I’m going to spend this week elaborating on the five key benefits of a writing centered classroom as identified by The National Commission on Writing:
Writing is able to  generate deeper thinking, because it’s hard to know what we actually think until it’s committed to paper. Until then, the thoughts are fleeting and unsubstantiated and twirling around in our heads amid thousands of other random thoughts. Ideas flit from point A to point Z in the blink of an eye. Stopping to write those thoughts allows us all to go deeper with each one. I remind my students in the classroom every day, “Writing is discovery, so write to discover all that you have to say.” Writing to generate deeper thinking can serve as a foundational skill for producing what we know, but it also generates new thinking. The key is to give students opportunities to write for both big and small tasks, for both high-stakes and low-stakes assignments, in both timed and un-timed situations, for close readings and summaries, for formal essays and freewrites. It's the combination of them all that gets kids thinking.
Jobs are competitive today. Any one job can generate hundreds of applicants. The trend in industry today is to require applicants to produce a writing sample. Basically, to get the career you want, you have to know how to write. This includes job applications for mechanics, firemen, OC sheriff’s, computer programming, engineering, etc. The list goes on and on. So in terms of  career readiness, our students need to be writing more. Writing isn’t becoming a “thing of the past.” In fact, writing is becoming more important. And the writing that’s expected needs to be done quickly, efficiently and effectively. Memos need to be written now. Emails need to be answered yesterday. I argue writing is becoming even more critical; our world lives in technology today, and in order to share via technology, information needs to be written.
Writing  prepares you for college. Students are asked to write personal statements, complete writing placement exams, and communicate effectively in order to show proficiency and pass their classes. In The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011, NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) published the results of eighth and twelfth grade students’ assessments. Only one-quarter of students in the study, including both grade levels, performed at the proficient level in writing, leaving 75% of students performing basic or below basic. This is abysmal. This shouldn’t be acceptable; students, parents, schools, districts, communities and society at large should be furious with the underachievement in this fundamental skill. We need to better prepare our students for college or career success.
The  Common Core values writing. Writing doesn’t just belong in the English classroom anymore. Writing is literacy, and our students are being asked to produce independent thinking and coherent, relevant analysis in math, science, history. Writing, as outlined in the Common Core, also asks students to begin to blend genres. The narrative is not just “Tell Me What You Did Over Summer” anymore. Narratives are expected to be used to tell stories about history, make arguments in science, capture the attention of the audience in exposition. Blending genres requires craft, fluency, sophistication -- and practice.
Writing is hard; it is, without a doubt, cognitively challenging. But writing is worth the brain exercise. It helps us sort things out, adds depth to our thoughts, allows us to express our ideas, enables us to persuade, and, ultimately, makes us smarter. A struggle with writing is a metaphor for life. Let’s allow our students to struggle, to persevere, and, ultimately, to overcome. Let's help our kids find their self worth through accomplishment -- teach them that life isn't always easy. I want our kids to grapple with writing a grant that inspires the world to do better. I want them to write Yelp reviews that help me avoid the worst restaurants in town. I want them to write police reports that can stand up in court. I want them to write speeches that drive citizens to action. Writing isn’t just a book report or a fill-in-the-blank worksheet;  writing is life.
I guess this leaves me wondering where our district stands on writing. I have personal anecdotes and experiences from my own kids’ times in the elementary and middle schools in Los Al. I also bring knowledge from my work with students of all ages through Write Away U. These experiences make me want to scream from the rooftops: we need more writing in all classrooms across all curricular areas.
Writing is too important to let it depend on the teacher you get in school by luck of the draw -- it needs to be intentional, and it needs to be our next big push in education.
This "R" is not an option -- it’s a necessity.