Friday, June 29, 2012

Improving Elementary School Students’ Writing

The What Works Clearinghouse, an excellent source for meta-analyses of educational studies, has recently released a report on research-based methods for helping elementary school students become better writers. Teaching Elementary School Students to be Effective Writers shares four key findings. The report classifies the evidence for each of its recommendations as having minimal, moderate, or strong evidence backing it, although it should be noted that all of the report’s research-based recommendations will help strengthen students’ writing skills. We’ve summarized the report’s findings for you below; please consult the report for further details about the panel’s rationale and suggestions for implementation.

Recommendation 1: Provide daily time for students to write

Evidence: Minimal

The panel noted that, while research has not thoroughly examined whether simply providing children time to write leads to favorable outcomes, practices which have been shown to improve writing take time to implement. The panel recommends that one hour a day be devoted to writing, beginning in first grade. Writing practice need not be limited to language arts; it can occur in the context of other content areas, like lab reports of science, inventing word problems in math, etc.

Recommendation 2: Teach students to use the writing process for a variety of purposes

Evidence: Strong

This recommendation involves teaching students about the different stages of writing (planning, drafting, sharing, evaluating, revising, editing, and publishing) and has the gradual transfer of responsibility to the student at its core. To help students be successful as they take on more and more of the writing process independently, the panel recommends that teachers impart strategies for each stage. It is recommended that strategy use be introduced in first grade, with strategies becoming more complicated as the student is promoted through the grades. Additionally, students should be taught to understand the different purposes of writing, and be given opportunities to practice them. Students have been shown to benefit from thinking about different audiences for their writing, and should analyze others’ writing to determine what makes it good.

Recommendation 3: Teach students to become fluent with handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, typing, and word processing

Evidence: Moderate

Writers who struggle with mechanical fluency cannot devote as much focus to their ideas. Most of the studies reviewed found that increased fluency in forming letters, spelling words correctly, and using appropriate punctuation led to improved writing outcomes. Young children should be taught to hold a pencil correctly and form letters using an efficient sequence of movements. Older students should focus on improving spelling and constructing sentences that convey meaning as efficiently and fluently as possible. Typing can greatly improve all students’ writing but is particularly beneficial for students who struggle with handwriting.

Recommendation 4: Create an engaged community of writers

Evidence: Minimal

A supportive classroom environment in which teachers and students all collaborate to improve each other’s writing provides a rich setting for children to appreciate the importance of writing, as well as the assistance they need to improve their skills. Students should be allowed to choose their own topics as often as possible; this increases motivation and helps students to invest in the classroom’s writing community. All students should be both writers and editors, and students should have opportunities to collaborate during the writing process.

Please consult the report for helpful tables and detailed suggestions for implementing these valuable recommendations!

No comments:

Post a Comment