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Common Core emphasizes evidence in writing

MONDAY, MAY 05, 2014 11:58 AM

Being able to express themselves using the written word is a skill people need throughout their lives. Your students will eventually have to write college entrance essays, complete research papers, draft resumes and cover letters, and type a well thought-out email at work. No matter what your students write in the future, knowing how to communicate effectively on paper (or on the computer) will be critical for their success. For this reason, the Common Core State Standards have changed the way in which states and schools teach writing.

The empirical approach
The old way of teaching writing in younger grades emphasized personal-experience topics. Kids would pen essays based off of prompts such as "What my ideal store would sell and why," or "What I did over summer vacation." Students used these topics to explore their prior knowledge and unleash their creativity. The essays allowed them to hone basic narrative and grammar skills, but it didn't teach critical thinking.

The Common Core State Standards have changed that. Now students of all ages must provide evidence in their work. For example, students may be presented with two texts, each about a different location. They would then write an essay about which location they would enjoy visiting the most, backing up their choice with evidence found in the text. This process teaches students how to find and use examples to support their claims, a skill they must have later in their educational careers.

How evidence ties to future success
While young students may not need to develop an in-depth argument in their writing, college professors and future employers will expect them to do so when they are older. For example, high school and college students must write research papers, an endeavor that requires them to use supporting evidence to create a sound argument. Advanced Placement, ACT and SAT tests feature writing prompts that ask students to read a passage and use the information to formulate a thesis. College only becomes more challenging, with research required in most classes. For this reason, the Standards introduce empirical writing early so students can adjust over time. 

Evidential writing in play
Students will be able to master the skill of using evidence to support their writing if they begin doing so at a young age. Ideally, this skill will help prepare them for college and their careers. Of course, before teachers can discover how effective this theory is in the long run, they have to see if students handle new writing standards well in class.  According to the Hechinger Report, writing using evidence presents challenges, but is effective.