Instructional Routines & Practices Instructional Routines & Practices


Writing: Planning and Organization


This acronym stands for Opinion Reason Opinion. It also references a familiar sandwich cookie, which reinforces the opinion framework that sandwiches supporting reasons between an opening opinion statement and concluding opinion statement. Students can use this routine to develop their ideas for opinion writing of many kinds. Use the organizer below as a guide for teaching and implementing OReO instruction.

OReO Table



Write an opinion or something you think.



Provide a reason to convince a reader to agree with your opinion.



Provide a reason to convince a reader to agree with your opinion.



Provide a reason to convince a reader to agree with your opinion.



Write your opinion again



  1. Explain that the “Painted Essay” is a model developed by the Vermont Writing Collaborative. It gives writers a way to see clearly how writers organize essays. Share an informational or argumentative essay. Model how to “paint” or highlight the first paragraph, and then lead students in marking the rest of an essay. Tell students you will use the following colors to mark the essay:
    • Red = Introduction/conclusions
    • Yellow = Point #1
    • Blue = Point #2
    • Green = Thesis/thesis restated (opinion for an argumentative essay)
  2. If your students have not yet been introduced to the concept of a thesis statement, briefly explain what this sentence is and how it is different from a topic statement. Say: The thesis statement is the sentence that makes a statement about the whole essay. In an opinion essay, this would be the opinion or claim. It’s the main idea that the writer will develop and prove throughout the essay.
  3. Next, model how to highlight the essay’s introduction.


RACS is a list of criteria for evidence and elaboration within informational and argumentative writing. We introduce it in KIPP Wheatley in Grades 4–5 and use it more extensively in Grades 6–8. Use the information below to incorporate RACS into writing instruction.

RACS Table

RelevantRelates to the topic, question or claim. Answers the question.This is the most important element of RACS. Without relevance, the other categories don’t matter for answering the question or prompt.
AccurateEvidence comes from the text and is accurately quoted or paraphrased.This aspect is weak when students make statements or inferences that cannot be supported by the text, as well as when information is misinterpreted or misrepresented. It is strong when responses are based on textual information.
ClearIt is clear what point or claim is being supported. Language is concise and understandable.Clarity reflects organization and language. Are supportive details provided next to claims or randomly throughout a response? Is it easy to read and understand?
SpecificEvidence and elaboration provide details that provide deeper understanding. Includes specific examples. Targets the strongest evidence and details for elaboration.Specificity is what takes writing from good to great. Examples and quotes from the text provide more specificity than general, descriptive statements. Well-chosen examples and quotes that include the most compelling evidence or support are more specific than those that are randomly chosen.

Relevant, Accurate and Specific: Evidence Practice Use this quick formative check to assess students’ understanding of RACS. Direct students to choose the response that matches the criteria in question. ONE: Is it relevant?
  • Political example. Question: How can you be equipped to govern when you have never held office before?
    1. I am a patriot. I always put America first.”
    2. “I led a Fortune 500 company and have extensive experience in management and leadership.”
    1. #2 The first respondent’s patriotism is not relevant to the question of not having held office or being equipped to govern. The second respondent gave relevant details about their experience, not their beliefs.
  • Food sales. Question: How healthy is your food?
    1. “We post all calorie counts and nutritional information. A dietician consults on all menus.”
    2. “Our burgers are delicious and received top marks from diners.“
    1. #1 Nutritional information is relevant to the question of health; tastiness and customer reviews are not.
TWO: Is it accurate?
  • Poetry example. What accurate statements can we make about Jack and Jill from this rhyme? “Jack and Jill went up the hill, to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.”
    1. Jack fell down first.
    2. They were told to get the water together.
    3. Jill likes Jack.
    4. Jack hurt his head.
    5. It was slippery.
    6. The water was up the hill.
    1. #1, #4 and #6 are accurate (can be accurately supported by the text.); #2—the text does not indicate why they went together; #3—the text does not indicate anything about either character’s feelings; #5 –this choice is an inference that cannot be accurately supported by the text.
THREE: Is it specific? Which examples are the most specific? What makes them specific?
  • Political Example. How will you pay for your plan to offer free college?
    1. I will raise taxes for people making over $250,000 by .025%
    2. I will raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
    1. #1 is more specific because it defines who “the wealthiest Americans” are and how much they will be taxed. Note that both answers are relevant.
  • Food sales example. How healthy is your food?
    1. Our menu is all low-fat food with main courses such as grilled chicken, poached salmon and tofu stir-fry; salads with fresh vegetables and fruit; and drinks such as unsweetened iced tea, low-sugar lemonade, and flavored waters.
    2. Our menu has a variety of low-fat options with high protein entrees, fresh salads, and low-sugar drinks.
    1. #1 is more specific because it lists specific foods. Note that both answers are relevant.
For more on RACS, see this short video on KIPP Share.

Sentence Frames

Sentence frames help language learners to construct more complex sentences than they can create independently. However, sentence frames should not be allowed to become a crutch and should be used as a beginning scaffold only. It’s also important to be sure language learners understand the syntax of the frame, as English syntax may vary sharply from that in a student’s first language.

How to Use This Routine

Construct a sentence frame for a prompt or exit ticket, leaving blanks for key words that allow students to show their learning. Model how to use the sentence frame before giving it to students, asking them to determine the kind of a word required by each blank. Examples:

  • Q: How does the circulatory system work? Sentence Frame: The circulatory system works by ____________________.
  • For referencing text evidence: According to _________[title] by _________ [author} on p #, “_______________.”

Talk First

English learners benefit from talking before expressing ideas in writing. Talking helps them develop and organize ideas, get comfortable with new vocabulary, and practice sentence structure and appropriate syntax.

How to Use This Routine

  • Direct Students to express their answers verbally before responding to an exit ticket or writing prompt.
  • Monitor and guide the discussion.
  • Variations:
    • Use These Words: Direct students to use specific words in a word bank or word wall. The Topic-Specific Vocabulary identified in the Module Overviews is a good source for such word lists.
    • Sentence Frames: Provide a sentence starter or frme for the discussion. These should always be modeled, as English learners can struggle with understanding the syntax presumed by a sentence frame.


TEEE is a framework for organizing ideas in informational writing. It is introduced in KIPP Wheatley in Grade 3. Use the information below to incorporate TEEE into writing instruction. Each letter of TEEE stands for a necessary sentence in an explanatory paragraph: Topic, Evidence, Explanation and Elaboration, Ending. If necessary, review each of these parts with students. Clarify that elaboration provides more detail about evidence, such as explaining why that piece of evidence matters. Share an example from a current reading text or sample writing. (The sample provided here relates to a writing task from Grade 4, Module 2.) Writers should use appropriate linking words to connect their ideas within TEEEs paragraphs.

TEEE Table

TopicHurricanes are one of the most extreme types of weather.
Linking Word/PhraseFor example
Evidencethey are the strongest of the three kinds of tropical cyclones
Linking Word/Phrasebecause
Explanationthey have faster steady winds than the other two kinds.
Linking Word/PhraseIn fact,
Elaborationall Hurricanes have winds of 74 or more miles per hour.
Linking Word/PhraseTherefore,
Summaryhurricane winds create extremely dangerous weather.

Completed paragraph. 

Hurricanes are one of the most extreme types of weather. For example, they are the strongest of the three kinds of tropical cyclones because they have faster steady winds than the other two kinds. In fact, all hurricanes have winds of 74 or more miles per hour. Therefore, hurricane winds create extremely dangerous weather.


Assessment or on-demand prompts pose different challenges than classroom or homework writing. Assessment is often timed and measured against very specific criteria. Students must quickly identify what the prompt requires and consider how much time to allow for each part of the task. Such quick analysis takes practice, especially because so much depends on completing it quickly. Teachers frame this practice in many ways. Here are some ideas:

Read the Prompt First

It is important for students to read the prompt before reading long passages so that they can read with a question in mind and annotate accordingly. The question that students usually read with, “what happens next?”, is not sufficiently focused to prepare students to write an academic response. Therefore, they should read the prompt first and translate that prompt into a question they can remember as they read.

Ask, What Must I Do?

Students ask themselves: What must I do? To answer it, they

  • identify prompt verbs, which convey the action students must take in their writing.
  • identify the task, which is typically captured in the object of the verb. Write an essay. List details. Explain reasons.
  • ask, where will I find this information in the text? What details do I need to include?

Annotate the Prompt to Prioritize

Students read the prompt again completely for general understanding. Then they should reread to

  • highlight/underline/circle verbs
  • rank tasks is order of priority
  • create an organizer, list, outline, or other evidence collector of main ideas and supporting evidence

Plan Time

Students minimize anxiety about assessment writing by planning their time. Have students use this guide for essay writing, adjusting as needed if a task is especially complex or particularly simple.

  • Planning/prewriting: ⅙ of total time
  • Drafting: ⅔ of total time
  • Revising/Editing: ⅙ of total time

Students then follow these steps:

  • List total time for the task =
  • Record the clock time at start =
  • Start task 1 at
  • Start task 2 at
  • Start task 3 at
  • Start task 4 at
  • Check progress against the clock or a watch. Proceed to the next step when the plan requires and return to uncompleted sections later. (It’s better to have an essay with all the parts than one with a great introduction and no conclusion.)

Read and Annotate for Evidence

Students should read fictional text for gist, with a simple paraphrase of each section. They can also annotate with a simple code (such as a check mark or a C for character, or S for solution) to identify information they may wish to use in their response.

With informational text, it is imperative that students understand the question they are writing to before reading. Then they can code information as they read it with simple notes such as When, why, opposing idea, etc. that correspond with the details called for in the prompt.


An essential step in the writing processno matter the purpose of the writingis to unpack the prompt. In this process, writers analyze important language in a prompt to understand everything that the task requires. Such analysis informs every decision that a writer makes throughout the writing process. Use the word RAFTS to help students remember how to deconstruct a prompt.


Example from grade 3:

Prompt: What is a form of injustice that you see today? In your opinion, what should people do about it?

Choose an injustice. Write a speech that describes the injustice and tells people what to do about it.

Unpack the Writing Prompt Table


In what role are you writing? Are you writing as yourself or are you writing in the role of another person?

What words in the prompt tell you about role?

I am writing as myself. The words you in the prompt tells me about role.


Who is your audience? (your classmates, a teacher, a friend, etc.) What words in the prompt tell you about audience?

My audience is other people. This group probably includes classmates, teachers, friends, and parents. The word people tells me about audience


What is the format? What type of writing does it require? How long is it supposed to be? What words in the prompt tell you about format?

I am writing a speech. The prompt doesn’t say exactly how long. The word speech tells me about format.


What are the verbs in the task asking you to do?

  • Choose an injustice

  • Write a speech

  • Describes the injustice

  • Tells people what they are to do about it

Strong keywords

What are the keywords or phrases that you need to include in your task?

Hint: Use these words in your focus statement.

  • Form

  • Injustice

  • In your opinion

  • People do about it

  • That you see today

Writing: Feedback

These routines or definitions define basic fluency issues and then address them in specific ways for Wheatley texts, such as reading poetry. They are general but you can adapt them to any grade. Use fluency routines to support students whenever fluency presents obstacles to understanding.

Model effective feedback for students as a guide for their own peer feedback work. Use the overall routines at any grade, adapting with the provided grade-band options as you wish.


Have students take turns reading or sharing their work with the class. Invite or prompt them to identify particular aspects that reflect their writing choices.


When students receive feedback, whether from you or classmates, they need to transform it into a series of actions. This process begins with specific, actionable, and achievable goals for which students can strive. Use this routine to support students in setting goals.

  • Have students craft goals immediately after receiving feedback (from teachers and/or peers).
  • These goals can apply to the same assignment, e.g., a writing task, or you can generalize them to a future assignment. Teachers should make students store goals for regular access, such as in students’ writing folders, and students should revisit them before resuming the pertinent task or applying to a generalized task.
  • Provide models of helpful (specific, actionable, and achievable) goals. Each goal statement should clearly explain what the student will do to improve writing. Share exemplar and non-exemplar goals with students:

Goal Setting Table



  • I will write sentences that start with different words

  • I will reread the prompt and check off each part as I write.

  • I will label my drawings

  • I will use the word wall when I write


  • I will try harder

  • I will work on sentences


  • I will make sure my evidence matches my reasons.

  • I will write sentences that start with different kinds of words (not all “the” and “and”).

  • I will reread the prompt and check off each part as I write.

  • I will use specific vocabulary from my word bank. I won’t use general words like “stuff.”

  • I will write all my paragraphs using TEEE



  • I will get a 3 on the rubric

  • I will try harder

  • I will work on sentences

  • I will challenge myself

  • Provide a template or sentence frames to capture the goals.
  • Conference with students to support and monitor progress on goal-setting, such as during independent writing.
  • Keep student goals visible as students work to implement feedback, such as during independent writing revision.


Use this instruction to support students in becoming effective peer reviewers and sharing effective feedback of all kinds.


Direct instruction

  1. Explain that students will review each other’s work just like you review their work. Peer review is a very important job. Say: How we talk about each other’s work really matterswe can be helpful, or we can be hurtful. Feedback can be a Star or a Step (positive or critical feedback) if it is specific, useful, and respectful.
  2. Explain that you try to model this constructive feedback with your feedback every day. Now you will share that process and then students will practice it.
  3. Post an anchor chart with the 3 feedback rules:

3 Feedback Rules Anchor Chart

Be specificBe usefulBe respectful

  1. Ask students why feedback must be specific.

Sample Student Responses

Sample Student Response for Feedback


  • It makes you feel good about your work if people notice the details.

  • It’s easier to decide exactly what to do to improve.

  • So people know what they should keep doingand what they can work on

  • It feels more trustworthy when you receive specific feedback

  1. Consolidate student answers to clarify that specific feedback identifies exactly what works well or needs improvement.
  2. Share that feedback is more helpful if it is useful. Discuss some ways to define useful feedback.
    • Possible: The student can actually complete the feedback. Say: Imagine this. Feedback that I don’t have time to complete just makes me feel bad. Feedback that requires materials or abilities that I don’t have makes me feel bad. Encourage students to think about what they could do and use that as a guide.
    • Relevant: It is important and related to the specific task. Say: Feedback about a classmate’s handwriting is relevant to an assignment to make a poster, where messy handwriting makes the poster less useful and effective. For a journal entry, neat handwriting isn’t important to the assignment, so feedback about it isn’t useful.
  3. Have students raise their hands if they work hard in school and care about their work. Emphasize that good peer reviewers notice how hard classmates have tried. They remember that a completed assignment really matters to the person who made it. These are two ways to be respectful.
  4. Model respectful language, using formats such as these:

Respectful Language Model


  • “My STAR/PRAISE for you is that you…..“

  • “I can see how hard you worked. One STEP/PUSH could be if you _________________________.”

  • “Your hard work with details really shows. One way you could make this writing even better would be to _________________________.”

  • “My praise for you is that you…..(give an example of something the student did well.)”
    “The rubric says _________________________, and you showed that when you _________________________.”

  • “My push for you is that you work on _________________________.”

  • “One way you could make this writing even better would be to _________________________.”


Model some or all of the following examples, one pair at a time (or create your own example pairs). Ask students to pick the most specific example in each:

Practice Respectful Language


  • Great job

  • This introduction is very catchy and makes me want to keep reading.


  • You didn’t do everything you were supposed to

  • The prompt asked for details. Maybe you could add labels to your drawing to explain how the shark’s body helps it.


  • You use a lot of different kinds of sentences. For example, the sentence “Leaping, diving and flicking their tongues, frogs catch insects by the pond” was such an interesting one.

  • Work harder on your sentences


  • I really like it. It’s great!

  • You showed a lot of details in your work, like when you showed how the leaf is attached to the tree.

  • Great job

  • This introduction is very catchy and makes me want to keep reading.


  • This work is not 4th grade level work

  • Your evidence doesn’t exactly match your reasons, for example you write that Milo is a great character, but then you talk about what happens to Milo, not about his character


  • You use a lot of different kinds of sentences. For example, the sentence “Leaping, diving and flicking their tongues, frogs catch insects by the pond” has a very complex structure.

  • Work harder on your sentences


  • I really like it. It’s great!

  • You brought in great evidence, and you ordered your points very logically. Also, your language was very clear and convincing.

For more on effective feedback, view the video about Austin’s Butterfly from Ron Berger, curator of Models of Excellence from Expeditionary Learning Education:


  1. Use this routine to engage students—especially those who are reluctant writers for any reason—or when writing tasks are particularly challenging.
  2. Prepare chart paper or a document camera so that students can all see the writing progress. Prepare a chalkboard or whiteboard for brief instruction, such as on a grammar or vocabulary point.
  3. Share the writing purpose and task, working always to create authentic writing students will find meaningful to their lives.
  4. Identify an area of focus for the shared writing practice, such as word choice or sentence construction.
  5. With students, build any background information or language students will need. Remember, you supply the bricks and students build the background foundation they need.
  6. Model the writing process for your identified writing practice, showing exemplary results as you build the draft.
  7. NOTE: If you wish to show non-exemplars, clearly identify these as including errors or you can confuse students.
  8. Use questions and prompts to elicit student input, then lead the class in deciding which input to add to the writing in progress.
  9. Pause during the shared process to discuss what
    • content should come next. Say/Ask: So far, we have written . What else do we need to write? What should we write next?
    • existing content needs revision. Review classroom practices for making changes, e.g. using carets and editing marks, writing in the margin, etc., and then engage student input about changes to make.
  10. Have students read the completed draft or read it aloud yourself to younger students. Ask: What did you learn about writing today?
  11. Reinforce the shared writing experience by referencing it during subsequent instruction and posting it for students’ use.


Explain that feedback should be specific, useful (possible and relevant), and respectful. Share each quality.



  • Highlight specific examples in the student’s work and use the language of the rubric and standards to discuss it.
  • Avoid sweeping judgments or generalities.

Examples and non-examples for specific writing feedback

Examples and Non-examples for Specific Writing Feedback



  • Your drawing of the shark is very detailed. You labeled the gills and different sets of teeth. That helped me learn about sharks.

  • I love the way you tried to spell hard words like “Tyrannosaurus” and “gigantic.”

  • It’s hard for me to tell when your sentences begin and end because there are no capitals or periods.


  • Great drawing!

  • You can do better

  • I liked it


  • This paragraph is a catchy introduction that makes me want to read more

  • You supply evidence for each point, but there is no elaboration for the evidence.

  • When you say “another reason” and “on the other hand,” it helps the reader follow your logicgood organization!


  • Great job!

  • This is not 8th grade work

  • Try harder!

Useful (possible, relevant)

  • Feedback is more helpful when it targets changes that can really be made.
  • Focus suggestions on changes students can make in the available time and with their age-appropriate skill set.
  • Feedback is useful when it is important and related to the task at hand.


  • Use language that
    • respects the effort students have made;
    • emphasizes the positive; and
    • provides solutions whenever possible, rather than just identifying problems.
    • Using a system to synthesize feedback, such as one Star (positive feedback) and one Step (areas for improvement) creates a framework for student goal-setting. Use this system or make your own.

Writing: Rubrics

The KIPP Wheatley curriculum includes writing rubrics to clarify expectations for student writing across the traditionally recognized categories of organization, development, language, conventions, and response to the prompt. We provide rubrics for the three main modes of writing identified by the Common Core State Standards: informational, opinion, and narrative. There is no rubric at this time for poetry. We provide teacher-facing and student-facing versions of each rubric, which correlate but are different in some ways. 


Rubrics are useful for both teachers and students. They help teachers with scoring, giving feedback, and adjusting instruction. For students, rubrics take the mystery out of grading criteria and can support goal setting and decision making.

Teacher Rubrics

The teacher rubrics include criteria for four levels of student work. KIPP Wheatley instruction and sample student responses target Level 3 – Proficiency. Level 4 typically reflects work and standards at the next grade level. Level 1 typically reflects work and standards at the previous grade level.


Scoring for Focus Writing Tasks

We recommend scoring student writing analytically with a numerical score for each writing category. These numerical scores help students to know exactly where their strengths and growth areas lie. Analytical scores can be accompanied by a holistic score, which is achieved by adding and averaging the individual scores. Teachers should holistically score the open-ended response writing items in the end-of-module assessments. 



The best feedback is specific, timely, nonjudgmental, and actionable. Teachers can use phrases from the rubric in their feedback, connecting specific elements of student writing to a particular rubric score.


Target Instruction

The rubric criteria can help pinpoint the necessary qualities to move student work from good to great. If many students get a “2” in a certain category, consider using a pause point to show exemplars of that criteria in the 3 and 4 range, and in setting actionable goals for students’ next writing task.


Correlation to Student Rubrics

Your score of 4 reflects student work that goes beyond the best self-assessment ranking available on the student rubric.

Student Rubrics

The student rubrics provide student-friendly rephrasing of the rubric criteria for Level 3, Proficiency work.  They also give students a 3-level ranking system to self-assess their progress toward mastery of those criteria, which might be characterized for students as Great Job!; Almost There; and Needs More Work. Student rankings target progress toward Level 3 Proficiency only and do not address Levels 1, 2, or 4 on the corresponding teacher rubric. If you feel a student has moved beyond the grade’s Level 3 proficiency criteria, provide the student rubric for the next grade level as a self-assessment tool.


The student-friendly rubrics are designed to be shared with students and used on a regular basis. Following are some ideas of how to use the rubrics:

  • Share the student rubric at the outset of the module. Since the rubrics are long, consider using only one section of the rubric at a time. For example, if students have had a lesson on organization, have them consult the organization section of the student rubric to evaluate their work of the day.
  • For K–2 students, the student rubrics include icons to make them more decodable, but you should review and confirm student understanding prior to each use.
  • Use the rubrics as a support for lessons, including feedback and revision
  • The scaffolded on-demand writing task at the end of each module integrates the rubric.

Using the Teacher and Student Rubrics Together

Read the teacher rubric fully to internalize and understand its intent. The teacher rubrics are necessarily more detailed than the student versions. After reading the teacher rubric, refer to the appropriate student rubric. Provide the copy with rankings in the left column to students. The correlation document shows how the teacher and student rubrics correlate.

Using Rubrics to Score Assessments

We designed the rubrics to be used with the focus writing tasks and with the open-ended response (OER) items in the formal end-of-module (EOM) assessments. When scoring assessment items, only use the rubrics for those OER items in the EOM that are tagged with a writing standard (W.1, W.2 or W.3.) Do not use the writing rubrics to score open ended response items from the checkpoint assessments that are tagged with a reading standard (RL or RI). In these items, you are scoring students on their understanding of reading rather than on their writing skill. But in the EOM items, the rubric is appropriate. In the EOM items, you will evaluate reading comprehension with the categories of “Focus on Task and Text” and “Development and Support” in the writing rubric. 


Typically, the scoring guide will have a three-point scale while the rubric is a four-point scale. That is because level 3, in both the rubric and assessment scoring, represents grade level proficiency. A four is reserved for above-grade level proficiency, and is usually more appropriate for process-based writing that is worked on over time. Likewise, the rubric does not have a 0 because it is almost never necessary for process-based writing. The levels in the rubrics and the scoring guide mean the same thing, as follows:  

Rubrics Use In Each Module

Assessment ScoringRubric Scoring                                                 
0 = no answer or no evidence of understanding NA
1 = minimal proficiency1 = minimal proficiency
2 = approaching grade level2 = approaching grade level
3 = grade level proficiency3 = grade level proficiency
NA4 = above grade level proficiency

Download Rubrics by Grade

List of Rubrics Used in Each Module

IR – Writing – Table 9

 Module 1Module 2Module 3Module 4Module 5
Grade KNarrativeInformative NarrativeInformativeOpinionInformative
Grade 1NarrativeInformativeOpinionInformativeNarrative
Grade 2InformativeNarrativeNarrativeOpinionInformative
Grade 3OpinionInformativeNarrativeInformativeOpinion
Grade 4InformativeInformativeOpinionNarrativeNarrative
Grade 5OpinionInformativeNarrativeOpinionNarrative
Grade 6NarrativeInformativeOpinionOpinionInformative
Grade 7NarrativeOpinionInformativeOpinionInformative
Grade 8NarrativeOpinionInformativeOpinionInformative