Collins Weekly Writing Routine to Improve Content Retention

Posted on Categories Academic/Technical Skill Integration

At a Glance

Instructors at Dauphin County Technical School (DCTS) implement a weekly routine of student-written formative assessments to improve student retention of technical content.


DCTS instructors teach students how to write and answer content questions that require higher order thinking skills to help them retain and apply academic content. The weekly routine began after DCTS instructional coaches attended a Coaching Collins Writing training at their local Intermediate Unit. The coaches then introduced the strategy to instructors during a lunch-and-learn session. The practice aims to increase content retention through frequent and quick written formative assessments.

The weekly writing routine requires students to perform different formative assessments Monday through Thursday.

  • Monday: Students write a content-based question on a notecard. In pairs, students then select which question will be administered to the class on the next day’s quiz.
  • Tuesday: Students are quizzed on the question selected on Monday.
  • Wednesday: Students select notecards from the class collection to quiz a partner, trade cards and repeat, and then find a new partner.
  • Thursday: The instructor randomly selects one notecard from the class collection of quiz cards and assigns the question as a quiz.

For a more detailed look at the weekly routine and specific assignments, click here.

The DCTS instructional coaches recommend that teachers allot five to ten minutes to implement the day’s activating or summarizing strategy. They also recommend that teachers are consistent in implementation and specifically model expectations for students to write and answer questions.


The weekly writing provides frequent formative assessments for teachers to reflect upon instruction. It also affords students an opportunity for written practice in preparation for the NOCTI.


Dauphin County Technical School
Megan Motto, Instructional Coach