Real World History: Six Videos that Model and Inspire

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Summary: Looking for ways to involve high school students in using historical tools to craft arguments and make personal connections to current issues? These six short NWP-produced videos spotlight Real World History, a high school course that frames history as an argument about the past and teaches students to think like historians. The video footage, focused on a study of the Great Migration of the 20th Century, could be a springboard for curriculum design or spark conversation in classes or professional development focused on disciplinary literacy with a social justice bent.

Linking Genre to Standards and Equity

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Author: Tom Fox

Summary: Here is an important article that offers a framework and looks at how genre studies can help writing teachers design meaningful and engaging writing instruction. Fox suggests that standards-based writing curricula do not go far enough when we only teach students about how various genres work. He argues that writing may be construed as “meaningless” and ultimately serve to disenfranchise students if we sidestep the more fundamental question: “Why do people write?” Teachers already familiar with arguments about “authentic” writing will especially appreciate Fox’s call to examine how teachers and students might pursue “urgent” writing situations.

Theory, Politics, Hope, and Action: Building Immersive Writing Experiences for Bilingual Writers

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Author: Carole Edelsky

Summary: This article is a great resource for study groups, inquiry communities, and professional learning of all types with a focus on English learners and writing. After introducing two pieces of “gorgeous” writing from fifth graders in a dual language classroom, Edelsky explains how this writing came to be. First she provides a theoretical overview focused on how people develop language and identity through authentic work within a community of practice. Then she describes the genesis of a different approach to writing development among a group of elementary teachers dealing with the question of “how you make schoolwork like real out-of-school work.” Offering seven “partial answers,” this article is highly accessible with the potential to generate myriad inquiries into issues about language learning, writing, power, and equity.

“Let’s Talk”: Building a Bridge Between Home and School

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Author: Catherine Humphrey

Summary: How do we create opportunities for both our students and their parents to be involved in assignments that generate a sense that the writing being done is “real”? The author of this piece provides a window into an initial essay assignment that prompted her high school students and their parents to talk together prior to taking a position on an education-related op ed piece. She also offers tips for generating and sustaining quality verbal interactions. Many examples of reflections from parents and students reveal both positive responses and challenging situations that could spark lively conversations in study groups, school/community professional conversations focused on parent engagement in writing, or in individual classrooms with students.

How to Build Better Engineers: A Practical Approach to the Mechanics of Text

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Author: Ron E. Smelser

Summary: How do engineers write: in what ways, for what audiences, and for what purposes? How do we, as teachers, support students in understanding that writing clearly to communicate arguments in proposals and presentations is an important skill for college and careers? This article presents a structure that emulates what engineers encounter in a peer-review proposal process. Those planning and leading workshops grounded in real-world practices for aspiring engineers or other related professions will find useful ideas here. This article is also applicable to content-area classrooms at the secondary level. 

Metaphors, Frames, and Fact (Checks) about the Common Core

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Author: Anne Elrod Whitney and Patrick Shannon

Summary: This article offers a critique of the Common Core State Standards by examining its political history and the controlling metaphors on which it is based. It would be of particular interest to a study group or as a resource in a professional development program exploring the politics of mandated curricula as well as the practical and political implications of the Common Core.

Overview of the NWP’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program

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Summary: This overview provides key information about the National Writing Project’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) and how it works, along with the results from multiple years/areas of the country. In “About the Program,” teachers can find resources that complement each other in a year-round approach to teaching argument: routine argument writing, mini-units, extended research arguments, on-demand tasks, formative assessment resources, and videos of teachers who have used the resources. The “How it Works” sub-link offers a model for an Advanced Institute for C3WP. The last sub-link provides the results of a 2-year random assignment evaluation which found C3WP had a positive, statistically significant effect on the four attributes of student argument writing—content, structure, stance, and conventions. Points of use include: site leadership team review of C3WP to see how it might be used in their region/locale; and teacher leadership or teacher inquiry related to bringing C3WP into their writing instruction.

C3WP: Teaching On-Demand Argument Writing

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Summary: This online learning experience from the College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) supports on-demand writing. A PowerPoint with a slide-by-slide voiceover, it takes you through a step-by-step approach to teaching on-demand arguments of policy. It uses a two-day reading and writing task as a teaching prompt and another reading-based prompt as the task students complete on-demand. The PowerPoint, once downloaded, is editable. This resource could provide a digital writing experience for teacher groups to explore their own on-demand argument writing skill, or it could be used as a model so teachers can form their own on-demand readings and prompts.

C3WP: Formative Assessment

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Summary: This resource from NWP’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) features two strategies that teachers can use to assess students’ source-based arguments. The “Using Sources Tool” focuses on the quality of students’ claims and how well they use evidence to support them. The “Claim, Evidence, Reasoning Protocol” can help students and teachers see how well they have developed source-based arguments. This page also includes student writing that has been annotated through the lens of the “Using Sources Tool” to illustrate how teachers can use the tool in their classrooms. These assessment strategies can be useful for teachers in any content area who are looking for effective ways to analyze students’ evidence-based arguments. Teacher study groups can examine and apply these two tools and discuss their impact.

C3WP: Extended Research Arguments

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Summary: This resource from NWP’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) includes actual assignments, student work, and interviews with teachers about one student’s process. The “Extended Research Argument” video is a good introduction to the resource, inviting you to explore the ideas behind extended argument and demonstrating how to use the “Inside the Life of Piece of Writing” website in both high school and middle school. For teacher study groups or professional development experiences centered on extended research argument, this resource provides authentic examples of teacher process and student writing.