Identify a strategy worth teaching
Identifying strategies worth teaching means looking for strategies that
will be genuinely helpful. In the case of struggling writers, strategies
worth teaching are the ones which will help them overcome their writing
difficulties. In our research we have decided that the best way to identify
such strategies is by talking with struggling writers, asking them about
how they write, what they think about while writing, and what they see
as difficulties. Additional insight can be gained by studying student
papers to infer where writers are having difficulty and by observing
writers at work.
2. Introduce the strategy
by modeling it.
Introducing strategies by modeling them generally means some form of
composing out loud in front of students. Many of the teachers in our
studies prefer to do this for groups or whole classes by writing at
an overhead projector. They speak their thoughts while writing, calling
particular attention to the strategy they are recommending for students.
Sometimes they ask students to contribute to the writing the teacher
is doing, to copy the writing for themselves, or to compose a similar
piece of writing in connection with the writing the teacher is doing.
Teachers in our studies also frequently model writing strategies during
individual conferences with students.
learning of the strategy.
Scaffolding the learning of a writing strategy means helping students
to try the strategy with teacher assistance. This is best done in a
writing workshop. The workshop setting is ideal for giving varying degrees
of assistance according to individual needs. It is also ideal for conferring
with individuals and for setting up partnerships and peer groups so
that students can assist each other in the learning of strategies. Even
when a writing workshop is not used, some amount of in-class writing
with teacher assistance is necessary to make sure that writers practice
using the strategy being taught.
Repeated practice and reinforcement.
Helping students to work toward independent mastery of the strategy
through repeated practice and reinforcement means giving them opportunities
to use the strategy many times with decreasing amounts of assistance
each time. The idea here is that it is better to teach a few key writing
strategies well than it is to teach many of them insufficiently. Students
value and master the things we have them do repeatedly. In a way, this
gets back to identifying strategies worth teaching -- look for ones
that are crucial to writing processes, such as strategies for planning
particular types of writing, or for structuring texts certain ways.
Then model, practice and repeat.