Berkeley ELL Writing
Power Writing and Four Square Strategies
August, 2014
Susan M. Schultz
Writing and the Common Core
Review the writing standards for your grade
With a partner discuss the challenges these
standards present for your students.
Writing Research
• Only 24% of 8th and 12th graders perform at the
proficient level in writing, and 3% at the
advanced level. (NAEP 2011)
• College instructors estimate that 50% of high
school graduates are not prepared for collegelevel writing. (Achieve 2005)
• Minnesota seniors submitted writing to college
professors. Over 95% of writing was narrative
and 97% not deemed college ready!
National Commission On Writing
Time: The amount of time students spend on writing should
be at least doubled.
Writing Across the Curriculum: Because of the near total
neglect of writing outside of English departments
teachers of history, science, art, P.E., social studies, etc.
should encourage students to write more.
Assignments: More out of school time devoted to writing.
Students should write every day and teachers provide
regular and timely feedback.
Considerations for ELL Students
• Create many opportunities for students to
engage in rich, purposeful reading and
discussion of the topic before writing.
• Use mentor texts for examples of structure and
• Gradual release of responsibility
• Anchor charts with examples, sentence lead ins,
key words.
I. Four Square Writing Method
Four Square
The Four Square is an organizer that
combines the best of the outline, web,
semantic map and other writing
approaches (e.g. hamburger).
Teachers can use it for instructional
purposes from writing with pictures to
producing multi-sentence paragraphs.
Four Square in Primary Grades
1. The teacher demonstrates with a topic and pictures
that relate to the topic. Ask students to talk about how
the pictures fit the topic.
2. The teacher selects a topic and allows students to draw
pictures in each box that fit the given topic allowing
many opportunities for students to talk about their
3. Students or teachers select a topic, draw, and begin to
write words, sentences or invented writing about the
Four Square Sophistication
1. Students write a concluding thought about their four
2. Students write opening topic sentence, list details in
each box, and write a phrase of topic for each box.
3. Students support thoughts with three details in each
square and write a conclusion.
4. Students construct a five paragraph essay with a topic
sentence/theme three paragraphs of support and a
concluding paragraph.
Four Square Facilitation
Model at each stage
Provide mentor texts already completed
Post charts with transition words to begin paragraphs
Choose subjects and topics that the students know
II. Power Writing for Fluency
Why do students lack writing fluency?
• They have too few opportunities to write
• They fear that what they write may be
• They lack a metacognitive awareness of
how to begin
What is writing fluency?
Writing fluency is not simply getting lots of words
down on paper as fast as one can, anymore
than reading is merely decoding text quickly.
Writing fluency means quickly creating a
cohesive message. As students develop writing
fluency, their word choice and phrasing should
become more sophisticated – adding expression
and depth to their writing.
Power Writing Defined
Power writing is a timed activity that requires
students to write as many words as they
can on a topic in a given amount of time.
Power Writing Advantages
• Stamina
• Confidence
• Students create a cohesive message, as
word choice and phrasing become more
sophisticated – adding expression and
depth to writing.
Where to begin?
• Pre-selected topics
• Informational text from the curriculum in
language arts, social studies, or science
• Topics of interest to all students in the
• Student suggestions for writing
Power Writing Teacher Script
“Write as much as you can, as well as you
can about….”
Power Writing Gradual Release
Teacher modeling
e.g. ‘write as much as you can as well as you can
about your favorite part of the morning’
Student Practice
Group practice with teacher assistance or collaborative
groups/work stations.
Individual Practice
Students on their own.
Let’s Practice!
Write as much as you can, as well as you
can, about a goal you have for your
students or class this year.
Reflection on writing
• What do you notice?
• What were you surprised by?
• What would it take to get better?
Collaborative Group Work
Groups select topics from pre-selected
envelopes. One person selects topics and
is the timer; other students write and graph
results. (Can be table work or work
Teacher works with those students needing
more support.
What………….So What?
What implications might power writing have
for your group?
Formative Assessment
Remember it is not about writing as many
words as you can. It is about easily
getting your meaningful ideas down in
Four Square and Power Writing
With your neighbor share when you might or
should use Power Writing or Four Square
with your students.
Four Square Uses
Science vocabulary
High frequency words
Reading Street prompts
Writing center
Content review
Research projects
Author studies
Whole group – add details
Power Writing Uses
Exit slip – check on content
Reading responses
Confidence building/goal setting
Progress Monitoring
Grammar conventions
Extended writing pieces
Peer conversations

Power Writing & Four Square PowerPoint