Writing for Understanding is based on the premise that writing is ultimately about meaning. We believe that students need to understand the topic they are writing about deeply in order to use appropriate writing structures and tools effectively. Deep understanding ultimately helps students internalize new writing techniques and then transfer learning to their next writing opportunities.

To do this effectively you use:

Backward design

“Plan backwards” using the Understanding by Design work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe by starting with the big ideas you want students to be able to write about and then instructing content and writing tools to help them get there along the way.

Emphasis on understanding

Students need to understand a topic deeply to be able to write about it effectively. This means they need to be able to build meaning around a topic by gathering concrete evidence, often from rich texts. Once students have a nuanced understanding of a topic, then they need to be able to flexibly apply an understanding of writing craft.

Direct instruction

Students thrive with direct instruction followed by lots of guided practice. Using direct instruction and guided practice throughout a sequence helps frontload the writing process so that by the end, students have a piece of writing that is clearly structured, well developed, and thoughtful – and a set of skills that are on their way to being transferrable. This direct instruction includes frequent, built-in oral processing.                       

Explore our Projects & Resources page to learn how to implement Backward Design, Emphasis on Understanding and Direct Instruction in your classroom.