Recently, there has been a renewed focus on improving the content writing skills of middle and high school students. A new Educator’s Practice Guide was published in November, 2016 by the IES (Institute of Education Sciences) titled Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively. This report presents writing instruction recommendations aligned with several earlier research reports including Writing Next (2007) and Writing to Read (2010). The authors of the report (Steve Graham and colleagues) organized their recommendations into three sections.
Similar to reading instruction where the focus after grade 4 shifts from learning to read to reading to learn, the focus for writing instruction also shifts from learning to write to writing to learn. As students move through grades 6 to 12, the need grows to learn to write specifically for different content areas.
“Improving students’ writing skills helps them succeed inside and outside the classroom. Effective writing is a vital component of students’ literacy achievement, and writing is a critical communication tool for students to convey thoughts and opinions, describe ideas and events, and analyze information. Indeed, writing is a life-long skill that plays a key role in post-secondary success across academic and vocational disciplines.” (p.1)
Recommendation 1. Explicitly teach appropriate writing strategies using a Model-Practice-Reflect instructional cycle. Explicitly teach strategies for planning and goal setting, drafting, evaluating, revising, and editing. Instruct students on how to choose and apply strategies appropriate for the audience and purpose. Model strategies for students. Provide students with opportunities to apply and practice modeled strategies. Engage students in evaluating and reflecting upon their own and peers’ writing and use of modeled strategies.
Recommendation 2. Integrate writing and reading to emphasize key writing features. Teach students to understand that both writers and readers use similar strategies, knowledge, and skills to create meaning. Use a variety of written exemplars to highlight key features of texts.
Recommendation 3: Use assessments of students’ writing to inform instruction and feedback. Assess students’ strengths and areas for improvement before teaching a new strategy or skill. Analyze student writing to tailor instruction and target feedback. Regularly monitor students’ progress while teaching writing strategies and skills.
Excerpt from: The Keys to Literacy Blog