Explicit writing instruction is hard to come by. Historically, teachers have encouraged students to write and read more to become better writers. That definitely is true, but for a large portion of our young writers, they need more explicit or direct instruction.
Telling students how to write is not considered explicit instruction. Explicit instruction is giving students tools that can be used repeatedly to arrive at the right answer. Telling students about good writing, or showing students examples of good writing, does not actually ensure that students can compose great writing. Students need to be taught a pattern for success.
Young writers struggle with these these things:
- Coming up with unique ideas.
- Putting their ideas into a grammatically correct sentence.
- Organizing their paragraphs.
Below are patterns that you can create in your own explicit writing curriculum or unit. Make sure you model every new outline or example before having students try it on their own. Modeling uses the research based teaching method: I do, We do, You do. Refer back to my post on How to Teach Anything to learn about that more.
Explicit ways to develop ideas:
- Create a thought web (write and idea in the middle, write other ideas on the outside and then connect the ideas)
- Learn about and idea and then write about it (we’re not all creative writers!)
- Read a book first, then write about what happened.
- Draw a picture and then write a story that goes with it.
Explicit ways to develop grammatically correct sentences:
- Use a sentence outline. This is not cheating for students. Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. If you student repeatedly leaves out the conjunctions (e.g. and, but), write a sentence filler for them to practice with:
After the basketball game, _______________________ and ___________________________.
I like to eat cookies, ___________ I love cake!
Sentence outlines like these examples can be used over and over again. Try to have them write a few sentences without the outline before asking them to incorporate these into their own writing.
- Have students edit sentences in a paragraph for correct and incorrect grammar. This typically works best if you make your own paragraphs with the specific problem used several times.
- Use word strips to put together sentences. This is similar to the sentence outline, but allows for some movement for visual learners.
Explicit Ways to Organize a Paragraph
- Use a combination of sentence outlines and paragraph outlines. This is the most effective way I have ever taught writing. Using this method I have successfully taught students with communication disorders how to write an organized paragraph. It is the best way to teach struggling learners. If you want to purchase this powerful method, I have created a 5 lesson curriculum for $8.00 on teachers pay teachers.
- Have students fill in a graphic organizer. The key here is to use the same one consistently. Students need to feel confident with their set up before they can do it on their own. Remember that generalizing a skill is the last step to learning.
After students have been taught the how to explicitly complete a paragraph, then students just need to practice. Editing, revising, practicing comes after students know HOW to practice. Perfect practice makes perfect. And once students know how to follow the rules, you can teach them when to break the rules (which any expert writer knows).
Let me know if you have any other questions or need further help!