Practices for Effective Writing Instruction

In addition to the principles of effective writing instruction, research has identified several key teaching practices to develop writing skills (listed roughly in order of effectiveness):

• Offer instruction in strategies for planning, revising, and editing compositions.

• Teach learners to summarize in writing the passages they have read.

• Enable the assistance of peers in planning, drafting, and revising compositions.

• Set clear goals for writing that are specific to the purpose and type of writing task.

• Have students regularly use computers (word processing) for writing instead of only pencil and paper.

• Offer instruction in combining short sentences into more complex ones. This practice usually includes exercises and application to real-world writing tasks.

• For intermediate writers, use process approaches to writing instruction that stress extended writing opportunities, writing for authentic audiences, personalized instruction, and cycles of writing. It is possible that process approaches could also be effective for beginning and weaker writers if augmented with explicit and systematic instruction to develop the essential writing knowledge, strategies, and skills these developing writers usually lack. As with other approaches, process approaches are more effective when instructors have been professionally trained in their use.

• Employ inquiry approaches to instruction that involve establishing clear goals, gathering and analyzing relevant information, using that information to structure and plan the writing task, and using writing strategies suited to the task.

• Teach prewriting activities, such as making lists or diagrams prior to writing, which help students generate relevant content and complete texts.

• Analyze models of good writing, such as discussing the features of good essays and learning to imitate those features.

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