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Book review: 'The Common Core Writing Book' by Gretchen Owocki

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If your budget allows for one professional book purchase this year, an investment in The Common Core Writing Book by Gretchen Owocki (2013) will give you a resource rich in common core writing content, writing craft, lesson management, and organization.

Not many books can claim to truly reach the range of needs of kindergarten through fifth grade students but Gretchen Owocki did an outstanding job of differentiating instruction based on authentic assessment. Owocki has organized her book using the ten anchor writing standards.

She defined specific proficiencies for grades K-5 for each standard and provided modeled, guided, and independent instructional strategies for each. You will not find curriculum maps or calendars but instead you will discover approaches to boost the writing program you are using or use it to implement your own. The instructional strategies are labeled demonstration, collaborative engagement, and independent application.

For the demonstration experience part of the lesson, which can be whole group or small group, the teacher does a lot of modeling and direct teaching. Students engage each other in structured conversations about a topic taught in the demonstration phase during the collaborative engagement experiences.

Owocki described how to create purposeful and focused discussions by engaging students in higher level thinking conversations such as evaluating professional authors’ craft or looking at particular elements in several samples of writing. All elementary teachers will benefit from having The Common Core Writing Book in their professional library.

In addition, this resource will make a great study for Professional Learning Communities. No matter how the pendulum swings or where you are on your teaching path, the tools and strategies you will gain from purchasing this book have breadth of use and timeless concepts that will never become outdated.

Owocki, G. (2013) The common core writing book: Lessons for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences K-5. Portsmouth, NH. Heineman.