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Maureen Auman

Author of Step Up to Writing and founder of Read-Write Connection

Time to celebrate! Twenty-five years ago I took the first steps in developing the practical, exciting strategies that made a me a more effective teacher, empowering all students to feel successful with their reading and writing assignments.

Part of my celebration is launching this website as a place for me to share ideas, answer questions, provide guidance, and offer opportunities for professional development.

I welcome parents, teachers, and all those interested in helping students master important academic literacy skills.

One Teacher's Journey

(from Step Up to Writing, 3rd edition)

My journey with Step Up to Writing started in a classroom filled with eighth graders anxious to head to high school and nervous about passing their eighth grade exit exams.

It was the 1985-86 school year – the year I moved from teaching in a small, private K-8 school to a large suburban middle school. My six years of teaching experience only partially prepared me for the challenges I faced. My biggest challenge, preparing students to reach proficient or advanced levels on district and state writing assessments, forced me to rethink the way that I taught writing. Because of my competitive nature, my desire to keep my job, and my belief that all students can learn, I looked at the assessments as a challenge and took the role of coach. With the right strategies, clear directions, encouragement, and lots of practice, I was certain that my second period students (identified as remedial) would do as well as my eighth period honors students and third, fifth, and seventh period “regular” students.

The assessments required students to write information/expository paragraphs or essays on a variety of topics (descriptive, persuasive, compare/contrast) in a short period of time. I analyzed the skills that students needed to master and broke my instruction into small steps. I taught the steps one at a time using direct, explicit instruction as well as a workshop approach.

Students participated in active, hands-on lessons as I explained and showed them how to organize information effectively, how to create topic sentences and introductions in only a few moments, and how to support their topics with facts, details, and elaboration. I gave them strategies for organizing that could be used when they had plenty of time to write as well as when they had to watch the clock. All strategies were visual and practical – easy to learn and easy to use. We practiced each skill together.

Students then worked in pairs or in small groups. I helped individual students, and they helped each other. They felt comfortable sharing their work with me – and with their classmates. I noticed a dramatic improvement in all of the students’ work.

We wrote on a variety of topics but mostly about what we were reading at the time and content that they studied in other classes. Along with the writing strategies, I taught students to be active readers. Over a period of time they learned a number of practical strategies for reading and writing. They then used these strategies to complete daily assignments and on their exams.

The results were fantastic! Test scores validated the improvements that I had seen. Students and their families were pleased. Administrators and department leaders noticed. I, of course, was excited, but more importantly, I liked the fact that each day all students were on task and willing to write. Students like the clear, simple directions that saved them time, provided a structure, and encouraged them to share their ideas. Eventually, friends in my language arts department asked me to share the strategies that I had used with my students. Their enthusiasm and success with the strategies inspired teachers throughout the building. Math, science, social studies, health, art, and technology teachers joined us in an effort to improve the reading and writing skills of all students across content areas. The active reading, note-taking, summarizing, essay, and paragraph-writing strategies became the basis for a common language about literacy. Together we set high standards and high expectations for work from all students.

Later, I was asked to share the same strategies with other teachers. Kindergarten as well as high school science and history teachers attended workshops sponsored by my district. Teachers at all grade levels left the workshop inspired to try the strategies. It soon became obvious that elementary teachers were experiencing the same kinds of success that I had with my middle school students.

Teachers working with hearing-impaired students, special education teachers, and those working with students identified as gifted and talented all adapted the strategies to meet the needs of their students. The strategies, educators realized, produced immediate improvements, were flexible, and could be used to meet district or state standards. The word spread: practical, visual, hands-on, kinesthetic strategies help students learn and master important academic skills.

The word spread beyond my district and even more teachers wanted to learn the strategies, so I designed a graduate-level course open to all who were interested. The rest, as they say, “is history.” Teachers spread the word. Principals whose students had great success on district and state exams spread the word. Parents and students themselves spread the word.

Step Up to Writing, originally called The Read Write Connection, started as a simple effort to give eighth graders the skills and confidence they needed to pass a district exam. Thousands of teachers, in and out of the United States, now use Step Up strategies every day in their K-12 classrooms.

My hope is that Step Up to Writing 3rd Edition will inspire even more teachers to make all lessons active and multisensory – guaranteeing the academic success of students everywhere.

Maureen E. Auman