The components of an effective writing lesson

Experimental and random control trials, systematic reviews, meta-analyses and case studies together with research into what the most effective schools do (Young & Ferguson 2021a, 2022) all point to the efficacy of a Writing For Pleasure approach for conducting daily writing lessons. 

The components of an effective writing lesson typically involve a reassuringly consistent (though adaptable) routine of: mini-lesson, writing time, and class sharing. What is innovative here is that, after a mini-lesson, children are invited to apply what’s just been taught in a way that is relevant to their own writing (you can read more about this here).

The table below explains why this consistent approach is so useful and effective.

An excellent foundation and a good rule of thumb when you’re first setting up a routine for writing lessons is to follow this kind of order and timings:

Depending on the circumstances of your new class, you may find you need to build up to these kinds of timings at the beginning of the year. For example, your class may not have the emotional maturity or be developmentally ready to deal with a 10 minute mini-lesson. Similarly, they may not yet have the stamina to engage in writing for 40 minutes.

Once you and your students are comfortable with this kind of routine, you can begin to play around with it. Routine doesn’t mean rigidity –a good routine always has a component of flexible response. The routine’s importance is found in knowing what a good writing lesson typically involves and having a shared language you can use with your class. Your students will soon get used to language like: workshop time, mini-lesson, writing time, silent writing, social writing, conferencing time, class sharing and Author’s Chair (Harris 2021).  
Once comfortable, there are endless ways in which you can play around with these key combinations. Doug Kaufman (2022) suggests thinking about your daily schedule in a graphic form of boxes that help you to clarify the time you want to spend on different events and envision the multiple possibilities for structuring the daily routine to respond to pupils’ needs and personal agendas. Here are just a few examples:

It’s vital that we think carefully about the process goals we set for writing time, too (Young & Ferguson 2021a, 2022). A process goal is something we would like children to achieve or get done by the end of a writing session. It’s important to say that by writing time we don’t necessarily mean drafting. Writing time simply means time engaged in the processes of writing. For example, writing time might mean: making front covers; working on plans; drafting a picturebook page; producing a single paragraph of writing; reading; conducting research; discussing and revising some already crafted writing; proof-reading for spellings; or publishing.

Here are some examples of the sorts of ways that you can set process goals for writing time:

The reason these components are so brilliant is because they offer the potential for explicit instruction, meaningful practice and formative assessment every single day. These are the absolute bedrocks of all teaching and learning.

By Doug Kaufman & Ross Young

References 

  • Ferguson, F., Young, R. (2021) A Guide To Pupil-conferencing With 3-11 Year Olds: Powerful Feedback & Responsive Teaching That Changes Writers Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Harris, B. (2021) Author’s Chair [Online: writing4pleasure.com/authors-chair ]
  • Kaufman, D. (2022) Teacher, Inventor: How to Take Your Teaching Back from the Pre-Packaged Writing Program. Manuscript accepted for publication.
  • Whittick, L. (2020) Write a little – share a little [Online: writing4pleasure.com/write-a-little-share-a-little ]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2021) Writing For Pleasure: Theory, Research & Practice London: Routledge
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2021b) Guide To Personal Writing Projects & Writing Clubs For 3-11 Year Olds Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2022) Handbook Of Research On Teaching Young Writers Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Hayden, T. (2022) Getting Success Criteria Right For Writing Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre

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