etc.

19. Writing Workshop: Editing by workstations based on revision continuum and editing strategies

20. Publish media digitally as fluid, incorporating updated details, new research, social media reaction, and even changing purpose of the media over time

Image attribution flickr user woodleywonderworks