In 2006, teachers at Laurel Elementary School in the Compton Unified School District formed a writing committee to design a writing program to converge isolated skills that typically overwhelm teachers and students The Laurel Street Writing Program is innovative because it prescribes a consistent structure for organizing student writing and has progressively rigorous frames that are applicable to different writing genres for all grade levels.
The writing template integrates several research-based tools and strategies and helps students put different isolated skills together in one task. It synthesizes teacher and student learning and allows students and teachers to be constant learners. The template is easy to use and addresses multiple learning modalities. It is applicable to all genre of writing across disciplines and provides a solid foundation for writing in college. The program addresses writing skills and strategies and their application thereby facilitating the mastery of reading comprehension standards that have challenged teachers and students for several years. The writing template is a visual breakdown of specific components of the different parts of an essay or paragraph that results in a coherent, focused and well organized piece of student writing. It addresses many facets of writing instruction across grade levels and across genres. It systematically builds on previously taught skills to scaffold learning for all students. It is designed to encourage independent learning using the gradual release of independence model to facilitate academic growth and increase student achievement.
Each template consists of several rectangular spaces that are used to write and organize students’ thoughts to facilitate transition from brainstorming using a graphic organizer to a focused, organized, and well structured piece of writing. As a teaching tool, it facilitates the embedding of fundamental components of writing by ensuring that students organize their thoughts in a coherent manner. Unlike other visual organizers, the Laurel Writing Template is not rigid; students are not constrained so they are able to add to it, express their creativity and internalize the process.
The Laurel Street Writing Program provides consistent and common language school wide. It provides vocabulary for each genre, and the purpose of each genre. Furthermore, teachers are able to address different levels of complexity in sentence structure as the school year and grade level advances. As a result, 4th and 5th grade students are able to focus on refining fundamental skills. For example, 4th and 5th grade students are able to focus on how a hook may change to suit the genre or audience or purpose rather than what a hook is, which the focus at the lower grade levels. Expectations for each grade level are reflective of and exceed state and national standards for writing.
To meet the needs of our English language learners and special needs students, the program provides genre specific resources like transition words, introductory phrases, sentence frames and concluding phrases. The program aligns with and supplements the district’s initiative for English language learners using a systematic ELD/SDAIE lesson sequence. The Laurel Writing template has been adopted by several schools in the district.