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Teaching Writing Strategies
We recommend a four-step instructional process for teaching writing strategies.


The steps are these:

1. 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.
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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.
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3. Scaffold 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.
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4. 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.
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