National Writing Project

Report Presents Effective Strategies to Improve Writing

Date: October 1, 2006

Summary: The Writing Next report analyzes eleven specific teaching techniques that research suggests will help improve the writing abilities of students, grades 4-12.


Trying to aid a generation of youth desperately in need of better writing skills, the Alliance for Excellent Education released a report identifying eleven key elements of instruction proven to be effective.

The new report, Writing Next, highlights specific teaching strategies that help adolescent students learn to write well, ranging from the use of collaborative writing arrangements to inquiry activities that engage students in developing content and ideas.

The report comes at a critical time when the nation is mired in a "national literacy crisis." Research shows that 70 percent of students in grades 4 to 12 are low-achieving writers, and that more than 7,000 students drop out of high school every day.

"American students today are not meeting even basic writing standards, and their teachers are often at a loss for how to help them," writes Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, underwriters of the study.

Authors of the report used a rigorous, large-scale statistical review of research to identify the consistency and strength of instructional practices on student-writing quality. The eleven elements of instruction they found most effective are:

1. Writing Strategies, which involves teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and editing their compositions

2. Summarization, which involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize texts

3. Collaborative Writing, which uses instructional arrangements in which adolescents work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions

4. Specific Product Goals, which assigns students specific, reachable goals for the writing they are to complete

5. Word Processing, which uses computers and word processors as instructional supports for writing assignments

6. Sentence Combining, which involves teaching students to construct more complex, sophisticated sentences

7. Prewriting, which engages students in activities designed to help them generate or organize ideas for their composition

8. Inquiry Activities, which engages students in analyzing immediate, concrete data to help them develop ideas and content for a particular writing task

9. Process Writing Approach, which interweaves a number of writing instructional activities in a workshop environment that stresses extended writing opportunities, writing for authentic audiences, personalized instruction, and cycles of writing

10. Study of Models, which provides students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate models of good writing

11. Writing for Content Learning, which uses writing as a tool for learning content material

Download the complete report from the Alliance for Excellent Education website.

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