This Access Center resource is intended to help teachers implement writing instruction that will lead to better writing outcomes for students with and without writing difficulties. We provide research-based recommendations, activities, and materials to effectively teach writing to the wide range of students educators often find in their classrooms. There are three apparent reasons why so many children and youth find writing challenging. First, composing text is a complex and difficult undertaking that requires the deployment and coordination of multiple affective, cognitive, linguistic, and physical operations to accomplish goals associated with genre-specific conventions, audience needs, and an author's communicative purposes.
This Access Center resource is intended to help teachers implement writing instruction that will lead to better writing outcomes for students with and without writing difficulties. We provide research-based recommendations, activities, and materials to effectively teach writing to the wide range of students educators often find in their classrooms.
There are three apparent reasons why so many children and youth find writing challenging. Second, the profile of the typical classroom in the United States has undergone dramatic changes in the recent past.
This increasing diversity of the school-aged population has occurred within the context of the standards-based education movement and its accompanying high-stakes accountability testing. As a consequence, more demands for higher levels of writing performance and for demonstration of content mastery through writing are being made of students and their teachers, while teachers are simultaneously facing a higher proportion of students who struggle not only with composing, but also with basic writing skills.
In some classrooms, writing instruction focuses almost exclusively on text transcription skills, such as handwriting and spelling, with few opportunities to compose meaningful, authentic text e. In other classrooms, frequent and varied opportunities exist to use the writing process to procedural writing assignment for middle school personally relevant and engaging writing tasks, but little time is devoted to teaching important writing skills and strategies, as it is assumed these can be mastered through incidental teaching and learning e.
Still in other classrooms, virtually no time is devoted to writing instruction or writing activities e. In perhaps a minority of classrooms, students are taught by exemplary educators who blend process-embedded skill and strategy instruction with writing workshop elements such as mini-lessons, sustained writing, conferencing, and sharing e.
Yet, for students with disabilities who tend to develop or exhibit chronic and pernicious writing difficulties, even this type of instruction may be inadequate. The box below presents several areas of difficulty for students with writing problems. Less awareness of what constitutes good writing and how to produce it; Restricted knowledge about genre-specific text structures e.
Skill difficulties Often do not plan before or during writing; Exhibit poor text transcription e. Motivation difficulties Students with writing problems: Often do not develop writing goals and subgoals or flexibly alter them to meet audience, task, and personal demands; Fail to balance performance goals, which relate to documenting performance and achieving success, and mastery goals, which relate to acquiring competence; Exhibit maladaptive attributions by attributing academic success to external and uncontrollable factors such as task ease or teacher assistance, but academic failure to internal yet uncontrollable factors such as limited aptitude; Have negative self efficacy competency beliefs; Lack persistence; and Feel helpless and poorly motivated due to repeated failure.
Four core components of effective writing instruction constitute the foundation of any good writing program: Students should have meaningful writing experiences and be assigned authentic writing tasks that promote personal and collective expression, reflection, inquiry, discovery, and social change.
Routines should permit students to become comfortable with the writing process and move through the process over a sustained period of time at their own rate.
Lessons should be designed to help students master craft elements e.
A common language for shared expectations and feedback regarding writing quality might include the use of traits e. The illustration below provides a graphic representation of the core components of effective writing instruction.
Putting the pieces together: Of course, these are only the basic features of strong writing instruction. If students are expected to become competent writers, then writing instruction must be approached in similar ways by all teachers who expect writing performance in their classrooms and must be sustained across the grades to support students as they gradually become accomplished writers.
Back to Top Establishing routines A major step in implementing strong writing instruction is establishing routines for a daily writing instruction, b covering the whole writing curriculum, and c examining the valued qualities of good writing.
A typical writing lesson will have at least four parts: Mini-lesson 15 minutes Teacher-directed lesson on writing skills, composition strategies, and crafting elements e. The teacher may discuss impressions from conferring with students; students share their writing it does not have to be a complete paper and may, in fact, only be initial ideas for writing with the group or a partner, while others provide praise and constructive feedback.
Students discuss next steps in the writing assignment; and Publishing Celebration occasionally Students need a variety of outlets for their writing to make it purposeful and enjoyable, such as a class anthology of stories or poems, a grade-level newspaper or school magazine, a public reading in or out of school, a Web site for student writing, a pen pal, the library, and dramatizations.
Several tools can help the teacher maintain the integrity of this lesson structure. Examples of these tools follow. First, each student should have a writing notebook for a recording "seed" ideas for writing, such as memories, wishes, observations, quotations, questions, illustrations, and artifacts [e.
Second, writing folder in which students keep their papers should be in boxes that are labeled for different phases of the writing process.
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These folder will help organize different versions of a piece of writing students generate, as well as the various projects students work on at a given time. Third, some means for visually displaying check-in status will help students and teacher monitor individual and class progress in writing.
Each student might, for example, put a card in the appropriate slot of a class pocket chart labled with the stages of the writing process. Or, the student might display the cube that represents the different writing stages the sixth side might simply be labled "help" and would be used when teacher assistance is required.
Some of the most important attributes include explicit modeling, regular conferencing with students and families, high expectations, encouragement, flexibility, cooperative learning arrangements, and ample opportunities for self-regulation.
On occasion, teachers may wish to assign topics or provide prompts for journaling or other writing activities. A list of potential prompts appropriate for late elementary and middle school grades is given in Writing Prompts.
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