Effective writing instruction

​Learning to write is a​​ complex process encompassing cognitive, physical, social and cultural dimension​​s (Daffern, Mackenzie & Hemmings, 2017).

Writing, as a mode of English in the Victorian Curriculum, is an integral part of learning in all disciplines requiring students to write or compose a diverse range of texts that meet the literacy demands specific to the various curriculum or discipline areas.

Texts produced, and interpreted, might be print based or multimodal. In the composition of modally complex texts, ‘writing is one of several modes of representation’ (Kress & Bezemer, 2009, p. 167). As such, students need to be taught a range of skills and meaning-making codes to compose texts.

Skills and understandings​​

To be an effective writer or composer of texts requires an understanding of:

  • encoding meaning and the processes of writing and/or composition
  • the processes of writing and /or composition
  • the purposes of texts and their intended audiences
  • the language and visual choices which shape the meaning of texts.

While considerable attention is given to phonics and phonological awareness in the teaching and learning of reading in the early years of schooling, Goswami (2014) highlights the significance of writing in the early development of these skills, stating:

‘One of the best ways of developing ‘phonological awareness’ in young children is via the motivation to write’ (p. 83).

In addition, Goswami acknowledges the impact of oral language on the development of early literacy skills:

‘Given a strong oral language phonological foundation, and good oral language skills, most children will learn the alphabetic code quite quickly, and will be able to recode simple regularly spelled words to sound during the first year of schooling’ (2014, p. 84).

The curriculum​​​

The Victorian Curriculum: English F-10 provides the following account of writing:

  • writing involves students in the active process of conceiving, planning, composing, editing and publishing a range of texts
  • writing involves using appropriate language for particular purposes or occasions, both formal and informal, to express and represent ideas and experiences, and to reflect on these aspects
  • writing involves the development of knowledge about strategies for writing and the conventions of Standard Australian English. Students develop a metalanguage to discuss language conventions and use. (VCAA).

Effective writing instruction:

  • involves students writing for authentic audiences and purposes
  • involves students in focussed and scaffolded writing experiences using principled approaches to the teaching of writing such as the teaching and learning cycle or the writing workshop
  • develops a grammatical metalanguage through discussion of examples and patterns of language choices in texts through teaching practices such as modelling or deconstruction, guided practice or joint construction, and writing conferences
  • encompasses a range of teaching practices such as modelled writing, shared writing, interactive writing and independent writing where varying levels of support can be provided at different points of need
  • opens up ‘a repertoire of possibilities’ for students (Myhill, Jones, Lines & Watson, 2012)
  • includes dedicated, uninterrupted blocks of time for writing that occur daily
  • makes clear connections between meaning making in reading and writing
  • supports students to understand the difference between spoken and written language as they progress through the primary years
  • incorporates explicit instruction about the processes of writing, structural and grammatical features of genres, and spelling
  • ensures students collaborate (engage in peer conferences) at all phases of the writing process
  • uses rich, authentic texts as mentor or model texts
  • ensures teachers model writing and make their own processes visible
  • provides scaffolding and feedback to students at all stages of the writing process
  • includes explicit instruction about foundational phonic and phonological skills necessary to encode meaning as well as knowledge about language
  • provides opportunities to compose a range of genres in various formats
  • takes place in subject English and across the curriculum
  • includes whole group, small group and individual instruction.​

References

Daffern, T., Mackenzie, N., & Hemmings, B. (2017). Predictors of writing success: How important are spelling, grammar and punctuation? Australian Journal of Education, 61(1), 1-13.
Goswami, U. (2014).

Child psychology: A very short introduction.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.Kress, G. & Bezemer, J. (2009).

Writing in a multimodal world or representation. In R. Beard, D. Myhill, J. Riley & M. Nystran (Eds.) (pp. 167-182).

The SAGE Handbook of Writing Development London: SAGE Publications. Myhill, D., Jones, S., Lines, H. & Watson, A. (2012).

Re-thinking grammar: the impact of embedded grammar teaching on students’ writing and students’ metalinguistic understanding. Research Papers in Education, 27 (2), 139–166.