Tag Archive for 'writing'

Guide for effective writing instruction

The US Institute of Education Sciences announced the release of a practice guide about improving writing instruction. The guide, entitled “Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers,” is available for free from the IES What Works Clearinghouse (direct link follows). The authorship team, led by Steve Graham of Arizona State University, included Alisha Bollinger (Norris Elementary School, Firth, NE), Carol Booth Olsen (University of California, Irvine), Catherine D’Aoust (University of California, Irvine), Charles MacArthur (University of Delaware), Deborah McCutchen (University of Washington), and Natalie Olinghouse (University of Connecticut).

This practice guide provides four recommendations for improving elementary students’ writing. Each recommendation includes implementation steps and solutions for common roadblocks. The recommendations also summarize and rate supporting evidence. This guide is geared toward teachers, literacy coaches, and other educators who want to improve the writing of their elementary students.

Recommendation Level of
1. Provide daily time for students to write. Minimal
2. Teach students to use the writing process for a variety of purposes. Strong
3. Teach students to become fluent with handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, typing, and word processing. Moderate
4. Create an engaged community of writers. Minimal

Go to the landing page for the practice guide or download a pdf of the guide directly.

Professor Graham and his team have done an excellent job of assembling and interpreting the research here and making it useful to consumers. Of course, readers of Teach Effectively recognize him as one of the foremost experts in the US on writing instruction (and a good friend of TE). Alert readers will remember earlier posts about Professor Graham’s work including Graham Lecture with S. Graham (24 April 2009) and Effective methods for teaching writing (15 April 2009).

Graham Lecture with S. Graham

S. Graham at DLD 2007
Steve Graham
(at another presentation)

Live blogging here in McKim Hall at the University of Virginia as Steve Graham delivers the McGuffey Reading Center’s 25th annual Graham Lecture. After Marcia Invernizzi’s cordial introduction, Steve began with a joke and a couple of humorous anecdotes about students’ writing. Of course, he tipped his hat to his collaborators and the sponsor of the research (Carnegie’s Writing Next).

Steve went into a rationale for the importance of writing instruction (“Why do reading, math, science, and technology get all the attention?)”. He then discussed forms of research, explaining that he was going to draw on experimental and quasi-experimental research, single-subject studies, and examinations of successful teachers. In addition, he noted that when the results from studies from diverse methods align, he has increased confidence in the strength of this findings.
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Effective methods for teaching writing

Using the methods of meta-analysis, Steve Graham and Dolores Perin examined research about alternative means for teaching written expression to students from fourth through twelfth grades. They limited their review to studies that assessed outcomes on measures of the quality of students’ writing. Unsuprisingly, they found that some of the methods used in teaching writing are more effective than others.

There is considerable concern that the majority of adolescents do not develop the competence in writing they need to be successful in school, the workplace, or their personal lives. A common explanation for why youngsters do not write well is that schools do not do a good job of teaching this complex skill. In an effort to identify effective instructional practices for teaching writing to adolescents, the authors conducted a meta-analysis of the writing intervention literature (Grades 4 –12), focusing their efforts on experimental and quasi-experimental studies. They located 123 documents that yielded 154 effect sizes for quality of writing. The authors calculated an average weighted effect size (presented in parentheses) for the following 11 interventions: strategy instruction (0.82), summarization (0.82), peer assistance (0.75), setting product goals (0.70), word processing (0.55), sentence combining (0.50), inquiry (0.32), prewriting activities (0.32), process writing approach (0.32), study of models (0.25), grammar instruction (– 0.32).

The basic, take-home message: Systematic and explicit instruction helps students write higher quality products than the pop-ed alternative that stress thinking, reflection, and such.
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DI success story in BC

In her story for the Vancouver (BC, CA) Sun Janet Steffenhagen reported about the substantial gains in tool skills shown by students at an inner-city school in Vancouver. Under the headline “School leaps ahead in the rankings: Britiannia elementary principal credits a controversial reading program for students’ remarkable improvement,” Ms. Steffenhagen reported that aggregate scores on Canada’s Foundation Skills Assessment moved Britannia School from 636th rank to 232nd among 1000 schools in BC.
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