High Quality Work – Claim 3

Campbell students demonstrate growth in higher order literacy
skills through the increase of complexity
in writing within expeditions.


The writing workshop model at Campbell is use to foster a culture of process writing. Students engage in all facts of an authentic process: idea generation, drafting, revising, editing and publishing to compose narrative, opinion, and informational pieces with increasing complexity. By apprenticing themselves to mentor authors, students explore and utilize a variety of craft moves to compose unique and engaging texts. Literacy tasks now play a central role in expeditions. Written products reflect the rich tasks and perseverance necessary to drive students to do more than they may have thought possible. Student writing is enjoyed and critiqued audiences of their peers, teachers, and the greater community. Rubrics and checklists keep them focused on the expectations and assignments are scaffolded so all students develop their writing identities which in turn enables them to achieve at high levels and feel pride in their achievements.

Writing Prompt Data

writing score data-click for readable view

Several years ago, the state of Virginia eliminated the 5th grade writing SOL exam. In its place, districts were required to administer a district wide writing prompt in 5th grade.  In 2016-2017, 56% of students at Campbell were below benchmark in writing. By 2017-2018, however, that number dropped to 40% at Campbell, while the percentage of students below benchmark remained constant in APS. (The APS comparison group includes all APS schools, not only those that receive Title 1 funds.) In order to receive a strong score, when writing persuasively, students typically need to demonstrate significant strength in composition, craft, and elaboration.

Below Benchmark 2016-2017 On Benchmark 2016-2017 Above Benchmark 2016-2017 Below Benchmark 2017-2018 On Benchmark 2017-2018 Above Benchmark 2017-2018
Campbell 56% 26% 18% 40% 48% 12%
Arlington Public Schools 56% 32% 12% 56% 30% 14%

The APS rubric changed in 2018-2019. The results in the chart below indicate that Campbell students continue to write on or above grade level. This cohort of 5th graders represents a high percentage of students with disabilities, including students in the Interlude program. 81% of students met or exceeded the expectations for composition and expression, while 76% made grade level expectations for usage and mechanics.

Percentage of students Composition and Expression Usage and Mechanics
Advanced 43% 34%
Proficient 39% 43%
Approaching 13% 22%
Developing 5% 1%


The Organism Expedition: Complex Narrative Writing
For several years fifth grade students at Campbell have used the pond in the courtyard and the wetlands on school grounds as a setting for learning about the classification of organisms in their expeditions. In the “Miniature Kingdoms” expedition students researched organisms to produce a writing piece comparing two organisms found in the Campbell outdoor classroom. Though comparing them required a certain level of analysis by students, we sought to incorporate even greater complexity.

Organism Comparison Writing Products from 2014
Click image to view full document.

HQW 3 Water Mite & Nematope writing                     Tardigrades and the Water Beetle document

In 2018, the expedition became more complex, in that it was driven by an authentic question. “How can we leave a mark on a place that has left its mark on us?” [This inquiry allowed students to pursue a natural writing connection]. In the “Campbell’s Kingdom” expedition, students wrote a narrative piece about a crystalline memory from Campbell’s outdoor classroom which left its mark on them. Each student listed various memories in their writing journals and then evaluated them to decide which one truly changed them.

Their higher order writing skills are also evident in the students’ ability to “show instead of tell” the story of our Campbell outdoor classroom. Students used the Smithsonian’s Community of Gardens website as a model of excellence. They were able to view links from writers around the country who have shared their personal narratives about their own gardens. The Smithsonian website then became an authentic audience for Campbell students’ complex writing. Student work that keep that was submitted to the Smithsonian Community of Gardens website is below.

Click image to view full document.

Community of Gardens document

The “Simple Machines” Expedition: Complex Persuasive Writing
Student writing as part of the 3rd grade expedition has improved in complexity. Students visit local playgrounds as part of their fieldwork to learn about simple machines. Initially, students wrote short paragraphs about which simple machine was the most important and why. In 2017-2018, students focused on writing a “how to” manual for the recess equipment that each class designed and produced. This product had a deeper connection to the playground equipment fieldwork and represents the heart of the expedition. Below are work samples from that expedition.

Click image for larger view.

How to Play Outdoor Marble Run document           Indoor Recess Equipment document

In 2018-2019, student work required greater sophistication. Instead of merely writing to inform, students used their knowledge to persuade the principal of a new APS school to purchase a specific piece of playground equipment. Students applied what they learned from an interview with APS staff about playground specifications to decide how to craft their argument. Students thenwrote persuasive letters to the principal of the new APS elementary school.Click image for larger view.

3rd GR Persuasive Writing         Letter to principal         Persuasive Letter

The “Animal Adaptations” Expedition: Complex Informational Writing
The Campbell 2nd grade expedition about animal adaptations has long required students to compare the adaptations of animals in the Arctic with those native to Virginia.  It emphasized an animal’s need to have specific adaptations in order to survive in their environment. Some of our earliest expedition writing products required minimal writing on the part of the students. See products below.  Click image for larger view.

Polar Bear Book image          Polar Bear Postcards

In 2016, student interest in the series of books by Jerry Pallotta, entitled Who Would Win, sparked student interest in writing their own series of books which they titled “Who Would Survive?”.  In this expedition students compared two similar animals, one from the Arctic and one from Virginia. Within the book, students researched and wrote about their animal’s specific adaptation.  Students used technology to publish their final products. See work samples below.  Click image to view full book.

2016                        2017

Who Would Survive Arctic Fox vs Red Fox 2016      Snowy Owl vs Barred Owl

The complexity of student writing improved substantially in 2018. The students transitioned from simply describing the animal’s adaptation by sharing a couple of facts to writing complete comprehensive paragraphs based on more extensive research. Students even hypothesized about how the animals would adapt in a different ecosystem. Teachers also gave students descriptive feedback during the draft and revision stages instead of merely making corrections for students. Students worked diligently to understand how to organize nonfiction text so it is informative and appealing. In 2018, student work was significantly more detailed, accurate, and beautiful.

WWW-Belber-2018                               Who Would Survive writing checklist

2018 Who Would Survive                           Writing Rubric

Student reading his Who Would Survive book

Expedition Showcase

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