Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How To Turn "Pencil on Paper" Activities Into Critical Writing

Yesterday, (Post: How Do I Recognize Critical Writing) we discussed the fact that just because the student has “pencil on paper,” does not mean that Critical Writing is occurring. In fact, most likely, it is not.  Here are the writing activities that elevate the writing task to that of Critical Writing:

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 begs the question, “What is the 4-Part Critical Writing Test?”

Here is the answer:

Cain’s 4-Part Critical Writing Test 

1. The brain moves the pencil.

2. The prompt forces a connection.

3. The prompt forces cognition.

4. There is at least the illusion of accountability.

What the 4-Part Test illuminates is the fact that the writing we generally observe in classrooms, even ELAR classrooms, is not quite critical writing. The good news is that this fact is not necessarily bad news.  Every teacher knows that the hard part is getting students to actually put their pencil on the paper. The easy part is tweaking the prompt to get true instructional value from the activity.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

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