What is Writing?
If reading is making meaning from text, then writing can be described as making meaning with text. But, as with reading, writing is an incredibly complex process, much of which is invisible. It involves many sub-skills, knowledge, and strategies. “We must, for instance, be able to move a pen, or depress a key, precisely and fluidly to render letters, remember rules of grammar and syntax, place our thoughts in an order that makes sense, and think ahead to what we want to write next” (Basics of Writing, PBS.org). Writing not only represents our ideas, but the very act of writing helps us develop ideas and put them into language. It is indispensable to education.
Because its many processes are intertwined with and reciprocal to reading, it should be taught concurrently.
Reading improves writing, but writing has also been proven to improve reading. And just as children go through developmental stages of reading, they go through stages of writing development. Children must learn to develop their own writing processing system, just as they must develop their own reading processing system. As reading involves word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation, writing involves word knowledge, grammar and syntax knowledge, cognition, and motivation, as well as skill with the chosen tools.
Best Practices in Writing Instruction
In a 2012 Reading Teacher article, Zumbrunn and Kraus presented their findings after surveying leaders in the field of writing instruction. Even though practice varies, they found that there were five underlying principles of effective writing instruction:
· Effective writing instructors realize the impact of their own writing beliefs, experiences, and practices.
· Effective writing instruction encourages student motivation and engagement.
· Effective writing instruction begins with clear and deliberate planning, but is also flexible.
· Effective writing instruction and practice happen every day.
· Effective writing instruction is a scaffolded collaboration between teachers and students.
Zumbrunn & Kraus, “Conversations With Leaders: Principles of Effective Writing Instruction”, The Reading Teacher Vol. 65 Issue 5 pp. 346-353
Supporting Struggling Writers: How can teachers help students overcome writing difficulties and enhance their motivation to write? This monograph in the What Works? Research into Practice series from the University of Toronto answers this question with practical classroom approaches.