New to This Edition
*Chapters on new topics: setting up the writing classroom and writing from informational source material.
*New chapters on core topics: narrative writing, handwriting and spelling, planning, assessment, special-needs learners, and English learners.
*Increased attention to reading–writing connections and using digital tools.
*Incorporates the latest research and instructional procedures.
See also Handbook of Writing Research, Second Edition, edited by Charles A. MacArthur, Steve Graham, and Jill Fitzgerald, which provides a comprehensive overview of writing research that informs good practice.
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About the Author
Charles A. MacArthur, PhD, is Professor of Special Education and Literacy in the School of Education at the University of Delaware. His major research interests include writing development and instruction for struggling writers, development of self-regulated strategies, adult literacy, and applications of technology to support reading and writing. Currently he is principal investigator of a research project evaluating a curriculum for college developmental writing courses based on self-regulated strategy instruction. He is coeditor of the Journal of Writing Research and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals. Dr. MacArthur has published over 100 articles and book chapters and coedited or coauthored several books, including Best Practices in Writing Instruction, Third Edition; Handbook of Writing Research, Second Edition; and Developing Strategic Writers through Genre Instruction.
Michael Hebert, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. His primary research interests include the development and testing of writing interventions for students with disabilities, examining the impacts of writing on reading outcomes, and writing assessment. He is the coauthor of two influential Carnegie Corporation reports: Writing to Read and Informing Writing. Dr. Hebert is currently the principal investigator of an Early Career Development and Mentoring grant from the National Center for Special Education Research, with his project focused on developing an informational text writing intervention for fourth-grade struggling writers. He was previously a fellow in the Experimental Education Research Training program supported by the Institute of Education Sciences. Dr. Hebert serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Educational Psychology.
Read an Excerpt
Evidence-Based Practices in Writing
Karen R. Harris
Since the publication of the first and second editions of Best Practices in Writing Instruction (Graham, MacArthur, & Fitzgerald, 2007, 2013), little has changed in how writing is taught in the majority of classrooms in the United States. Teachers report they devote little time to teaching writing beyond grade 3, and students do little writing in or out of school for academic purposes (Applebee & Langer, 2011; Brindle, Harris, Graham, & Hebert, 2016; Gillespie, Graham, Kiuhara, & Hebert, 2014; Graham, Cappizi, Harris, Hebert, & Morphy, 2014). This stands in stark contrast to the other members of the three R's — reading and mathematics — subjects in which schools and teachers have devoted considerable effort to improving students' performance.
The general lack of attention to improving writing instruction nationwide during this and the last several decades should not distract from the phenomenal job that many schools and teachers do when teaching writing (Wilcox, Jeffrey, & Gardner-Bixler, 2016). Rather, what these educators have accomplished illustrates what is possible when we squarely focus our efforts on providing effective writing instruction. In fact, it is clear that we now have the instructional "know-how" needed to ensure that students become skillful writers. Reports from the Carnegie Corporation of New York (Graham, Harris, & Hebert, 2011; Graham & Hebert, 2010; Graham & Perin, 2007c) and the Institute of Education Sciences (Graham, Bollinger, et al., 2012; Graham et al., 2016) show we possess many tools for improving the quality of students' writing.
It is especially important at this time that we focus on bringing these best practices in writing instruction more fully into all classrooms. Many students do not develop the writing skills needed to be successful in today's world (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). This places them at a disadvantage, as writing is virtually everywhere — at school, work, and home.
While concerns about students' writing are not new (Sheils, 1975), calls to improve writing instruction were largely ignored by past educational reform efforts in the United States. This changed with the advent of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) movement (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). These standards, which were adopted by most states in the United States, made writing and writing instruction a central element of the school reform movement (Graham, Harris, & Santangelo, 2015). Learning to write and writing to learn were strongly emphasized in the CCSS, as students were expected to learn how to write for multiple purposes (e.g., to persuade, to inform, and to narrate) and use writing to recall, organize, analyze, interpret, and build knowledge about content or materials read across discipline-specific subjects. In effect, a basic goal of the CCSS was to revolutionize how writing was taught in U.S. schools and classrooms. This is a goal that we support without reservation.
This chapter and Best Practices in Writing Instruction as a whole address how we can provide effective writing instruction in today's schools. We think that if teachers know why writing is important, they will invest the energy and time needed to develop an excellent writing program. If they understand how writing develops, they will approach writing instruction in a flexible and reasonable manner. If they possess effective tools for teaching writing, they will have the know-how to maximize their students' success as writers. We address each of these assumptions in turn in this chapter and draw attention to other chapters in this volume that address each assumption more specifically.
Is Writing Important?
The answer to this question is an unqualified YES! First, writing is an extremely versatile tool used to accomplish a variety of goals (Graham, 2006b). It provides a mechanism for maintaining personal links with family, friends, and colleagues when we are unable to be with them in person. We use writing to share information, tell stories, create imagined worlds, explore who we are, combat loneliness, and chronicle our experiences. Writing can even make us feel better, as writing about our feelings and experiences can benefit us psychologically and physiologically (Smyth, 1998).
Writing also provides a powerful tool for influencing others. Books like Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe provided a catalyst for antislavery beliefs in 19th-century America, whereas The Jungle by Upton Sinclair changed the way we think about food preparation. The persuasive effects of writing are so great that many governments ban "subversive" documents and jail the offending authors.
Writing is an indispensable tool for learning and communicating. We use writing as a medium to gather, preserve, and transmit information. Just as important, writing about what we are learning helps us understand and remember it better. The permanence of writing makes ideas we are studying readily available for review and evaluation, its explicitness encourages establishing connections between these ideas, and its active nature fosters the exploration of unexamined assumptions (Applebee, 1984). The impact of writing on learning was captured in two meta-analyses (Bangert-Drowns, Hurley, & Wilkinson, 2004; Graham & Perin, 2007c), which found that writing about content material enhanced students' learning in social studies, science, mathematics, and the language arts. Two examples of a writing-to-learn activity are presented in Figure 1.1 (see also Klein, Haug, & Bildfell, Chapter 7, this volume).
Furthermore, students understand material they read better if they write about it. As with writing about concepts presented in science or other content classes, writing about material read provides students with a tool for visibly and permanently recording, analyzing, connecting, personalizing, and manipulating key ideas from text. This has a strong impact on making text read more memorable and understandable (Graham & Hebert, 2010, 2011). This is the case for students in general, and those who are weaker readers and/or writers in particular. It is also the case for narrative and expository text and materials students read for language arts, science, and social studies. Two examples of writing activities that improve students' comprehension of text in scientific studies are presented in Figure 1.2 (see also Shanahan, Chapter 13, this volume).
Finally, teaching students to write improves their reading skills. While reading and writing are not identical skills, they both rely on a common fund of knowledge, processes, and skills (Shanahan, 2016). Consequently, instruction that improves writing skills and processes improves reading skills and processes. Reading is also improved by having students engage in the process of composing text. Writers gain insights about reading by creating text for an audience to read. When they write, students must make their assumptions and premises explicit as well as observe the rules of logic, making them more aware of these same issues in the material they read. Support for both of these premises was obtained in meta-analyses by Graham and colleagues (Graham & Hebert, 2010, 2011; Graham & Santangelo, 2014), who found that:
Teaching spelling improved students' word-reading and comprehension skills.
Teaching sentence constructions skills increased students' reading fluency.
Implementing multicomponent writing instructional programs, such as the process writing approach or skills-based writing instructions, increased how well students comprehended text read.
Increasing how much students write led to better reading comprehension.
As this brief discussion shows, writing is a flexible, versatile, and powerful tool. Writing helps students learn and it can help them become better readers (though research clearly indicates that both writing and reading competence requires substantial instruction in each separately, as well as in combination). Students can use writing to help them better understand themselves. Writing also allows them to communicate with, entertain, and persuade others.
How Does Writing Develop?
While our understanding of how writing develops is not complete, we know enough to be certain that the road from novice to competent writer is strongly influenced by the context in which writing takes place and changes in students' writing skills, strategies, knowledge, and motivation (Graham, 2006b). First, writing is a social activity involving an implicit or explicit dialogue between writer(s) and reader(s). It also takes place in a broader context where the purposes and meaning of writing are shaped by cultural, societal, and historical factors. For instance, written discourse differs considerably among a group of friends tweeting to one another versus the types of academic text students are expected to write at school (Nystrand, 2006).
Writing is more than a social activity, however, as it requires the application of a variety of cognitive and affective processes. It is a goal-directed and self-sustained cognitive activity requiring the skillful management of the writing environment; the constraints imposed by the writing topic; the intentions of the writer(s); and the processes, knowledge, and skills involved in composing (Zimmerman & Reisemberg, 1997). Writers must juggle and master a commanding array of skills, knowledge, and processes, including knowledge about topic and genre; strategies for planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing text; and the skills needed to craft and transcribe ideas into sentences that convey the author's intended meaning. With the ongoing development of new ways of composing that can include visual and auditory information, this process has become even more demanding. Consistent with the conceptualizations above, two basic approaches have dominated much of the discussion about how writing develops. One viewpoint focuses on how context shapes writing development (Russell, 1997), whereas the other concentrates mostly on the role of cognition and motivation in writing (Hayes, 2012). Scholars of writing generally align themselves with one conceptualization or the other. We believe this is a mistake, as writing development (or instruction for that matter) cannot be adequately understood without considering both points of view (see also Bazerman et al., 2017). When we ask teachers about their writing practices, we find that they also think both points of view are essential, as evidenced by how they teach writing and what they believe about it (Cutler & Graham, 2008; Graham, Harris, Fink, & MacArthur, 2002).
Writing Development and Context
The contextual view of writing development in the classroom is aptly illustrated in a model developed by Russell (1997). A basic structure in this model is the activity system, which includes how actors (a student, pair of students, student and teacher, or class — perceived in social terms and taking into account the history of their involvement in the activity system) use concrete tools, such as paper and pencil or word processing, to accomplish an action leading to an outcome, such as writing a story or explaining how to apply a scientific principle. The outcome is accomplished in a problem space where the actors use writing tools in an ongoing interaction with others (peers and teachers) to shape the paper that is being produced over time in a shared direction.
A second basic structure in this model is the concept of genre. These are "typified ways of purposefully interacting in and among some activity system(s)" (Russell, 1997, p. 513). These typified ways of interacting become stabilized via regularized use of writing by and among students, creating a generally predictable approach for writing within a classroom (e.g., in some classes this takes the form of selecting a topic, planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing). These are conceived as only temporarily stabilized structures, however, because they are subject to change depending upon the context. For example, a new student entering a classroom with an established activity system for writing may appropriate some of the routinized tools used by his or her classmates, such as creating a semantic web for organizing writing ideas before drafting a paper. In turn, the new student may change typified ways of writing in a classroom, as other students in the class adapt unfamiliar routines applied by their new classmate, such as "freewriting" ideas about the topic before creating a first draft of the paper.
A more recent model of writing (Graham, 2018), drawing on both activity systems and the concept of genre, places writing and writing instruction within the context of specific writing communities. There are many possible writing communities a student can belong to, including writing communities in and outside of school. A writing community is defined as a group of people who share a basic set of goals and assumptions and use writing to achieve their purpose. In school, a writing community can involve a fourth-grade class whose primary purpose is to learn to write and write for various purposes. It can also involve a tenth-grade science class that uses writing as a tool for understanding material read and results of experiments undertaken.
In addition to having specific purposes, writing communities such as the classrooms described above develop identities, values, norms, and preferred audiences. Within a writing community, members (e.g., teacher and students) assume different roles, responsibilities, identities, and levels of commitment. Members of a community use writing tools and resources along with typified patterns of action to accomplish their writing objectives and task. This work occurs in specific physical and social environments (e.g., brick-and-mortar classroom, digital classroom), and is shaped by a collective history. While the actions and behaviors of a writing community (e.g., teacher and students) become codified with time, they are open to change. In addition, a writing community, such as the fourth- or tenth-grade classes referred to earlier, is likely to contain considerable variability due to the existence of contradictions, conflict, multiple voices, disparate elements, and heterogeneity.
This contextual description of writing (Graham, 2018) suggests that while writing classrooms are likely to share many similarities (e.g., common purposes), no two classes are exactly alike. Even more importantly, writing and learning to write is shaped and constrained by the community in which they take place. The purposes, norms, values, forms, audiences, tools, sanctioned approaches, collaborators, environment, and collective history determine, at least in part, what is written as well as what is learned. As a result, we must carefully consider how we construct our classroom writing community.
Of course, what happens in our classroom is not completely up to each of us, as it is also shaped and constrained by larger forces involving culture, society, family, institution, politics, and history (Bazerman et al., 2017; Graham, 2018). An easy way to illustrate this is through the consequences of high-stakes testing for writing. Most states require annual high-stakes writing tests with students in specific grades. This institutional action increases the amount of time devoted to teaching writing, at least during the years when it is tested (Graham et al., 2011). Not all of the effects of such testing are positive, however. Hillocks (2002) reported that it restricted writing instruction to what is measured. For instance, if narrative writing is tested in fourth grade, writing instruction may well be limited to this genre. Our experiences in schools substantiate this concern.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Best Practices in Writing Instruction"
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Table of ContentsI. Introduction
1. Evidence-Based Practices in Writing, Steve Graham & Karen R. Harris
II. Creating a Supportive Writing Environment
2. Setting Up the Writing Classroom, Linda Friedrich
3. Motivating Writers, Pietro Boscolo & Carmen Gelati
III. Writing for Different Purposes
4. Narrative Writing, Carol Booth Olson & Lauren Godfrey
5. Writing from Source Material, Michael Hebert
6. Argumentative Writing, Ralph P. Ferretti & William E. Lewis
7. Writing to Learn, Perry D. Klein, Katrina N. Haug, & Ashley Bildfell
8. Writing with Digital Tools, Rachel Karchmer-Klein
IV. Teaching Writing
9. Handwriting and Spelling, Rui Alexandre Alves, Teresa Limpo, Naymé Salas, & R. Malatesha Joshi
10. Sentence Construction, Bruce Saddler
11. Planning, Debra McKeown & Erin FitzPatrick
12. Evaluation and Revision, Charles A. MacArthur
13. Reading–Writing Connections, Timothy Shanahan
14. Assessing Writing, Joshua Wilson
15. Instruction for Students with Special Needs, Amy Gillespie Rouse
16. Instruction for English Learners, Adrian Pasquarella
Teacher educators, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates; K–12 classroom teachers and literacy coaches. Serves as a text in advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level courses such as Teaching Writing, Writing Methods, and Writing Instruction.