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Learn Writing Strategies

Teaching students strategies to use in their writing is the most often cited practice for improving student writing. Strategies can be steps for prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing. Strategies can also be targeted to specific tasks, like writing a persuasive essay or a story.

“Writing strategies help to simplify and organize the complex tasks required for successful composing (e.g. planning, drafting, and revising) by making the mental processes visible and providing a clearly defined plan for completing a writing assignment successfully.”

“Effective Writing Instruction for Students Who Have Writing Difficulties”
Focus on Exceptional Children, December 2009
Tanya Santangelo and Natalie G. Olinghouse

Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Steve Graham began studying writing instruction and writing development, particularly with students who struggled with learning disabilities. His research is broadly referenced in academic journals on the topic of teaching writing and improving student writing.

Dr. Graham was pivotal in developing the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) for teaching writing. The goal of SRSD is for the student to gain independence in their writing.  This process relies on teacher instruction initially, with a gradual transfer to the student.  It is a recursive process, meaning the steps are not completed one right after the other in a linear sequence. Instead, they continue "back and forth", with the teacher acting as a coach.

In their article “Self-Regulated Strategy Development for Students with Writing Difficulties,” published in Theory into Practice, Linda Mason and co-authors explain the six steps for teaching any writing strategy:  

  1. Develop background knowledge.                                                       Teachers evaluate students’ knowledge and abilities and equip students with necessary instruction.

  1. Discuss the strategies.                                                                           Teachers and students talk about the strategy to be used.
  1. Teachers model the strategies. ‚Äč                                                            Teacher demonstrates using the strategies, thinking aloud, often with student input.
  1. Students memorize the strategies.                                                        Often using a mnemonic such as POW or STOP and DARE, students memorize the strategy.
  1. Teacher supports use of writing and self-regulation of the strategies.                                                                                                  Writing begins, often as a collaborative effort of teacher and student, transitioning into guided student practice.
  1. Independent student performance.                                                     Students demonstrate independence using the strategy.

PDF handout explaining POW, STOP and DARE writing strategies.