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Common Core W.CCR.5 Explained

By Dave Stuart Jr.

W.CCR.5 — that’s the 5th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows:

Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

An easy way to sum up W.CCR.5 is this: effective writing is so much more than sitting down, putting fingers to a keyboard, and pounding out a piece in one sitting. Whether writing arguments, explanations, or narratives, there’s a lot that goes into elevating a piece to its potential.

The not-so-sexy parts of the writing process

To put it another way, W.CCR.5 is about the not-so-sexy parts of the writing process. (<-Click to tweet this.) If an awesome, published piece of writing can be compared to a veteran doctor conducting an emergency C-section without losing her cool (you can tell what I’ve been witnessing the last few days!), then W.CCR.5 is the years of memorization and sleep deprivation that the doctor endured as a student preparing for medicine.

Analogy #2 (less cool): The dude on the cover of the bodybuilding magazine with the twelve-pack abdomen is like a published piece of writing; W.CCR.5 is the hours of daily workouts, the careful dieting, and the photoshopping that take place before that picture goes to print.

In short, the writing process is crucial.

I’d like to briefly explore each part of the writing process mentioned in W.CCR.5. Let’s begin.

Planning

Here are some questions I might ask my students when planning a piece of writing within one of the “big three” Common Core modes of writing. You could easily write a mega-post on each of these categories, but these are just some starter ideas. To help students think about these questions, I’d create some kind of a graphic organizer or I’d walk them through how to create one of their own:

FOR AN ARGUMENT:

  • What is the central claim of your argument?
  • What evidence will you use to support your argument?
  • How will you explain the connection between your evidence and your claim?
  • What arguments might your naysayers use?
  • Is there any validity in your naysayers’ claims? How might you acknowledge this validity while still refuting their claims?

FOR AN INFORMATIVE/EXPLANATORY PIECE:

  • What is the central idea, concept, event, or process that you’re trying to explain?
  • What details might you include to help illustrate your idea, concept, event, or process?
  • What details might you exclude to help keep your piece focused?

FOR A NARRATIVE:

  • What are the key events or scenes of your narrative?
  • How can you tie the scenes together?
  • What event will your narrative build toward? What is its climax?
  • How and when will you describe your characters? How and when will you describe your setting?

Revising

Revision is “the act of seeing again”; it’s about getting my students to make thorough, big-picture changes to their writing (special thanks to Jerz for this clarifying definition). Some questions we might use to help us in revision:

FOR AN ARGUMENT:

  • Is your claim clear? Is it fully supported with evidence?
  • Do you accurately summarize your opponent’s arguments?
  • Do you convincingly refute your opponents?

FOR AN INFORMATIVE/EXPLANATORY PIECE:

  • How could you restructure your piece to make it clearer for your reader?
  • Are there any paragraphs that don’t help explain your concept? What information could you replace them with to increase your reader’s comprehension of the topic?

FOR A NARRATIVE:

  • Does your story drag in places?
  • Does your dialogue seem natural and genuine?
  • Do your descriptions blend with the writing, or are they clunky?

Editing

Editing is akin to going through a piece of writing with a fine-toothed comb. It is surface-level correction. I always seem to be tweaking my approach to teaching editing. Last year, I began experimenting with Kelly Gallagher’s independent correction sheets (Teaching Adolescent Writers, 2006), and I like what happened.

Using these sheets (there’s a decent version of them here), I began to see my students sincerely troubleshooting mechanical and grammatical problems in their writing. Essentially, this strategy involves highlighting sentences that contain errors and requiring students to correct the errors in order to maintain the score they received on their piece of writing.

The biggest problem I had this past year with this approach was time; in the coming year, I need to determine how to use this approach with greater efficiency.

Anyways, when we teach students to edit their work, we hit part of W.CCR.5.

Rewriting/trying a new approach

E. B. White said, “The best writing is rewriting.” I love that because it mirrors my writing process. I tend to write a draft once, leave it for a bit, and then come back, re-read it, and make revisions. There are often three main areas where I find the need to rewrite or try a new approach:

  1. the intro,
  2. the conclusion,
  3. or a clunky part (very scientific, right?)

Intros and conclusions (or, as I’ve heard Jeff Anderson call them, “frames”) are tricky; they need to somewhat echo each other, but this is most effectively done with a light touch. Since I usually write my intro way before my conclusion, I usually find that the two do not match each other. To add to that, there’s also the “writing as discovery” thing: it’s often in the midst of writing a piece that I actually discover what I’m really writing about.

Because of this, I often find that my intros and conclusions need more than a few strokes of revision; more times than not, they need to be rewritten completely.

To teach my students the value of this, I try to show them mentor texts of various ways to start and end pieces of writing, and I also try to model how I conduct a rewrite.

So basically, W.CCR.5 is one of those standards that you work at and improve throughout your whole teaching career; it’s a challenging and large standard, it’s an important skill for college and career readiness, and it’s something that teachers of writing have been working on for a long time.

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