Written language research

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Written language research

  1. 1. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 1 Best Practice in Writing Instruction K-8 Genny R. Reigstad A Capstone Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of MASTER OF ARTS IN EDUCATION: DIFFERNENTIATED INSTRUCTION EMPHASIS CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY St. Paul, Minnesota, USA May 2008
  2. 2. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 2 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Throughout this master’s program I was faced with several unexpected challenges. I wish to thank my husband, Jared, for his time and patience. Thank you to Robin Sobczak for being an angel on earth and caring for my newborn when I couldn’t. Finally, I wish to thank Aubrey Belle for inspiring me daily. I love you to the moon and back.
  3. 3. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 3 Table of Contents CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION………………………...…………………………4 Definition of Terms…………….…………………..…………………………5 Summary…………………………………………..………………………….9 CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF LITERATURE………….……………………….......10 The Writing Process.…………………………………………………………11 Summary……….…………………………………….……………………….17 CHAPTER 3: DIFFERENTIATING WRITING INSTRUCTION…….………......18 Learning Styles.…………………………………………………………........18 Meeting Educational Needs…………………………………………………..20 Writing Across the Curriculum………………………………………………..23 Summary………………………………………..……………………………..23 CHAPTER 4: DISCUSSION OF RESULTS…………………..……………………24 Effective Teaching Strategies in Writing Instruction…………………………25 Other Factors Contributing to Effective Writing……………………………..28 Summary………………………………………………………………………31 CHAPTER 5: SUMMARY AND REFLECTION…………………………………..33 Summary of Research………………….………………………………………33 Personal Reflection…………………….………………………………………34 References……………………………..……….…………………………….………36 Appendices …………………………………….…………………………………….40 Appendix A ………………………………………………………. ………….40 Appendix B……………………………………………………………………44
  4. 4. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 4 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION Every day we come into contact with the written word. We see writing everywhere we go. Written language is one of the most important methods of communicating, and it has been around since the beginning of documented time. We acquire knowledge through reading the written word, and we express ourselves to others through the use of the written word. We learn to write at a young age because of its importance and usefulness in our lives. Whether it be journaling our innermost thoughts as a means to release the stressors in our lives, or conveying the world's most intriguing events through an article in the New York Times, writing is a useful tool for us all. Writing is a means of expression. It allows us to be individuals while connecting us to all other humans who are literate. It separates us from all other living creatures and provides us countless avenues in which to communicate our needs, desires, feelings, and knowledge. It has been herald as one of the famous "Three R's" - reading, writing, and arithmetic- in education, even though it starts with a "w". We need written language skills to be successful in today's world. “It is essential to school success and has increasingly become a central component of daily life in industrialized societies” (Graham, MacArthur, & Fitzgerald, 2007). The United States Department of Education understands the importance of written language and written language instruction. All public schools are required to teach writing. Schools do not have the authority to pick and choose who will receive written language instruction; it is to be provided for all students. Teachers must provide effective,
  5. 5. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 5 meaningful written language instruction to all students regardless of a myriad of differences, including, but not limited to race, culture, linguistic differences, and ability levels. Purpose of the Study There are many different ways of teaching writing. Some instructors choose to carefully follow writing curriculum guides, while others experiment with their teaching practices. The purpose of this research paper was to determine the most effective practices for teaching all students written language skills, so they may effectively communicate their thoughts through the use of writing. Definition of Terms Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Analytic scoring: Method of scoring essay items in which separate scores are given for specific aspects of the essay ( e.g., organization, factual accuracy, spelling). Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Application skills: The ability to use reading, mathematics, and other academic skills in real-life situations. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Assistive technology: Computers and other technologies used to enhance the performance of individuals with disabilities. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm
  6. 6. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 6 Assessment: A related series of measures used to determine a complex attribute of an individual or group of individuals. Generally has broader connotations than measurement. Often used as a stylistic alternative to measurement. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Curriculum: The skills, performances, attitudes, and values pupils are expected to learn from schooling: includes statements of desired pupil outcomes, descriptions of materials, and the planned sequence that will be used to help pupils attain the outcomes. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Differentiated Instruction: efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom...in order to create the best learning experience possible (Tomlinson, 2000). Educational objective: A statement that describes a pupil's accomplishment that will result from instruction; the statement describes the behavior the pupil will learn to perform and the content on which it will be performed. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm English-language Learner: student whose first language is not English and who either lacks proficiency in English or has beginning level proficiency in English. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Expressive language: The production of language for com-munication; for example, speaking and writing. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm
  7. 7. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 7 First language: The language learned first by an individual; also called home language or native language. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Hypermedia: An extension to hypertext that supports linking graphics, sound, and video elements in addition to text elements. Retrieved from: http://www.webopedia.com Individualized Education Program: (IEP) A written educational plan developed for each school-aged student eligible for special education. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Language proficiency: The degree to which an individual is skilled in a language; when students speak languages other than English, proficiency is assessed to determine the primary language. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Learning strategies: Methods used by individuals in their interactions with learning tasks. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Least restrictive environment: According to PL 94-142, the educational placement for students with disabilities that is as close to the regular classroom as feasible. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Mainstreaming: Integration of students with disabilities physically, academically, and socially with age peers. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm
  8. 8. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 8 Mechanics: refers to spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Nondiscriminatory assessment: Assessment that does not penalize students for their sex, native language, race, culture, or disability. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Portfolio assessment: The analysis of student work samples, self-evaluations, and other materials assembled in portfolios to document student progress over time. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Writing: Expressive written language; includes spelling, handwriting, usage, and composition. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Special Education: Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. Retrieved from: http://www.upei.ca/~xliu/measurement/glossary.htm Summary Written language skills are a necessity in today's world. Students must learn how to effectively communicate with others through the use of the written word. This paper will review the current research in the area of written language instruction to determine the most effective way to educate elementary through middle school students in this important academic area.
  9. 9. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 9 CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF LITERATURE Writing is a part of everyday life. It is a way to communicate, self-reflect, and keep order in our lives. “One of the most important features of writing is that it lets us communicate with others, allowing us to maintain personal links with family, friends and colleagues who are removed by both distance and time” (Graham, McArthur, & Fitzgerald 2007). It enhances our lives on a daily basis. Kajder (2005) believes that writing is a tool for thinking. Writing allows us to receive information, process it, and provide feedback. The purpose for reviewing literature on writing instruction is to further our knowledge of effective practices that will ultimately improve the success of our students. Teaching written language skills is therefore an essential part of the educational experience as well as life experience. Written language has been taught in school systems since the beginning of formalized education. Today writing is a key ingredient in learning. Written language assessment is included on state mandated tests of basic educational needs. Its importance has been noted repeatedly as evidenced by the existence of libraries, computers, postal systems, etc. How to deliver writing instruction in the most effective manner has been a challenge and an arena for debate. This review of literature will examine administration of writing instruction in mixed ability kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms to determine the most effective method(s).
  10. 10. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 10 The Writing Process There is a plethora of research on how to deliver written language instruction. The two methods that appear over and over again in the research are the whole language approach and the writing process approach. According to Harris and Graham (1996) both strive to create a community of students who share and help each other, make personal choices about what they read and write, take ownership and responsibility for their learning, take risks in their reading and writing, and collaborate in evaluating their efforts and progress. Graham and Harris (1996) suggest the fundamental difference between whole language teachers and those employing the writing process is that process teachers emphasize ownership of written work and provide ample opportunities for students to extend their writing experience by offering conferences, peer collaborations, and sharing of final products. The writing process has emerged over time. Writing assignments were once handed out after a certain passage had been read to check for comprehension. Today written language instruction in the classroom mirrors how a professional writer would do his/her job. Most professional writers follow several steps before ending with a published piece of work. These steps used by educators and are now known as the writing process. These include:
  11. 11. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 11 1. planning or brainstorming 2. writing an initial or rough draft 3. revising 4. editing for conventions (mechanical aspects of writing) 5. producing and publishing of a final copy Step One: Planning Good writing takes time. It is a mental exercise. According to Young (1997), writing requires a warm-up session, much like any other exercise. “Your mind needs to warm up in order for you to write well” (Young, 1997). Other researchers agree. Graham, MacArthur, and Fitzgerald (2007) suggest, “Effective classrooms always have some form of planning.” Planning is less common, however, in the primary grades than in the middle school and high school grades. Many students refer to planning as the brainstorming stage. This is just another way of saying before writing begins, thoughts need to be put on paper and organized. Many teachers use graphic organizers to assist students, especially those with special needs, with planning their writing. Step Two: Producing This step consists of producing a written piece often referred to as a “sloppy copy.” The idea is get ones organized thoughts onto paper. There is little to no regard for correct
  12. 12. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 12 mechanical application, spelling, or grammar. These copies are used to reflect on and share with the teacher and classmate(s) who may offer suggestions for editing. Step Three: Revising Revising may also be called proofreading. This step involves making changes to the placement of thoughts or structure of the writing piece. Here students may want to add or delete information. Step Four: Editing for Conventions Conventions are the mechanics of writing. This step involves checking spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and paragraphing. Conventions enhance the readability of the paper. Spelling should be correct on all words. Punctuation should be smooth and guide the reader through the paper. Capitalization should be used correctly. Paragraphing should reinforce organization or flow of the paper/written piece. Step Five: Production of the Final Copy and Publishing or Sharing Your Work Once the student has written, revised, and edited their writing piece they can then work on production of the final copy. Many teachers allow their students to use computers to publish their written work. “Computers allow students to perfect their writing thorough multiple revisions while also giving them the means to produce impressive publications in different media” (Burke, 2003). No matter the media chosen, Calkins (1994) suggests, “We cannot teach writing well unless we trust that there are real,
  13. 13. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 13 human reasons to write.” Writing is a communicating act; and therefore, should be shared. In addition to process writing, Graves (1994) defines seven key points or conditions inherent for effective writing: 1. Room structure. Graves suggests making the classroom “predictable for productive work.” This would include, but is not limited to ample work space, available resources, such as sample writing pieces and literature on various subject matter, as well as maintaining a quiet working environment to assist concentration and minimize distraction. 2. Time. Teaching writing requires time. Writing should be taught daily with an allotted amount of time dedicated to nothing but writing. 3. Choice. When students make their own choices about their written work, they feel a sense of ownership which assists them in committing to producing good work. 4. Demonstration. “The teacher is the most important factor in creating a learning environment in the classroom….When you actually take your own text and put it on the chalkboard, an overhead projector, or chart paper, and show your students how to read it, they will receive the clearest demonstration of what writing is about” (p. 109). Demonstration can also be thought of as the passion, curiosity, and problem solving we as educators show our students throughout the day.
  14. 14. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 14 5. Response. “Students need to hear the responses of others to their writing, to discover what they do or do not understand” (p. 108). 6. Expectation. It is important to maintain high and reasonable expectations for your students. Graves asks, “What are you working at to be a better writer?” (p. 110). 7. Evaluation. Evaluation should include the final written piece and also the big picture of progressing as a writer. “Graves (1994) derived these seven parts to clarify the enacting of the process oriented writing curriculum in his Writing Workshop curriculum model” (Graves, as sited in Mott & Klomes, 2001). Using these seven steps along with the writing process approach will benefit teachers and assist students in achievement of grade-level writing demands. Mixed Ability Classrooms With so much research available to assist teachers with creating an effective writing curriculum, why is there a need for more? As stated previously, most research has been conducted using whole language or process writing, with little focus on strategies that may be used to reach all students of varying ability levels. Learning effective strategies to use within writing lessons can prove to be quite beneficial for the teacher and student, especially when working with students who have special needs.
  15. 15. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 15 Delivering of effective writing instruction to an entire class of mixed ability students requires follow up teaching with small groups and/or individual students. Research suggests the best method for reaching all students including bilingual students and those with special needs is by proving a setting that is engaging. Graham, MacArthur, & Fitzgerald (2007) found this to be the most salient characteristic found in educational settings which produced the highest language arts achievement. Rather than focusing on work book page after work book page, students should be actively involved with their learning. The second most effective characteristic is direct teaching. Teaching whole class lessons followed by small group instruction and one on one support where necessary produced the highest level of literacy achievement (Graham, MacArthur, & Fitzgerald, 2007). Finding a point where students understand their assignment well enough to work as independently as possible is a common goal for educators. Teaching and re-teaching as necessary allows those who understand the task to keep going and those who are struggling to gain a clearer perspective. “Students with learning disabilities and English language learners benefit from such an approach (the writing process approach) since they often need a guiding hand and time to concentrate on one aspect of their writing at a time” (Burke, 2003). Strategies for Self-Regulation Self-regulation is a set of four basic abilities (goal setting, self-monitoring, self- reinforcement, and self-instruction) developed by researchers Graham and Harris (1996).
  16. 16. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 16 The major objectives of the self-regulated strategy development approach are as follows: To assist students in mastering the higher level cognitive processes involved in the planning, production, revising, and editing of written language, to help students further develop the capacity to monitor and manage their own writing, and to aid students in the development of positive attitudes about writing and themselves as writers. Teaching self-regulation strategies has been shown to help students with special needs, ELL students, and general education students alike. By increasing positive attitudes, students are more excited about their learning. “The self-confidence they developed from their writing spread to other areas of the curriculum, enabling them to be become more fully involved in class activities” (Five, 1992). When students learn to monitor and manage their own writing, teachers can place themselves in the role of facilitator allowing students to feel an increased sense of ownership of their written work. Summary According to the research available, the most effective method for delivering written language instruction in the elementary and middle school classroom is by using the writing process. Lessons in grammar, conventions, and various genres should precede independent work. There should be a set time, preferably daily, for students to focus on their writing. Students should not call it quits after submitting a first draft, but rather revisit their written work time and again to expand their thinking and understanding. Mott & Klomes (2001) agree, and add that written language should be experimental in nature. Students should be given several unique ways to learn and test their abilities. Therefore,
  17. 17. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 17 differentiated instruction methods in writing should be examined for effectiveness and implemented in written language lessons. In addition to employing the writing process, teachers should follow the seven steps suggested by Graves (1994) to assure the environment is conducive to learning. Instructor demonstration and modeling is key to setting the stage for the learner. Modeling such strategies as self-regulation will help support students attempts. Self- regulation strategies (goal setting, self-monitoring, self-reinforcement and self- instructions) have been shown to assist the writer in working toward the goal of producing a quality written language piece. Teaching these strategies can be a useful tool for students of all ability levels. Maybe the most useful of these is an increase self- confidence which arises from finding success with their writing.
  18. 18. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 18 CHAPTER THREE: DIFFERENTIATING WRITING INSTRUCTION Overview This chapter will focus on differentiating instruction in the area of written language. Having competence in written language skills is necessary to become a competitive student/member of society who is able to achieve higher levels of education and furthermore, secure a position in an affluent career. Written language is a part of everyday life, and therefore deserves the attention of researchers and educators in an effort to better the way instruction is delivered (Burke, 2003; Culham, 2003; Culkins, 1986). Pinnell (1999) says it best when she writes, “Effective literacy programs involve a wide range of reading and writing activities.” The process used to write this paper was to read and synthesize several research articles relating to writing instruction in an attempt to gain more knowledge and expertise to further enhance this researcher's teaching ability and to inform the best practice of this researcher in making a positive difference in the student's writing ability. The following pages examine different methods of delivering writing instruction in an attempt to supply the best educational experience possible in writing for all students. Successful strategies will be examined and reported. Challenges faced by the instructor and students will also be examined and reported. Learning Styles Tomlinson (2000) defines the differentiated instruction method of teaching as “…efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom...in order to create the best learning experience possible.” To accomplish this, a teacher must first get to know each student as an individual, having among other characteristics, their own interests, learning styles, talents, and self- concepts. Tomlinson (2000) suggests that students are more successful when teachers teach to their interests, learning profiles, and readiness levels.
  19. 19. Best Practice in Writing Instruction 19

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