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Writing Program

The Los Altos High School English Department and the Teaching of Writing

The Los Altos High School English Department and the Teaching of Writing

Improved writing skill has been and remains our primary instructional goal in English.
We focus on the quantity of writing that students do, both extended, revised pieces of writing as well as shorter, more informal pieces. We also ensure that students write in a variety of modes, particularly essays but also stories and poetry.
While in past years much of writing instruction was rooted in individual feedback, either written on papers or given in conferences, we are moving much more of our writing instruction into class time. This means that we will be using more class time:
  • to provide examples of good writing
  • to examine the strengths and weaknesses of student written work
  • to meet with students about their writing
  • to give feedback on drafts during the writing process
  • to assess student writing against clear criteria based on our own and state curriculum standards
  • to give direct instruction on specific writing techniques and strategies
  • to examine the progress students have made in their own writing
Most of the written work that students take home will be assessed using rubrics that we have created and agreed upon as an English staff. These rubrics are intended to provide specific feedback that students should learn from as they revise their writing or move on to other written work. While you will not see the marginal comments that have been used to provide feedback in the past, you will see specific suggestions for improvement. If you wish to help your student with his or her writing, please focus on those writing elements suggested by the rubrics.
Please contact your student’s English teacher if you have any questions.


English teachers work together on a course and department-wide basis to ensure that writing assignments, instructional techniques and assessment standards are consistent among all teachers. This is true for all course levels at all grade levels. Freshman, sophomore and senior courses (Survey of Composition and Literature, World Literature and English Literature) are team-taught, with all students following the same core curriculum at the same time throughout the year.  Teachers of all other courses work together on a regular basis to ensure the same consistency of instruction.
High Standards

High Standards

Students understand that their written work is created through an ongoing process of revision and that there is no "perfect" paper. To earn high grades a student must produce truly excellent work. The level of excellence expected requires even the best writers to give considerable time and effort to their major writing assignments.