There are a few agreed upon elements of effective writing instruction. Below, listed in descending order of effectiveness, are the components of effective writing instruction as complied by Intervention Central in How To Teach Student Writing Skills: Elements of Effective Writing Instruction.
1) Students follow a multi-step writing process. Effectiveness Rating: 0.82 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students are trained to use (and can produce evidence of) a multi-step writing process, including the elements of planning, drafting, revision, and editing (e.g., Robinson & Howell, 2008). They make use of this process for all writing assignments.
2) Students work collaboratively on their writing. Effectiveness Rating:0.89 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012); 0.75 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students work on their writing in pairs or groups at various stages of the writing process: planning (pre-writing), drafting, revising, editing.
3) Students receive timely feedback about the quality of their writing. Effectiveness Rating: 0.80 for adult feedback, 0.37 for student feedback (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012). Students receive regular performance feedback about the quality of a writing product from adults, peers, or through self-administered ratings (e.g., using rubrics). It should be noted that the impact of timely teacher feedback to young writers is especially large (effect size = 0.80).
4) Students set writing goals. Effectiveness Rating: 0.76 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012); 0.70 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). At various points in the writing process (planning, drafting, writing, revising), students are encouraged to formulate specific goals; they later report out (to the teacher or a peer) whether they have actually accomplished those goals. Examples of goal-setting might include locating at least 3 sources for a research paper, adding 5 supporting details during revision of an argumentative essay, writing the first draft of an introductory paragraph during an in-class writing period, etc.
5) Students use word processors to write. Effectiveness Rating:0.47 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012); 0.55 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students become fluent in keyboarding and have regular access to word-processing devices when writing.
6) Students write about what they have read. Effectiveness Rating: 0.40 (Graham & Herbert, 2010); 0.82 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students are explicitly taught how to summarize and/or reflect in writing on texts that they have recently read. Each of the following writing activities has been found to be effective in promoting writing skills -- as well as improving reading comprehension:
- paraphrasing the original text as a condensed student summary
- analyzing the text, attempting to interpret the text's meaning, or describing the writer's reaction to it
- writing notes (e.g., key words or phrases) that capture the essential text information
7) Students engage in pre-writing activities. Effectiveness Rating: 0.54 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012); 0.30 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Before beginning a writing assignment, students take part in structured tasks to plan or visualize the topic to be written about. Activities might include having students draw pictures relevant to the topic; write out a writing plan independently or in pairs or groups; read articles linked to the writing topic and discuss them before developing a writing plan, etc.
8) Students produce more writing. Effectiveness Rating: 0.30 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012). Students have more writing included in their daily instruction (e.g., through daily journaling).
9) Students study writing models. Effectiveness Rating: 0.30 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students are given models of the kinds of writing that they will be asked to produce: e.g., argumentative or informational essays. Students closely study the structure of these models and attempt to incorporate the important elements of each model into their own writing.
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