05 08

Middle school writing continuum

One of the best ways to help your students become stronger writers is to involve them in making and using a writing continuum. A good writing continuum helps your students see their own writing with outside eyes, and helps them understand exactly what to do to improve. A powerful continuum is focused on specific things, is used frequently by your students for all their written work and is made for those specific students, not students in general.

Common teacher questions about making a Writing Continuum

What types of samples should I use?

  1. Use anonymous writing samples – no names
  2. Choose samples from outside your current classroom. Save students’ work from year to year to use as writing samples (view grade 6, grade 7 and grade 8 samples SPS teachers can use)
  3. In order for all students to be on the continuum, ensure that you use 5 – 10 samples that represent all the stages in your classroom (fewer samples as students get older)
  4. Create your continuum in such a way that every student is at least at the second exemplar so that each student can feel some success (no one on step one)
  5. Pick samples that look the same, all handwritten or all typed so students don’t focus on looks
  6. Choose samples that highlight the key issues you hope to focus on with your students

What do I do with my students once I have chosen the samples?

  1. Make sure students are familiar with the process of writing paragraphs before you create your writing continuum
  2. Ensure students have learned the attributes of effective writing so they can help generate criteria
  3. Explain that continuums can be used with all types of writing in all subjects, and that you will be using this one again and again this year
  4. Co-construct the attributes of the writing genre with your students and word the attributes in a positive manner
  5. Post attributes under the writing samples. NOTE: If your students cannot generate the attributes, you will need to review
  6. Take the time needed to look closely at the exemplars; it is well worth the effort and it pays dividends for student learning
  7. Have students describe each stage in terms of what is present, not what is missing

What do we do with the continuum once we have the descriptions of each stage?

  1.  Post the writing continuum where it is easily accessible and preferably at student eye -level so that students can easily assess their writing. You should refer to it many times during the year with individual students, as well as the whole class
  2. The writing continuum should stay up and be used all year in many content areas
  3.  Allow students to choose their own starting point on the continuum based on the evidence of where they believe they are now.
  4. Encourage students to verbalize where they are at on the continuum based on what is present in their writing and talk about what they need to do to move forward
  5. Keep the continuum growing – add samples to the continuum as your students meet and exceed their writing targets. This helps students understand that good writing grows over time.

How can I learn more?

middle school writing continuum


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