Writing Matters provides teachers with powerful new ways to improve student outcomes in writing, utilizing 21st century resources to prepare today’s “digital natives” for success in school and beyond.

The program engages upper elementary and middle students in the writing process through a series of four to six week units, addressing specific genres.

A comprehensive professional development program offers teachers the support they need to implement the curriculum and assess student performance. Its innovative tools were recommended by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the National Council of Teachers of English.

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Writing Matters Description

by Teaching Matters

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Writing Editorials

by Teaching Matters

This writing genre can be particularly motivating to young adolescents as they wake up to their surroundings and the associated challenges and frustrations. As teachers, we can capitalize on our students’ emerging passion and their attraction to the controversial by providing them with ways to thoughtfully express themselves on the issues that matter. When studying this genre in the classroom, middle schoolers have the opportunity to write persuasively in a more compelling way than they have in the past. First, they clearly express their opinions on controversial topics about which they feel passionate. They are challenged not only to support their opinions with arguments backed by evidence found through research, but also to consider an opposing point of view and counter the “other side’s” opinion. Students persuade their audience of the importance of their topic by issuing a call to action. In doing so, middle school editorial writers become empowered to create change in their communities.
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Mastering the Essentials

by Teaching Matters

Mastering the Essentials gives students and teachers the foundation they need to carry out a 21st century writing workshop that will show results over the school year. Teaching writing to young adolescents is enormously challenging because learning to write is not about one skill; it represents a “bundle,” encompassing everything from generating good ideas to editing the grammar of a final draft(Fletcher and Portalupi, 2001). Recognizing just how complex this type of instruction can be, this four week introductory unit aims to make start-up easy, fun and understandable to students, and highly manageable for teachers. But is it really necessary to take so much time to introduce the practices associated with the 21st century writing workshop? What can be gained? Linda Ellis and Jamie Marsh, the authors of Getting Starting: The Reading–Writing Workshop, Grades 4–8, emphasize the importance of setting the stage when they state, “What happens in the beginning of the writing workshop sets the tone for the rest of the year. It’s critical to establish our expectations and organization, structure and commitment” (Heinemann, 2007, 51). Mastering the Essentials does just that. Students develop an understanding of the overall structure of the workshop and how they will take part in this environment that emphasizes responsibility (for choosing and fleshing out topics, working independently, exchanging writing with peers online), active learning (making effective use of in-class writer’s work time by writing in a sustained manner) and professionalism (producing complete pieces of writing and publishing for a real online audience). Students come to understand and develop essential skills while completing the first assignment, a written “snapshot” that briefly describes a real experience in detail. Students get their feet wet with several stimulating brainstorming approaches that ignite their imaginations, and engage in every step of the writing process while being supported by instruction that meets their individual needs as well as web-based activities increasingly relevant to their day-to-day lives. Ultimately, they produce work for sharing and celebrating. For youngsters, this first project goes far beyond familiarizing them with the practices and guidelines that will be used all year. Students also have an initial enlightening and satisfying writing experience to jump start what is to follow.
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Writing Memoir

by Teaching Matters

Writing Memoir is one of seven units that make up Writing Matters. The lessons at a glance are provided below. For an example of an entire unit, take a look at Writing Editorials. If you would like more information about Writing Matters, contact Teaching Matters at 212 870-3505. Lessons at a Glance
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Writing Feature Articles

by Teaching Matters

In order for students to write effectively in a genre, they need to be exposed to a variety of quality examples of that type of writing. This is particularly important when studying feature articles, a type of expository writing that requires students not only to write a clear informational piece, but also to present material with a personal and compelling angle or spin. With this in mind, the unit offers a set of suggested readings and reading workshop strategies that complement the program’s writing lessons. While implementing the Writing Feature Articles unit, your reading workshop lessons should place emphasis on shared reading, independent application of strategies and discussion with peers.
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Writing Poetry

by Teaching Matters

Teachers sometimes ask, “Why teach poetry?” particularly at the middle school level when there are so many English Language Arts requirements to attain in order to prepare students for high school. There are several answers to that question. Students are intrigued by poetry. It is the language of the songs that interest them and the spoken word they try to emulate. In fact, poetry is all around them. Addressing the relationships, self awareness and change that is so fundamental to their being, poetry is often more familiar and relevant than other writing genres.
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Writing Short Fiction

by Teaching Matters

Middle school students and teachers often approach fiction writing with skepticism. For many students, reading and writing stories are simply chores: readings seem irrelevant and writing assignments overly prescribed. For too many teachers, creative writing isn’t “real” in the same way that research reports and persuasive essays are. So why bother teaching our students to write short fiction? What can be gained? When studying this genre in the classroom, students use their creative energy to transform events from their personal lives into a short “realistic” fictional piece: one that is uniquely their own yet worth reading by others. Student writers reflect on characters with whom they can identify and carefully consider how they might react to plausible challenges by asking “what if” – an intense and complex higher-order thinking exercise appropriate for youngsters just beginning to explore their relationships with others and this world. While they are free to imagine a storyline, at the same time students must harness their thinking to stay within the boundaries of “real life” if their stories are to have an internal logic that is compelling to readers. For youngsters, this is a tall order that requires them to contemplate what they know about themselves and others, about human interaction and about life in general. In the end, a work of fiction emerges that is both enlightening and satisfying. It takes writers (and readers) on an unforgettable journey while being based on believable thoughts, emotions and situations.
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Response to Literature

by Teaching Matters

Response to Literature is one of seven units that make up Writing Matters. The lessons at a glance are provided below. For an example of an entire unit, take a look at Writing Editorials. If you would like more information about Writing Matters, contact Teaching Matters at 212 870-3505. Lessons at a Glance
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