National Academies Press: OpenBook

Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing (2012)

Chapter: Effective Writing Instruction

« Previous: Effective Reading Instruction
Suggested Citation:"Effective Writing Instruction." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13468.
×

Effective Writing Instruction

People write for a variety of purposes—including recording, persuading, learning, communicating, entertaining, self-expression, and reflection—and proficiency in writing for one purpose does not necessarily generalize to writing for other purposes. In today’s world, proficiency requires developing skills in both traditional forms of writing and newer electronic and digital modes.

In the last three decades, much more has become known about the components and processes of writing and effective writing instruction. As with reading, most of this research comes from K-12 settings. Figure 2 shows the component skills and processes of writing. As depicted in the figure, a writer manages and orchestrates the application of

image

FIGURE 2: Component skills and processes of writing

Suggested Citation:"Effective Writing Instruction." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13468.
×

a variety of basic writing skills, specialized writing knowledge, writing strategies, and motivational processes to create a text. How the writer applies and combines these skills and processes will vary depending on the writer’s task and goal.

Principles of Effective Writing Instruction

A number of principles for effective writing instruction are supported by research, although the body of research is smaller than for reading.

Explicitly and systematically teach the strategies, skills, and knowledge needed to be a proficient writer. Almost all of the effective writing practices that have been identified to date involve explicit instruction. These practices proved effective with a range of writers, from beginners to college students, as well as with those who had experienced difficulty in learning to write. What should be taught, however, depends on the writer’s developmental level, the skills he or she needs to develop for particular purposes, and the writing task. Instructors should model writing strategies and teach learners how to regulate their use of them—for example, how to monitor, evaluate, and adjust strategies as needed for particular tasks and goals.

Skilled writing requires planning and revising. Whereas children and adolescents spend very little time planning and revising, more accomplished writers such as college students spend about 50 percent of their writing time planning and revising text.

Combine explicit and systematic writing instruction with extended experience writing for a purpose. Learners need to devote considerable time to practicing writing for different purposes, such as recording (an event or idea), communicating, persuading, self-expression, and reflection, among others.

Explicitly teach foundational writing skills to the point that they become automatic. For skilled writers, spelling, handwriting, and keyboarding are mostly automatic. Individual differences in the attention given to handwriting and spelling predict writing achievement, even for college students. Thus, it is important that writers learn to execute these skills fluently and automatically, with little or no thought. When these skills are not automatic, as is the case for many developing and struggling writers, cognitive resources are not available for other important aspects of writing, such as planning, evaluating, and revising. Some aspects of writing, such as planning or sentence construction, require decisions and cannot become fully automatic, but they can be taught and practiced so they become fluent, flexible, and effectively used.

Suggested Citation:"Effective Writing Instruction." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13468.
×

image

Structure the instructional environment and interactions to motivate writing practice and persistence in learning new forms of writing. A small number of experiments show practices that improve the quality of writing and that reasonably could affect motivation. These practices include setting clear goals for writing; encouraging students to help each other plan, draft, or revise; using self-assessment; and providing feedback on progress. Several studies with adolescent learners have demonstrated that praise, tangible rewards, or both can improve students’ writing skills.

Develop an integrated system of skills by using approaches that capitalize on the relationships between reading and writing. Reading and writing depend on similar knowledge and cognitive processes, so insights in one area can lead to insights in the other. Making this relationship explicit will aid learners’ skill development, contribute to their awareness about language, and enhance their retrieval of text forms and meanings. For example, spelling instruction deepens awareness of the correspondences between letters and speech sounds, enabling faster word reading.

Suggested Citation:"Effective Writing Instruction." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13468.
×

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.

Suggested Citation:"Effective Writing Instruction." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13468.
×
Page 15
Suggested Citation:"Effective Writing Instruction." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13468.
×
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"Effective Writing Instruction." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13468.
×
Page 17
Suggested Citation:"Effective Writing Instruction." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13468.
×
Page 18
Next: Instruction for Struggling Readers and Writers »
Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing Get This Book
×
Buy Ebook | $0.00
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

More than an estimated 90 million adults in the United States lack the literacy skills needed for fully productive and secure lives. The effects of this shortfall are many: Adults with low literacy have lower rates of participation in the labor force and lower earnings when they do have jobs, for example. They are less able to understand and use health information. And they are less likely to read to their children, which may slow their children's own literacy development.

At the request of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Research Council convened a committee of experts from many disciplines to synthesize research on literacy and learning in order to improve instruction for those served in adult education in the U.S. The committee's report, Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research, recommends a program of research and innovation to gain a better understanding of adult literacy learners, improve instruction, and create the supports adults need for learning and achievement.

Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing, which is based on the report, presents an overview of what is known about how literacy develops the component skills of reading and writing, and the practices that are effective for developing them. It also describes principles of reading and writing instruction that can guide those who design and administer programs or courses to improve adult literacy skills. Although this is not intended as a "how to" manual for instructors, teachers may also find the information presented here to be helpful as they plan and deliver instruction.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!