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Zooming in on the vertical progression in writing

by Sarah Tierney

You’d be hard-pressed to find a school that isn’t focused on improving student writing. And that’s not surprising—it takes a lot of practice to transfer thoughts into writing, and to do so in a clear, compelling way.

One of the ways we can help students become better writers is by deepening our understanding of the way standards connect and build on one another as students move from one grade to the next. When we only look at the standards for our own grade, it can be challenging to understand how this learning fits within the scope of a year or across the multiple years students will spend learning to hone their writing skills. In a way, we're looking at the standards in a vacuum. 

Studying the vertical progression allows us to see where students need to make cognitive leaps, such as moving from writing about their opinions to crafting arguments.

But when we look at the progression of standards across grades, we’re able to contextualize our grade-level learning goals and ensure the tasks we're putting in front of students are rigorous. Improving writing in our classrooms is no small task. It requires that we strategically support that builds on previous learning, such as using dialogue and descriptions, or using transition words to connect ideas.

Learning to write well can take a lifetime. But we want to give our students a solid start. See the resource page for ideas.

We’ve spent ten years learning from thousands of leaders and teachers across the country about the things that make a big difference for schools. Now, we want to give you the opportunity to do the same. We’ve organized these Lessons From the Field in a new section of our website by our main areas of focus—everything from harnessing the power of formative assessments to fostering a culture of adult learning.

Sarah is a director of new partnerships and former coach at ANet. She’s leading the Lessons From the Field project.

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