Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Reader Asks... How Do I Recognize Critical Writing

A LYS Assistant Superintendent asks:


I have attended many of your sessions on curriculum.  Currently I am trying to support my district with its implementation of The Fundamental 5.  After conducting a classroom walk-thru the following question came up... 

“When you are in ELAR, does writing count as critical writing or does the ELAR teacher have to go beyond her current expectations to have the rigor of critical writing?”  

Our team was divided...I have reread the Critical Writing chapter in, The Fundamental 5 (Cain & Laird) and do believe essays in ELAR are critical writing but wanted to ask the source.

SC Response
Thank you for your fantastic question.  A question that befuddles a lot of educators, including me, when I got started.  We asked the same question after speaking to Mike Schmoker in the early 2000’s. He had reported that critical writing was occurring in less than 5% of the classrooms he studied, including ELAR classrooms.

As a Texas educator, I took that statement as a direct challenge and my team attempted to prove him wrong.  We didn’t.  

As teachers, we make an almost universal mistake. We operate under the incorrect assumption that when a students has "pencil on paper" that critical writing is occurring. This is not the case.  Critical writing equals critical writing. And that is what fools us in the classroom.  Students have their pencils on paper a lot, but the tasks they are completing do not elevate to the level of critical writing, even in the ELAR classroom.

So how do we determine if a writing activity represents critical writing, in any setting?  Look for the following:

A. The written identification of similarities and differences.

B. Written summarizations

C. Note making (not copying)

D. Any other writing activity that meets all elements of the 4-Part Critical Writing Test (which we will discuss tomorrow).

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Timer (Fundamental 5 Delivery Tool); PowerWalks CLC (Networked Formative Observation Tool)
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Multiple Presentations); American Association of School Administrators Conference; National Association of Secondary School Principals Conference (Multiple Presentations)
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

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