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Write minded-1

  1. 1. Write-Minded New report identifies top writing strategies I n 2002, the National Assessment of Educational Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School, is Progress tested writing skills in 4th, 8th and 12th designed to address this critical shortfall in student learn- grade students. Using newspaper articles, photo- ing and achievement. It was released by the Alliance for graphs, cartoons, letters and poems to stimulate writ- Excellent Education and commissioned by Carnegie Cor- ing, the NAEP asked students to write for three main poration of New York. The report is a companion publica- purposes: narrative, information, and persuasive. tion to the Alliance’s 2004 report, Reading Next: The test was administered to 139,000 4th A Vision for Action and Research in graders, 119,000 8th graders, and Middle and High School Literacy. 19,000 12th graders. “Reading proficiency is The results indicated just half the literacy pic- that only 28 percent of ture,” Bob Wise, former 4th graders, 21 percent of governor of West Vir- 8th graders, and 22 per- ginia and Alliance pres- cent of 12th graders ident, said. “We have to scored at or above the pro- widen the literacy spotlight ficient level. While both 4th and to include writing as well as 8th graders demonstrated small improvement from scores reading. Increasing students’ writ- taken in 1998, the difference in scores for the high school ing abilities increases their literacy abilities, which in turn, seniors was statistically insignificant. increases the likelihood that they will stay in school and In an information-based economy, having a workforce graduate. And that means they have a much better chance unskilled in written communications is costly. In 2005, the for future success.” College Board’s National Commission on Writing estimat- Graham and Perin conducted a meta-analysis of exist- ed that private companies spend more than $3 billion each ing experimental and quasi-experimental research on a year to teach employees how to write. variety of writing instructional methods and were able to Motivated by a desire to strengthen the writing skills glean from this “We have to widen the literacy spotlight of U.S. students, a new report co-authored by Steve Gra- comparison data to include writing as well as reading.” ham, Currey Ingram Professor of Special Education, has the most effective Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia identified 11 strategies to improve the writing skills of the strategies. The last and Alliance president nation’s adolescents. The report was such comprehensive review of the research literature was presented at a briefing Oct. 19 in conducted by George Hillocks 20 years ago, Graham noted. Washington, D.C. Graham’s co-author “In our meta-analysis we always compared a treatmentVa n d e r b i lt U n i v e r s i t y, P e a b o d y C o l l e g e is Dolores Perin, associate professor of versus some control or comparison treatment. So there psychology and education at Teachers were always at least two treatments in the study,” Graham College, Columbia University. said during remarks at the National Press Club. “We were “We undertook this research to looking for big ticket effects: what kind of interventions determine what we could do to changed the overall quality of what students do.” Steve Graham change writing achievement and writ- Graham and Perin identified 11 instructional practices ing instruction in this country,” Graham said. “We’ve iden- that Writing Next recognizes as holding the most promise tified 11 strategies as being effective at teaching students to improve students’ writing skills, in order of statistical how to write and improve their achievement.” strength. The two most powerful procedures involved the The report, Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve explicit teaching of process, Graham said. 6
  2. 2. “The first one was teaching writing strategies to kids. Ideas in Action • Spring 2007This basically meant teaching kids how to plan, how to The Importance of Penmanship: Handwriting a Valuable Skill, Influences Learningrevise, how to edit, how to regulate the writing process, or a Did you know there is a National Handwriting Day? Given the lowcombination of those. By doing that the teachers were ini- emphasis placed on handwriting in many schools, you can be forgiven.tially modeling how do this, and then students were given Though the significance of this obscure day might be lost to many, theassistance as they applied this, working toward independ- skill of handwriting shouldn’t be, according to Professor Steve Graham, an expert not only on writing but on handwriting.ence in the use of those strategies. So it was systematic. It “Handwriting is one of the basic building blocks of good writing andwas explicit,” Graham said. plays a critical role in learning,” said Graham. “Young children who “The second procedure that also had a very strong have difficulty mastering this skill often avoid writing, and their writing development may be arrested. They also may have trouble taking noteseffect was teaching kids directly how to summarize written and following along in class,material,” he said. which will further impede The third finding was that having students collaborate their development.” Graham suggests that aaround process, planning, revising, and editing in some return to consistent handwrit-combination also was very effective. Graham cautioned, ing instruction, with anhowever, “I’m not talking about throwing kids together understanding of the chal- lenges different children face,and saying, ‘You guys go off and work together.’ These were would not only result in morestructured procedures where kids had a clear idea of what legible papers but also sup-they were to do. So, for example, if it was revising, they were port overall learning across subjects.provided or taught how to carry through on giving feed- “Teachers need to contin-back to their peers on very specific aspects of their writing.” ue to teach their students In addition to writing strategies, summarization, and how to properly form and join letters. We found thatcollaborative writing, Graham and Perin offered the follow- this sort of instruction takesing strategies: place for 10 minutes or less a day in most schools, down from two hours a week in the 1950s,” he said.Specific Product Goals: Specific, reachable goals for the writ- “At home, there are many things that parents can do to help theiring assignment they are to complete. young children improve their penmanship. Activities such as identifying and tracing letters, forming letters from memory, copying words andWord Processing: Using computers and word processors as playing timed games to see how quickly they can accurately produceinstructional supports for writing assignments. written letters and words all go toward building this skill.”Sentence Combining: Teaching students to construct morecomplex, sophisticated sentences. Steve Graham’s research has focused primarily onPrewriting: Engaging students in activities designed to help identifying the factors that contribute to the developmentthem generate or organize ideas for their composition. of writing difficulties; the development and validation ofInquire Activities: Engaging students in analyzing immediate, effective procedures for teaching planning, revising andconcrete data to help them develop ideas and content for a the mechanics of writing to struggling writers; and the useparticular writing task. of technology to enhance writing performance and devel-Process Writing Approach: Interweaving a number of writing opment.instructional activities in a workshop environment that He is the editor of Exceptional Children and the coau-stresses extended writing opportunities, writing for thor of the Handbook of Writing Research, Handbook ofauthentic audiences, personalized instruction and cycles of Learning Disabilities, Writing Better, and Making the Writ-writing. ing Process Work. He is a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center forStudy of Models: Providing students with opportunities to Research on Human Development investigator.read, analyze and emulate models of good writing. The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington,Writing for Content Learning: Using writing as a tool for D.C.-based policy, research and advocacy organizationlearning content material. that works to make every child a graduate, prepared for In closing his remarks, Graham emphasized that Writ- post-secondary education and success in life. To learning Next is not a curriculum for teaching writing. “These more about the Alliance, visit www.all4ed.org.are things that can enhance what we already do. There’s a Writing Next is available online atdelivery issue here.” www.all4ed.org/publications/WritingNext/index.html 7