CCSS writing anchor standard four states that students need to, “Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.”
This standard does not apply to children in kindergarten, first-, or second-grades. The authors of the Common Core decided that this was an expectation for which establishing clear guidelines for was not necessary until third grade.
In third grade, the Common Core recommends that students, “With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.” In fourth and fifth grade, the expectation changes only in that children should “produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose” without “guidance and support from adults.”
Why the exclusion on K-2 in the writing expectations for clarity and cohesion? With “guidance and support from adults” is it not possible for children in grades kindergarten, first, and second to write clearly and coherently?
In order to answer this question, we turn to Appendix C which offers writing samples from every grade level, providing educators a context for thinking about the implications of teaching writing in the Common Core era. Let’s begin by looking at an informative report produced by a first grade writer.
Part of clear and coherent writing is topic focus and development. In this example, this writer chose a topic (Spain) and proceeded to report a series of facts and informative tidbits about the country as alluded to in the title “My Big Book About Spain.” This writer’s inclusion of details such as “Spain has a lot of fiestas” and “Spain has bull fights” and “Spain’s neighbors are France, Andorra, Algeria, Portugal, and Morocco” seem quite “appropriate to the task” which appears to be to write an all about book about a country.
Clear and coherent writing could be further defined by the way in which a writer organizes information in an effort to communicate with readers. In this example, this writer begins with the sentence, “Spain is in Europe.” Given that this is an “all about” book, this sentence introduces the reader to the topic and then proceeds to round out the topic development with a multitude of relevant facts and figures to feed a curious reader wanting to know more about Spain. The writer clearly indicates that (s)he is done writing by including the sentence “One day when I am a researcher, I am going to Spain and write about it.” In this example, there is a clear beginning, middle, and end to the text, even though the format is decidedly non-narrative.
We began this post by asking the question: With “guidance and support from adults” is it not possible for children in grades kindergarten, first, and second to write clearly and coherently?
This example and most of the examplars for kindergarten through second grade in Appendix C reflect the qualities of clarity and coherence. These exemplars communicate the high expectations which primary writers CAN and SHOULD meet, but yet, these expectations are not communicated by the Common Core itself. While there is no way of knowing how much support this writer received in composing this text, it is most definitely clear and coherent, making us wonder why the authors of the Common Core postponed this expectation until third grade. As far as we can see, this is one place where they set the bar too low.