The "Write" Connections
Writers are often thought of as solitary figures. Yet good writers know the importance of connections. Their work is to connect ideas, words and images that will, in turn, connect with readers. Research shows that helping students become good writers requires that schools also make the "write" connections:
Teachers and students Sheida White, on analyzing the 1998 NAEP reading assessment, observed a positive relationship between "teachers talking with students about what students were writing and students' writing scores," especially in grades 8 and 12.
Reading and writing "Numerous studies have shown that writing led to improved reading achievement, reading led to better writing, and combined instruction led to improvement in both reading and writing," wrote Tierney and Shanahan in the 1991 Handbook of Reading Research.
Creative and informational writing Informational texts, as well as stories and poems, can play important roles in children's literacy development. Until recently, however, early literacy instruction tended to focus on fiction and poetry. Most children had little classroom experience with nonfiction texts until after they had learned to read. For example, when Nell Duke of Michigan State University examined 20 first-grade classrooms, she found students spent an average of 3.6 minutes per day engaged with informational texts, and the average was even lower in high-poverty districts.
Limited exposure to good models of informational writing may hinder students' ability to produce such writing themselves. Students need experiences in reading and writing in various genres, and they must be taught about the distinct rhetorical elements appropriate to each.
Writing and its components Research by Paul Diederich (1974), Donald Murray (1982) and Alan Purves (1992) helped identify six traits that intelligent, educated people notice when they examine student writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and conventions such as correct spelling and grammar.
Writer and audience As students receive instruction in how to organize thoughts, develop ideas and revise for clarity, they need opportunities to practice. Writing for authentic purposes for real audiences can motivate students as they learn the components of good writing.
Process and product Students in grades 8 and 12 outperformed peers on the 1998 NAEP writing assessment when they "were asked to plan their writing at least once a week or once or twice a month" and when they were asked to write more than one draft. A positive relationship was observed at grades 4, 8 and 12 between student writing scores and students having writing portfolios.
Writing and learning The standards movement sparked increased use of writing as a tool for learning and communicating in all disciplines. The National Science Education Standards, for example, direct teachers to use writing as a tool for building scientific understanding.
Robert Bangert-Drowns and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 48 school-based writing-to-learn programs in 2004. They found writing could have a small, positive impact on conventional measures of academic achievement. The use of metacognitive prompts and increased treatment length were associated with enhanced effects. Bangert-Drowns cautions that poorly designed writing activities or assignments that exceed students' developmental abilities may have a negative impact on learning.
Writing and technology Amie Goldberg and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of 26 studies conducted between 1992 and 2002, comparing K-12 students writing with computers vs. paper and pencil. They found an increase in the quantity and quality of student writing in classrooms where computers were used.