New York City Develops 179-Page Booklet to Help Students Become Better Writers

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

In high school, the expectations of students increase from the simple book reports of junior high to complex, multifaceted essays and reports. Naturally, it takes time to develop those skills, and teachers may not always be prepared to take students into a new, more complex style of writing.

To remedy this problem, the Department of Education in New York City developed a 179-page draft booklet with lesson suggestions for each month of the year. It’s designed to improve the teaching of writing skills. Anna Commitante, the senior executive director of curriculum, instruction and professional learning at the Department of Education, shared some insights into why this new curriculum resource exists.

Much of the curriculum currently offered is focused on reading, which is key to becoming aware of various writing forms. However, students are assigned papers without taking much time to show them how to write that kind of paper. This booklet will give teachers suggestions for when and how to give that training to their students.

This booklet is not intended only for English classes because the kind of writing expected differs based on the field of study. For example, the ninth graders in the NYC school system are studying ancient civilizations in October. To synergize with that, the booklet suggests reading great speeches in history to expose students to different kinds of speeches.

This booklet has the additional benefit of taking the pressure off the English teacher to teach every kind of writing, especially since the advent of the Common Core, which places a strong focus on the humanities. This allows the English teacher to teach the core of argument and rhetoric while the science teacher suggests ways to apply rhetoric to the scientific field.

The ultimate goal of this booklet is to show teachers of different subjects how integral writing is to their classes.