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The strength of ‘power writing’ at Adams Elementary

Beginning this year, third-grade teachers in Lincoln Public Schools are employing a powerful new method to help teach writing. It’s called “power writing,” and its effectiveness was on full display recently at Adams Elementary School.

Teacher Sarah Ideus devoted about half of her hour-long second period to power writing, which involved the following steps:

  • Ideus gave the students the first of three words they would write about - in this case, “teacher.” “I’m going to write it on the board so you can see how to spell it because I know spelling is important to you,” Ideus said.
  • The students were given one minute of “think time,” when they could brainstorm words they associate with “teacher.” “Hopefully you have lots of ideas in your mind,” Ideus said.
  • The students wrote for one minute, with the goal being to write as many words as possible. Said Ideus: “If we get the equal amount of time to think as we do to write, hopefully it will increase the number of words per minute, right?”
  • Finally, they counted the words and recorded the number in their booklet designated for power writing.

The students repeated these steps for the words “classmate” - which also was a vocabulary word that week - and “friend.” When they finished all three, they recorded the largest of their three numbers on a seperate piece of paper, adding it to a graph so they can track their progress from day to day.

Lisa Oltman, the LPS K-6 English Language Arts Curriculum Specialist, said the purpose of power writing is to increase the fluency of students’ writing.

“Often we as writers get so caught up in writing correctly that we are generating ideas, revising and editing all at the same time. Sometimes this can look like writer’s block because it makes us slow to get words on paper,” Oltman said. “This can help students improve at getting their ideas down on paper quickly and then revising and editing afterwards.”

Back in room 143 at Adams Elementary, it was only the third day of power writing but Ideus and her students could already see improvement. Ideus offered students high-fives as they excitedly announced their numbers.

“I had 18 and now I got 23!”

“I got 28!”

“Me, too!”

One of the students commented how his graph looked like stair steps.

“If yours isn’t looking like stair steps yet, let’s say yours is kind of flat, do you think I’m worried, though?” Ideus asked.

“No,” the students replied.

“That’s right,” she said. “This will get easier. This is something new - this is brand new. We just don’t want a staircase going down, down, down every day. Sometimes the words will be perfect for you. Sometimes these words are just going to strike things in your brain and you’re going to be able to write a lot. Some days these words up here on the board aren’t going to fit you very well. You might have trouble thinking, you might have trouble writing. You might have a bad day.


Published: September 10, 2018, Updated: September 10, 2018

"Sometimes the words will be perfect for you. Sometimes these words are just going to strike things in your brain and you’re going to be able to write a lot. Some days these words up here on the board aren’t going to fit you very well. You might have trouble thinking, you might have trouble writing. You might have a bad day. But the next day will probably be better."

Sarah Ideus, third-grade teacher at Adams Elementary School