Learn what works

Although writing instruction has been researched much less often than reading instruction, it is an equally important component of literacy proficiency and encompasses, in itself, an extremely complex set of skills.  Writing has been shown to be an effective tool for enhancing students’ learning of content material.

Writing to Learn:  An Example

In a science class, the students study the human circulatory system.  The teacher’s goal is to help students develop alternative conceptualizations of the role of the heart, blood, and circulation.  The science teacher asks the students to write summaries and answer questions in writing to increase their ability to explain information, elaborate knowledge leading to deeper understanding of the topic, comment on and interpret information in the written science text, communicate what has not been understood, and describe a change of belief they might be experiencing.  Note that in the writing to learn approach, the teacher assigns writing tasks but does not provide explicit instruction in writing skills.  Thus, writing is a tool of learning content material rather than an end in itself.

Name
Write to Learn Strategies for Grades K-3
Write to Learn Strategies for Grades 4-12

See how it works

Write to Learn Strategies

Admit Slip

Strategy

Consolidates thinking, allows for reflection and metacognitive thinking

Planning

Decide what to assess. Write one or more prompt(s) to elicit specific information or higher-order thinking.

Moves

  1. Share prompt with students, assign as homework.
  2. Collect as students enter the room the next class period, review quickly as they are handed in.
  3. Quickly address misconceptions, items of interest, or humor.  May be used to prompt discussion or group students.

Writing Breaks

Strategy

Enhances retention (70-90% range), expresses and deepens learning

Planning

Decide when to insert a writing break: during instruction, during a video, during in-class reading, after studying a graph or chart. Write a prompt that is engaging and elicits specific or higher-order thinking.

Moves

  1. Organize students into pairs prior to lesson.
  2. Pause at the pre-planned spots and give prompt.
  3. Students write for a brief period.
  4. Students trade papers with their partners and read silently.
  5. Cruise the room to read over shoulders; use as assessment for learning.
  6. Follow with brief partner talk.
  7. May conclude with brief large group sharing.
  8. Before moving on, address any misinformation or confusion.

Drawing and Illustrating

Strategy

Consolidates background knowledge, builds understanding of complex ideas and relationships, enhances retention.

Planning

Decide what to assess. Write very specific prompt to get at the key concept being taught.

Moves

  1. Have paper/transparencies and writing tools available.
  2. Assure students they may use sketches, stick figures, etc. (It’s not about the art work.)
  3. Provide drawing prompt-be specific:(quick individual sketch at start of class, used to contribute to whole class version on overhead; builds background knowledge collaboratively and teacher can address misconceptions; may be sketching during instruction-Read Aloud, video, demonstration, silent reading; may be sketch after instruction as Exit Slip.
  4. Work the room and quickly address misconceptions-the visual is powerful.
  5. Students must draw their own-it is the creating that helps the brain understand, elaborate and retain.

Paragraph Frames

Strategy

Facilitates understanding and retention; provides structured way of using Write to Learn; eases the transition from narrative to content area writing; introduces students to organizational structures to convey information.

Planning

Determine text structure. Create a simple model paragraph & copy the sentences onto sentence or transparency strips. Prepare a blank paragraph fame on chart paper or overhead. Create blank paragraph frame for student use.

Moves

  1. Students arrange the sentence strips appropriately, based on content.
  2. Discuss structure & read the completed paragraph together.
  3. Complete the paragraph frame together, using responses elicited from the students.
  4. Students use the paragraph frame to write their own paragraphs.

Considerations: Gradually let students fill in their own information within the context of a framed paragraph. It may be appropriate to only complete as a group rather than individually.

Exit Slip

Strategy

Consolidates thinking, allows for reflection and metacognitive thinking.

Planning

Decide what to assess. Write one or more prompt(s) to elicit specific information or higher-order thinking.

Moves

  1. Have small cards available.
  2. During the last 3-5 minutes of class:
    1. pose the prompt(s)
    2. students write.
  3. Collect cards as students exit the room.
  4. Review prior to next day’s class period.
  5. At the beginning of the next day, address misconceptions, items of interest, humor.

RAFT (Role, Audience, Format & Topic)

Strategy

Deepens and expresses learning.

Planning

Determine topic criteria and prepare one or more examples of role, audience, format & topic.

Moves

  1. Negotiate topic ideas based on criteria, record on board or chart.
  2. Explain and model selection of role, audience & format being sure to point out the need for the format to suit the audience.
  3. Class brainstorms ideas for role, audience & format and records on the board or chart.
  4. Small groups discuss as each individual or group makes its selection(s).
  5. Research
  6. Draft and revise, formative assessment.
  7. Edit
  8. Publish

Do what works

Name
Admit Slip
Paragraph Frame – Compare & Contrast
Paragraph Frame – Reaction
Paragraph Frame – Sequence
RAFT
RAFT – What You Should Know
RAFT – Possibilities