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What does your research say about effective practices for teaching writing?

Expert answer

My colleagues and I have conducted a number of meta-analyses trying to identify what are effective practices for young children. And a couple of things have come up as being absolutely necessary. One, is kids have to write, first and foremost. Second, we need to teach them how to carry out the processes of planning, revising, evaluating and monitoring as they’re writing. Third, we need to make sure that they’re knowledgeable about the basic characteristics of the genres in which they write.

And we also need to be certain that they develop the particular fundamental writing skills so that they’re automatic, like handwriting, spelling, typing, but also that they become facile in terms of their ability to put their ideas into sentences. It’s absolutely necessary that kids learn to do that.

There are a number of other things that we can do to support young writers.  One is helping them set goals for what they’re going to write about.  Second is to have them work together with each other around processes — they plan, they draft, they revise. Third is to give them feedback about their writing and help them assess their own writing and give feedback to others.

Another important factor is using 21st century tools. When kids use word processing for six months or a year, their development as a writer is much greater than when they just write by hand.

Finally (though not part of our meta-analysis), one of the things that we find consistently among expert literacy teachers is that they set up a classroom that’s supportive, that’s pleasant, and that helps kids develop over time as writers.

These are the things that we found to be most critical.

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