Too often when teachers say they are teaching writing, they mean that they are assigning writing work to their students, but they aren’t actually helping students master the fundamentals. From grammar and spelling basics to writing thesis statements and revising drafts, every step of the process is essential for developing confident writers who can effectively communicate their ideas. Based on several research reports, Jenny Hamilton, M.Ed., an independent literacy consultant, has identified best practices for writing education, which she shared in the recent edWebinar, “Strategies for Building Proficient K–12 Writers.” Overall, the goal is to break down writing into its essential elements, giving students the opportunity to master them before drafting essays and reports.
First, students should have a strong background in the structures of writing, such as spelling, punctuation, and basic grammar. In addition, teachers should spend time looking at individual sentence and paragraph construction. For example, what makes a good topic sentence? How do you connect the sentences in a paragraph to each other? Which adjectives and adverbs convey which emotions to the reader? Thus, students are able to pay more attention to the content of their writing because they understand the foundations.
Then, students can move on to prewriting. As part of prewriting students need to be able to interpret a writing prompt. They should be able to say in their own words what the teacher is asking them to do. Teachers need to work with their classes to identify the key asks in a prompt and how that narrows the scope of the assignment.