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Principal’s Toolkit: Writing Strand

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Course Description

Writing for Understanding is a process of writing that is built on 3 foundational pillars: Backward Design; Deep Understanding of Content and Skills; and Purposeful Instruction. It is predicated on the belief that the more intentional the instruction, guidance, and feedback that teachers deliver before and as students write, the less revision that needs to be done after the fact. In this integrated reading/writing process, first drafts immediately demonstrate student improvement has taken place.

Participants in this strand will learn what an effective writing program looks like as well as the basic qualities of good writing which all administrators, teachers, and students should know. In the first workshop session, we will concentrate on Vermont writing language, standards, and GEs, and examine how the NECAP purports to accurately address each of these elements.

Course Goals/Objectives:

Participants in this strand will:

• discover barriers that prevent students from writing well;
• discuss the popular myths of writing;
• explore the effective use of portfolios;
• determine the difference between scoring and grading;
• examine the state and revised rubrics; and
• learn a protocol for looking at student work.
• discuss how teachers can become coaches of student writers rather than critics.

Participants will learn what to look for on a walk-through visit and a formal observation, using an observation check vist and actual classroom videos. They will also practice developing and asking questions to reveal learning, and discuss how to support and encourage reluctant teachers.


Karen Kurzman, a National Board Certifited teacher, has been teaching for 30 years, teaching every grade from preschool to 12th grade with the exception of grades 2 and 4. She also worked for the State Department of Education and Vermont Institutes as a writing consultant. She was a member of the team that wrote the Tri-STate GEs and the blueprint for the NECAP Writing Assessement. She is the author of the Exemplar series, Developing Writers and as a founding member of The Vermont Writing Collaborative, one of the authors of the book and program Writing for Understanding.