Writing Best Practices

Writing is not simply a way for students to demonstrate what they know. It is a way to help them understand what they know.

What are the best practices? Why??

As Resource Teacher, I don’t spend any time teaching in the Writers Workshop. I tend to focus on the science of writing. Can the student write in complete sentences? Does it make sense? Spelling? Handwriting? What accommodations does the student need to do Workshop in class?

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had parents ask me about writing. I have never really thought about the best practices in writing and how to guide teachers to build them into their writing practices.

The effective teaching of writing involves all three of these learning experiences, with an emphasis on the writer’s craft, the use of high-quality writing exemplars, time for classroom writing practice and thoughtful reflection before, during, and after the writing.

Best practices in Writing

1.Establish a positive atmosphere for writing, reading, and learning by:
  • Creating an inviting classroom with flexible seating, accessible resources, and attractive surroundings
  • Modeling respect
  • Sharing the teacher’s own writing with students
  • Establishing routines and expectations
2.Organize for writing by:
  • Setting up a writing workshop routine which convenes every day of the week
  • Using writer’s notebooks/portfolios
  • Teaching writer’s craft techniques based on an understanding of the writing process and student  writing needs
3.Provide meaningful student writing activities by:
  • Promoting student choice and ownership for both fiction and nonfiction writing
  • Providing opportunities for authentic writing
4.Ensure that students read, respond to, and use a variety of materials written for a variety of purposes and  audiences by:
  • Giving reading an integral role in the writing classroom
  • Providing diverse reading materials modeling the importance of craft and idea

5. Write regularly across the curriculum and grade levels by:
  • Collaborating on assignments among content area teachers
  • Sharing writing rubrics across grade levels and subject areas

6.Arrange for students to have a constructive response to their writing and to offer a response to other writers by:
  • Making teacher and peer response a part of writing instruction
  • Providing class time for revision 
  • Responding intermittently throughout the writing process, not only after the final draft
  • Using many techniques to respond to student’s writing
7.Provide opportunities for students to collaborate as writers, thinkers, and learners by:
  • Using collaboration techniques such as furniture placement, modeling collaboration, providing checklists and forms, and organizing writing pairs or small groups
  • Providing guidelines and demonstrations of appropriate student interactions and creating specific tasks for students to accomplish during their collaborations
8.Conduct effective mini-lessons on writing by:
  • Choosing writer’s craft lessons that relate to students’ needs
  • Structuring mini-lessons so students can observe, discuss, and simulate the targeted writing craft lessons or skills
  • Providing specific responses to these simulated practices

How do I all of this in Workshop Model?

  • Teacher demonstrates
  • Teacher models aloud what they are doing, thinking and rethinking while writing, rereading and revising a draft
  • Teacher talks aloud about topics such as appropriate writing mode - narrative, expository, persuasive; spacing needs; organizational patterns and transition words; writer’s craft lessons such as persuasive details of statistics and expert opinion; effective repetition
  • Teacher points out skills such as spelling conventions, punctuation needs, vocabulary choices, sentence structures, revision techniques
  • Teacher and class compose aloud, collaboratively
  • Both negotiate topics, purposes, and word choice with each other
  • Teacher acts as scribe and encourages all students to participate
  • Teacher provides explicit questioning and directions, encouraging high-level thinking on focus, support, organization, language use/ conventions, writer’s craft
  • Core of the program – whole class, small group, or individualized
  • Student writes and teacher guides
  • Explicit teaching in form of mini-lessons for reinforcement of skills depicted in shared writing or for the introduction of new writer’s craft lessons
  • Rubric development and review conferences take place along with peer response and  sharing
  • Writing may be responses to literature; authentic responses; relating to information/ reports; description of classroom experiences; personal reflections; writing to learn in content areas
  • Writing activities are embedded each day
  • Students work alone, using their current knowledge of writing process, often choosing own topics
  • Occurs daily in writer’s workshop format
  • Teacher and student monitor through daily log journals, conferences, teacher  feedback

Balanced Writing Workshop?

How do these four components look in the classroom?
  • Reading-writing connection - tying together books being read aloud and/or studied in class to writing lessons and research reports/projects
  • Meaningful print-rich environment – using labels, posters, captions where they catch student’s attention and serve a purpose for writing; literacy centers at K-5 such as post office, supermarket, bookstore, office, kitchen; real-world assignments 
  • Teacher modeling – regularly modeling aloud the drafting of narratives, leads, poetry, punctuation conventions, along with writing in response to reading assignments
  • Real purposes and audiences – providing students time to write each day about topics they have knowledge of and care about, using rubrics which describe levels of achievement
  • Writer’s craft – specifically teaching the techniques of writing such as the importance of audience, the use of dialogue, connotative and sensory language, parallel sentence structures
  • Writing various genres – producing picture books, recipes, brochures, essays, social studies reports, movie reviews, website reviews, letters to the editor, book reviews, memoirs
  • Emphasis on revision – revising pieces thoughtfully over time—not a new piece of writing each day
  • Conferencing– keeping a log or portfolio on each student’s writing progress
  • Spelling and vocabulary – connecting both to writing, reading and language use (Spelling should be part of writing)
  • Sentence structure and conventions – practicing in context, using mini-lessons, not isolated skills sheets.

Caveats Regarding Two Teaching Practices

Teaching just the science of writing is the first area of concern. Too often, the science writing leads to mediocre, dull writing where student engagement with the text is absent.

It is not that most students who just use a form cannot write; it is that they cannot write at the level that today’s businesses and colleges expect. Writing which is purposeful reflects insight into the writing situation and demonstrates a mature command of language.

While a formula may be useful for beginning writers who need scaffolding in organizational techniques and in the crafting of elaboration,  it should not be an outcome expectation for student writers at any grade level.

Students need the art of writing to encourage student engagement with the text. This learning and practicing an array of organizational writing patterns also encourages higher order thinking. Teachers who teach a menu of organizational patterns, along with each pattern’s linking expressions and signal words, implicitly help students make sense of the ideas they want to express. Among these patterns are chronological order, comparison-contrast, description, concept/definition, and process/ cause-effect. Creative, thoughtful modes of writing may be developed through the use of these patterns– modes such as the personal essay, research report, autobiography, feature news article or editorial, as well as, the short story or poem.

Providing models of the art and craft of writing by excellent writers for student imitation is considered a best practice.

Like all Best Practices--it's about knowing your students and what they need to do their best work. With writing, the challenge is balancing the art and science of writing is required to create powerful, college ready writers.

Chat soon,


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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