George Lucas Educational Foundation

Writing Resources

Writing Resources

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Beyond a dictionary and a thesaurus, what reference books are people using to help students write better and with less stress? Many elementary and middle schools in the Bay Area, California have introduced "Young Writers' Toolkit" ( The publisher offers a Free Books for Schools program, so a school gets one free copy of the book for each one purchased by a member of their community. What resources are you or your teachers using?

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Ray Dorso's picture
Ray Dorso
Director of Special Services, New Milford School District

The Alliance for Excellent Education has a new report, Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment (2011),
The 70 page report reviews current research and makes several recommendations briefly described below. The Alliance for Excellent Education has other reports (Reading Next and others) on their website.

1. Use Formative Writing Assessment to Enhance Students' Writing
* Provide feedback. Writing improves when teachers and peers provide students with feedback about the effectiveness of their writing.
* Teach students how to assess their own writing. Writing improves when students are taught to evaluate the effectiveness of their own writing.
* Monitor students' writing progress. Writing improves when teachers monitor students' progress on an ongoing basis.
2. Apply Best Practices for Assessing Writing in the Classroom
* Allow students to use the mode of writing in which they are most proficient when completing a writing assessment. Writing improves when students are assessed in the format with which they are most experienced--pencil and paper, or word processing.
* Minimize the extent to which presentation forms such as handwriting legibility or computer printing bias judgments of writing quality. Writing assessment improves when teachers judge the quality of student writing and do not allow factors such as handwriting or computer printing to bias their judgment.
* Mask the writer's identify when scoring papers. Writing assessment improves when teachers do not allow their knowledge of who wrote a paper to influence their judgment.
* Randomly order students' papers before scoring them. Writing assessment improves when teachers score papers randomly rather than allow a previous paper's score to influence their judgment.
* Collect multiple samples of students' writing. Writing assessment improves when teachers assess students' writing in a variety of genres. This finding supports the decision by the authors of the Common Core State Standards Initiative to emphasize students' mastery of many different types of writing, since writing is not a single generic skill. Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment 7
* Ensure that classroom writing assessments are reliably scored. Writing assessment improves when teachers use procedures for ensuring that particular aspects of writing, such as quality and its basic attributes, are measured reliably. (Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment; Graham, Harris, Hebert; 2011)

susan offen's picture
susan offen
Literacy Graduate Student

I am currently enrolled in a graduate program, which will certify me as a literacy specialist. I took a graduate course last semester that was very enlightening. It was titled the writing process. I have some recommendations for you that I think are very valuable. The professor, Dr. Lassonde, is the author of Richards & Lassonde, (2011). Writing Strategies for All Primary Students, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. This is an excellent book that shows teachers how to use scaffolding independent writing with differentiated mini-lessons. It includes classroom-tested strategies for: emerging writers; writers who struggle; English language learners, and advanced writers. I highly recommend it!!! Another fantastic resource is Lassonde, C. Barron's New York State Grade 6 English Language Arts Test (2nd Edition). 2013. She also wrote this book for seventh and eight graders. One of our assignments for our graduate class was to complete it so I personally and highly recommend it as well. One more resource is more of a theoretical book: Graham, Steven; MacArthur, and Fitzgerald,(2007) Best Practices in Writing Instruction, New York: The Guilford Press. Lastly, I would recommend the resource: Dierking, Connie & Jones, Sherra, (2003). Growing Up Writing. Mini Lessons for Emergent and Beginning writers. Gainsville, FL: Maupin House. I hope this helps. Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you.

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