Eleven Ways to Improve Students’ Writing

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Eleven Ways to Improve Students’ Writing

“When students write more frequently,” says Douglas Reeves in the Center for
Performance Assessment’s newsletter, “their ability to think, reason, analyze, communicate, and perform on tests will improve. Writing is critical to student
achievement.” The newsletter goes on to quote a recent Carnegie
Corporation meta-analysis of strategies for improving students’ writing:

  1. Teach strategies. “Explicitly and systematically teaching steps
    necessary for planning, revising, and/or editing text” has a 0.82
    effect size, says the study.
  2. Teach summarization. When students are taught and frequently practice
    distilling the essence of a piece of writing, the effect size is 0.82.
  3. Have students write collaboratively. When students work in pairs or
    small groups to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions, the
    effect size is 0.75. Cooperative writing is especially helpful for
    low-achievers.
  4. Set goals. Telling students the purpose of writing assignments and
    assigning students specific, reachable goals for their writing has an
    effect size of 0.70.
  5. Use word processing. Allowing students to word-process their writing
    is helpful at every stage of the writing process and has an effect size
    of 0.55. It’s especially beneficial for struggling writers.
  6. Practice sentence-combining. Teaching students to construct more
    complex and sophisticated sentences from shorter, simpler material
    enhances the quality of writing; it has an effect size of 0.55.
  7. Use prewriting. Having students create a prewriting organizer before
    their first draft improves the quality of writing and has an effect
    size of 0.32.
  8. Use inquiry activities. “Involving students in writing activities
    designed to sharpen their inquiry skills improves the quality of their
    writing,” says the Carnegie study. It has an effect size of 0.32.
  9. Use process writing. “Emphasizing real audiences, extending
    opportunities for writing, and providing opportunities to self-reflect”
    are key to improving writing, and have an effect size of 0.32.
  10. Look at exemplars. It helps when students look at models of good
    writing in different genres and consciously emulate them in their own
    writing. But if students read exemplars quickly and superficially, it
    doesn’t help. “Instead, students need to tear the examples apart until
    they can identify the specific tools the writer used to build the
    strong piece of writing,” says the study.
  11. Write in the content areas. Writing in social studies, science, and math is helpful, with an effect size of 0.25.

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