Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eleven Elements of Effective Writing Instruction

In the report, Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools, Steve Graham and Delores Perin outline Eleven Elements of Effective Writing Instruction. Avon Maitland teacher inquiry groups are referencing these eleven elements to support their work in improving student writing.

In Graham and Perin's words, the Eleven Elements of Effective Writing Instruction are:

  1. Writing Strategies – teaching students strategies for planning, writing and editing.
  2. Summarization – explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize.
  3. Collaborative Writing – structural arrangements to work together to plan, draft and edit writing.
  4. Specific Product Goals – assigning specific reachable goals for the writing assignment.
  5. Word Processing – using computers and word processors as instructional supports.
  6. Sentence Combining – teaching students to construct more complex sentences.
  7. Prewriting – activities designed to help students generate and organize ideas.
  8. Inquiry Activities – analyzing immediate, concrete data to develop ideas for a writing task.
  9. Process Writing Approach – interweaving a number of activities in a workshop environment (writing for authentic audiences, personalized instruction, cycle of writing).
  10. Study of Models – opportunities for students to read, analyze and emulate good models of writing.
  11. Writing for Content Learning – writing as a tool for learning content material.

The use of technology, specifically Web 2.0 tools, is notably absent from Graham and Perin's work and I can think of two possible reasons for this. First, Web 2.0, or work with new literacies, may be excluded from the report, because the research into this topic was still relatively thin in 2006. Writing Next was released in 2006 and summarizes the research conducted on adolescent literacy; it conveys trends that were seen across this body of research. It cannot, however reflect research that was not conducted prior to 2006. On the other hand, the Eleven Elements may actually encompass the strategies used when writing for the web and on the web.

Either way, these Eleven Elements provide a solid starting place for teachers trying to improve student writing in their classes.


  1. Thank you. This was helpful. I teach AP World and US History and am always looking for new ways for my students to write well and with a purpose.

    Ron Peck

  2. I enjoyed this post, but I think you can extend this post to a discussion of each of your bullet points.

    If you end up planning a unit using these eleven elements, I'd also enjoy reading a series of posts on the planning, how you carry out the instruction, and your reflection.

  3. Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.


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