The Latest EMS News · 23 August 2023

A Powerful Tool

Little School teacher helping students in class

How the Hochman Method is improving our students’ writing and critical thinking skills

Our elementary and middle school students learn writing through a research-based approach called the Hochman Method. It focuses on the idea that effective writing can be taught by breaking down the writing process into discrete, manageable components, such as sentence structure, outlining, paragraph development, and compositions.

This method also emphasizes summarizing and revising. Students are better equipped to produce well-structured, well-organized writing that effectively communicates their ideas by focusing on fundamental skills.

Studies have found that students taught using the Hochman Method significantly improve their writing fluency, accuracy, clarity, and reading comprehension skills. “Writing is a powerful tool for learning and should be taught to students at all grade levels within the content the students are studying, not as a separate subject,” says Judith C. Hochman, a former teacher, administrator, and founder of The Writing Revolution, a not-for-profit organization that publishes the book by the same name.

We introduce the Hochman Method to our third- and fourth-grade students in Little School. Trained in this writing approach, homeroom teachers and our Lower School librarian, Cindy Cohrs-Brandt, help students with sentence structure. They learn how to identify the different parts of a sentence, combine sentences, and use other sentence structures for various purposes. They also learn about grammar rules, such as subject-verb agreement and pronoun usage. As students move through Little School, they advance from sentences to paragraphs. Teachers provide constant practice by embedding writing activities throughout subjects, an approach found to boost learning.

When students reach Morrow House, they are well-versed in the basics of sentence structure and single paragraphs and begin writing multi-paragraph compositions. They practice organizing their thoughts into paragraphs, using transitions to connect their ideas, and writing clear and concise topic sentences.

“The Writing Revolution has allowed us, as teachers, to have shared language and structure around how we are teaching writing skills. It encourages repetition of concepts so that as students move from Little School to Morrow House they are building on their foundational skills while using a format that is familiar,” says fourth-grade teacher Laura Greenlees.

Associate Head of Middle School Gerard Allen adds that our middle-school students are “not just learning complex sentence structure but also how to create more sophisticated assertions and thesis statements. Then, students use specific strategies to outline single and multi-paragraph assignments.”

“Growing up, I found outlining very difficult,” says Interim Head of Middle School Jed Silverstein, Ph.D. “I felt like my teacher was asking me to solve what I was trying to argue before I could work out what I was trying to argue. What I needed was breadcrumbs. The outline examples in the Hochman Method are like sketches where the writing process is how we think through many of these questions.”

Morrow House student working.


Students in all subjects can use the Hochman Method. “The strategies are open-ended,” says fifth-grade teacher Nicole Siegel. “You can use them for any type of content that you’re trying to deliver. It gives students much more practice, making them see that writing about something in math can be similar to writing about something in history. And then, they start to make connections.” Siegel emphasizes the importance of using the Hochman Method in every class and discipline. “These skills shouldn’t just be taught once,” she says. “They should be practiced over and over and over again because it’s an ongoing process of learning.”

Hochman agrees, “If teachers use the same language and method with their students, the outcomes will be better,” she says. “It is ineffective to give students mixed messages as they move from class to class, from one subject to another, and through the grades. Instructional consistency and fidelity to the method are vital with a skill as complex and important as writing.”

When our students enter secondary school, they will be armed with writing strategies, helping them become better readers, communicators, and critical thinkers.

“Many high school teachers assume that students will enter their classes with a basic understanding of sentence structure, how to sequence and organize essays, how to revise and edit their work, and how to summarize complex text. Unfortunately, these expectations are too often unmet,” says Hochman. “Even students in the primary grades can be taught to understand the differences between oral and written language and the precision and skills required in the latter. There are many activities that can be done with young students that will get them ready to write even as they are mastering the fundamental skills: spelling, handwriting, and word order. In the upper elementary grades and middle school, if students are exposed to carefully sequenced and explicit writing instruction in expository language, they will be well prepared for the assignments they will get in the secondary grades.”

By providing a systematic, structured approach to writing instruction, this method helps our students develop the skills they need to become confident, effective writers. Dr. Silverstein compares the process of learning to following the rules of a game. “It’s much easier to excel at playing a game when the rules stay the same. When teachers use different approaches, they use different academic vocabulary. It’s kind of like trying to simultaneously master six different games with very different expectations and lots of confusing terminology. When we can get all of our teachers on the same page, calling things the same thing, whether it’s math class or English class, we are putting our students in a much better position to become the best writers they can be.”


Students need explicit instruction in writing, beginning in the early elementary grades.
• Sentences are the building blocks of all writing.
• When embedded in the content of the curriculum, writing instruction is a powerful learning tool.
• The content of the curriculum drives the rigor or the writing activities. The form of the activity remains the same, but the content is what makes it more or less rigorous.
• Grammar is best taught in the context of student writing.
• The two most important phases of the writing process are planning and revising.

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