Washington, D.C.–Writing is a critical component of literacy, but few high school students write well enough to meet the needs of employers or colleges. Today, the Alliance for Excellent Education issues a new report, focusing on the importance of good writing skills and offering new insights about techniques that will improve writing instruction for secondary school students. Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School identifies eleven classroom practices that research suggests will help improve the writing abilities of students in grades 4-12.

Commissioned by Carnegie Corporation of New York, authored by Steve Graham (Peabody College of Education, Vanderbilt University) and Dolores Perin (Teachers College, Columbia University), and with a Foreword by Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian, the report is a companion publication to the Alliance’s 2004 report, Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy. The new report offers an important and unique contribution to policymakers and practitioners concerned with raising adolescent literacy levels through a meta-analysis that reviewed and analyzed experimental and quasi-experimental research on instructional methods and allowed the authors to identify and describe strategies that improve writing skills.

“Reading proficiency is just half the literacy picture,” says Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “We have to widen the literacy spotlight to include writing as well as reading. Increasing students’ writing abilities increases their literacy abilities, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that they will stay in school and graduate. And that means they have a much better chance for future success.”

The eleven instructional practices that Writing Next recognizes as holding the most promise to improve students’ writing skills are:

Writing Strategies: Teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and editing their compositions

Summarization: Explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize texts

Collaborative Writing: Instructional arrangements in which adolescents work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions

Specific Product Goals: Specific, reachable goals for the writing they are to complete

Word Processing: Using computers and word processors as instructional supports for writing assignments

Sentence Combining: Teaching students to construct more complex, sophisticated sentences

Prewriting: Engaging students in activities designed to help them generate or organize ideas for their composition

Inquire Activities: Engaging students in analyzing immediate, concrete data to help them develop ideas and content for a particular writing task

Process Writing Approach: Interweaving 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.

Study of Models: Providing students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate models of good writing

Writing for Content Learning: Using writing as a tool for learning content material.

Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School is available at http://www.all4ed.org/publications/WritingNext/WritingNext.pdf

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