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Katie Alcorn and Brandon Getz Aug 11, 2022 10:53:56 AM 3 min read

Writing as Teachers, Thinking like Writers: Product Development Writing Workshops

Writing online curriculum requires exceptional pedagogy along with subject matter expertise to ensure that students are learning from educationally sound materials. However, it is equally important that written material is clear, concise, and comprehensible – all qualities of well-written work. Since many of our curriculum writers come from an educational background rather than a writing background, we recently conducted a series of writing workshops with the primary purpose of getting everyone to think like a writer.

Beginning in January of this year and occurring once a month, the workshops began by familiarizing the team with both the steps of the writing process and the five areas of development in writing. The workshops included all writers and editors on the team and were conducted in a presentation format that also encouraged discussion and welcomed collaborative engagement from all participants. 

Who We Are

Katie is the curriculum specialist on the Product Development team, as well as a certified ELA teacher and reading specialist who has been in charge of EdisonLearning's ELA curriculum for seven years. Brandon Getz is the senior copy editor on the Product Development team and a published author of two books. His background in fiction writing, in which he earned an MFA, served as inspiration and model for these workshops. With Katie's extensive knowledge of English/ELA pedagogy and Brandon's grammar expertise and experience in the writing world, we were able to leverage our collective experience to focus these workshops specifically on how to write EdisonLearning lessons while helping to broaden the scope of what those lessons can be.

The Writing Process

The writing process is typically broken into five steps: planning, writing, revising, editing, and publishing. While some people may solely associate the writing process with writing an essay, story, or article, we also apply it to the curriculum writing process. This ensures that each lesson can be written to a high standard.

To apply the writing process to a lesson, we advise that writers take the following steps:

  • Planning: Create an outline of the lesson
  • Writing: Write a draft of the lesson, based on the outline
  • Revising: Review and revise the lesson to address issues with content, organization, focus, and style.
  • Editing: Review and edit the lesson to correct mistakes in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and other conventions.
  • Publishing: Move the lesson to the next phase of the development process.

Five Areas of Development

Once we clearly defined the writing process, our next step was to begin to discuss the five areas of development: focus, organization, content, style, and conventions. In these workshops, we defined these five areas as follows:

  • Focus: The process of writing with the audience and purpose in mind
  • Organization: The process of presenting ideas in a logical order and utilizing organization techniques to create clarity for the audience
  • Content: The development of ideas in writing
  • Style: The stylistic aspects of writing, such as format, layout, word choice, tone, etc.
  • Conventions: The rules of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar when writing

When running these writing workshops, we felt that it was important to not only familiarize our writing team with terms, but to also discuss strategies for application. Items we discussed included:

  • How can you tell if an objective is clearly written and measurable? 
  • What strategies do you use to make sure you are considering the audience when you write?
  • How do you ensure the content is relevant to the objectives?​
  • How do ensure you're not writing too much or too little?
  • How do you ensure the content is relevant to the students?
  • What are some strategies you can use to create relevant content?
  • What does it mean to write concisely?

Writing Goals

We ended our first phase of writing workshops by asking everyone to set at least one writing goal. Writers were asked to identify an area of writing that they wanted to work on improving, and then identify strategies they could implement to help meet this goal.

Takeaways

Discussing the process of writing not only builds writing skills, but also increases an educational writer's strategy toolbox, encourages them to think critically about the content they are producing, and improves collaboration across subject areas. Our next step is to begin to present and offer feedback on each other's work to continue to grow and improve as writers. 

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