W.CCR.4 — that’s the 4th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows:
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
To me, W.CCR.4 is all about the brain of writing itself; it’s about communicating effectively based on three primary considerations. If I had to simplify this anchor standard into a three-letter acronym, I would go with TAP.
Task, Audience, Purpose
In any given piece of writing, the decisions that writers must make are dictated by task, audience, and purpose.
For example, consider how task influences a piece. Throughout their freshman year, my students will write many arguments in my class (see W.CCR.1); sometimes, these will be extended, multi-draft pieces of writing, and sometimes they will be timed writing assessments. Time is a part of task: if a student has several weeks to complete a multi-draft argument, I will expect clever organization and a polished style; if a student has thirty minutes to complete an argument (as is the case with ACT writing tests), I will expect a more predictable organization and a less developed style.
Audience is also a crucial consideration in any piece of writing. If I am writing an email to my boss, the style of the email will be considerably more formal than an email to my wife; if my students are writing a post to an online discussion forum with their classmates on Edmodo, I will expect different stylistic choices than I would in their thank you letters to people who make donations to our classroom. Similarly, when they are writing literary analyses that only myself and their peers will read, I will model an academic style for them to mimic and I will show them how to cite quotations in MLA format, whereas if they are composing a “letter to the editor”-style argument, we’ll consider how a public audience differs from an academic one.
Finally, purpose is the third part of TAP, and it, too, is going to shape a piece of writing. When I occasionally query magazine editors about freelance article ideas, my purpose is to sell an idea, and this totally impacts my organization and style: I’ve got to be efficient in showing the value of my idea. Meanwhile, if I’m writing a proposal to my department for a new achievement measurement that I think we should use, I am going to choose evidence and language that I believe will be most compelling to them.
W.CCR.4 is pretty darn simple and powerful: teach students how to think through the implications of TAP. (<-Click here to tweet this quote.)
This way of thinking will help them with every piece of writing that they sit down to do for the rest of their lives: love letters, resumes, master’s theses, time off requests, blog entries, or whatever else.
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