[Editor’s note: During the last school year, 4 DCPS schools piloted a program that engages students in analytical writing across the curriculum. DCPS was the first school district in the nation to adopt the program on a trial basis, and it plans to expand the pilot to an additional 6 to 8 schools this fall.

The program, developed by Dr. Judith C. Hochman, starts with exercises at the sentence level and gradually leads students through learning to outline what they’ll write and then composing paragraphs and essays. One high school in New York City has had great success with the Hochman Method.

We asked some of the DCPS educators who used the program last year to write about their experiences. This is the second of a 3-part series. You can find the first part of the series here. Disclosure: The editor of Greater Greater Education, Natalie Wexler, is a board member of The Writing Revolution, an organization that brings the Hochman Method into underserved schools.]

Photo of students writing from Shutterstock.

High schools often struggle to implement effective writing initiatives. But when the staff at Eastern Senior High School used the Hochman Method to focus intensely on student writing last year, the choice proved phenomenally successful.

The Hochman Method aims to develop writing that expresses complex thinking with clarity, coherence, and unity.  For Eastern’s students, who struggle with capitalization and correct punctuation, this seemed like a lofty goal.

We started by looking at our students’ work to identify their strengths and weaknesses. While students were good at generating ideas to write about, they often used sentence fragments instead of complete sentences, and their writing suffered from a lack of structure.

Relying on these findings, we were able to develop strategies we could implement in all classes and nearly all content areas—no easy task for a high school with 60-plus teachers and dozens of courses.

From the first week of professional development last August, Eastern’s staff rigorously integrated the Hochman Method into the school’s everyday life.  During meetings and professional development seminars, teachers received guidelines and participated in exercises to help them implement the Hochman writing strategies. We even coined a new verb for infusing the strategies into a lesson: Hochmanizing.

Soon we realized that learning these writing skills enabled students to truly comprehend the content of their classes and led to more meaningful classroom discussions. When students learn to craft complex sentences that exhibit the ability to understand and analyze content, they become more critical thinkers, capable of advancing thoughtful arguments—a key Common Core State Standard.

As an instructional coach at Eastern, I frequently exchanged calls with Dr. Hochman throughout the year. We regularly discussed student work and came up with course corrections to support Eastern’s implementation of the program. In addition, Dr. Hochman took the time to visit and walk the halls of Eastern, touching base with teachers and students to help measure progress and inspire students to improve their writing.

By the end of the year, I had witnessed a wonderful transformation at the school.  Our stellar teachers had managed to grasp the components of the program and adapt their instruction to make complex writing a priority.

And we have the evidence to prove the program’s success. In writing samples taken over the course of the year, students’ sentence construction grew significantly more complex, with a marked increase in the use of transitional and appositive phrases, subordinating conjunctions, and emphasis and sequence words.

Additionally, it was amazing to watch how students began to instinctively use Hochman-style outlines to organize their writing in different classes.

Looking ahead, I’m excited to continue implementing the Hochman Method and confident that it will help create even stronger and more assured writers at Eastern in the years to come.

Lauren Johnson has been an educator for over a decade as an English teacher and currently as an Instructional Coach with Eastern Senior High School. She holds an M.A. English/Professional Writing and M. Education/Educational Leadership, both with highest honors. Prior to her career in education, Ms Johnson was a publisher for business-to-business newsletters and marketing director for Mellon Bank.