Five Ways to Rev Up the Rigor with Writing

Nothing like being a day late for the party, but alas, I am here!  I am glad you are too. Ready for writing tips? Rigor sure has been the buzzword recently, and if we’re talking math and reading, many ideas come to mind to take learning to the next level. How do you raise rigor in writing though? Well, teaching writing is a love of mine, and there is nothing more satisfying to me than pulling a work of art out from my students. I have worked for years with kids who struggle with reading, but yet, imagination can be found in any child. I admit that the majority of our pieces take revision, but I think with revisions, students learn stamina and gain pride in the final product.
Writing can be relaxing and like reading, it allows the writer to explore places he or she may only know through books and pictures. In fact, one technique you might try for growing writing vocabulary is using pictures. You can scaffold writing with students by giving them a word bank created by the group. Imagine this was the picture you started with. Brainstorming descriptive words with second graders on a topic that they can understand helps them develop ideas, a “juicy” word list, and gets rid of the issue of spelling.  In fact, keeping a running list of words related to each writing topic in a composition book may become a wonderful reference book for future work too.
Of course, students learn to become great writers also by reading great examples. Picture books may seem like they are best for young readers, but I promise you that upper elementary and middle school students can learn descriptive writing from Chris VanAllsburg and Patricia Polacco too. There are many terrific listings of mentor texts out on the web, but here are a few books you might check out and use for developing ideas this fall.
So we’ve talked about using pictures, mentor texts, and a few websites, but what about organization? For my students, Four Square Writing was helpful because prior to using it, they really had no system. Once they learned to use it, we were much more efficient with composing and revising. Several years ago, I came across a slideshow that worked well for explaining Four Square Writing. It worked very well for showing my students how planning leads to easy to follow writing. I always used the analogy of a road map. That plan is the reader’s road map through your piece. It helps them follow where you’re taking them. Sadly, it’s not available any longer, but you can project a four square plan and model as you go.
There is debate about which planning system is best and whether you should teach multiple frameworks, but I wanted my kids to master this prior to moving on to others. Certainly, for advanced readers, the classroom teacher would want to explore outlining, various organizers, indepth research projects, and opportunities with Genius Hour or Project Based Learning. Afterall, weaving writing across the curriculum with formal and informal writing assignments helps students’ skills develop too.
The final place where I see raising the rigor is in the revising stage. I nearly fell over one day two years ago when a student in the first two weeks of school asked me what I meant by revising. She was new to our school, but one would think by fifth grade, she would have been familiar with the term. Well, we really worked on revising that year, so it didn’t take long. One way I found to keep students from getting frustrated with revising is to make use of technology. We used the Google apps exclusively, and with Google Docs, we were able to collaborate on papers and easily share pieces with each other.
Another key ingredient to making the most of the revising process is to help students learn to look at their writing from different lenses. ReadWriteThink said it well with this quote, and if you can get students to do it, they will not feel like they’re reworking their piece over and over, but rather tackling a new skill.
Well, I believe I gave you five ideas.  Whether they are new or revised ideas of old, I hope you gained something for your time. I know I got new ideas from Michelle at Big Time Literacy and new resource ideas from Bridget at Literacy without Worksheets, but be sure to visit each post this week. They are all so different, and that’s what I love about this summer’s linky. We each had the same topic, but no two posts were even close to similar.
Next week, we’ll be creating a Voracious Vocabulary with you.  What are you waiting for?? Let’s link up.  Share your amazing vocabulary building ideas with us!


Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I love all of these ideas. Thank you so much for sharing! I am your newest follower. Cannot wait to read your blog.

  2. Carla, You always share so many ideas in just one post, thank you!
    Some great people to read for revision (btw – my 7th and 8th graders still didn't know what the difference was between these, so I think your little kiddo you mentioned was super common!) Anyways, Barry Lane's Reviser's Toolbox is awesome! I've got such great ideas there. Also, the Craft Lessons books by fletcher are some of my go-tos!
    Thanks for your ideas!

  3. There is so much in this post!! Wow!! I really love the book ideas for vocab bc I know that getting those words to come to their little minds is hard! Thank you!!

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