Evidence-Based Instruction for Standard English Conventions

Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

How can you help your students become more effective communicators? This lesson identifies and describes evidence-based methods teachers can use for developing students' understanding of English language conventions in speaking and writing.

Evidence-Based Writing Instruction

What do you think of when you hear the phrase evidence-based instruction? This simply means the method of instruction has been put to the test and has been successful in the past with students. In order to be evidence-based, research needs to be done, and results should be trustworthy. When it comes to helping students develop an understanding of English language conventions in speaking and writing, evidence-based methods are a valuable resource. Let's explore how Mrs. McSwain puts evidence-based methods into practice.

Writing Conferences

Mrs. McSwain's classroom works quietly as she conferences with Felix at her desk. He wrote an expository piece of writing about desert plants, and now she is working with him to help him find mistakes. Most of his mistakes are on English language conventions, such as punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Research has shown that students learn and improve their ability to use English language conventions in writing when their own writing is used as a tool for discussing and learning conventions.

When students learn conventions in the context of their own writing, their learning is more meaningful.


As Mrs. McSwain conferences with the rest of her class, she notices a pattern, which reveals that students lack a command of compound sentences and the placement of commas in those sentences. She can take this information and do a mini-lesson, meaning a lesson that is shorter than the full-blown lessons she usually gives. This mini-lesson might take 10-15 minutes and she might lift sentences from her students' own writing to help as examples for demonstrating the concept.

Applied Practice

Other research has shown that teaching conventions in isolation, meaning lessons that are disconnected from actual writing, such as through a textbook or worksheets, is not very effective. Isolated lessons about punctuation, for example, are less effective than teaching these lessons in the context of writing. Using worksheets on sentences would be less effective than having students compose their own types of sentences where they can apply the rules of punctuation. This goes for any lesson about any other convention of the English language. Perhaps mini-lessons can be applied to compositions students are currently writing in class as a form of applied practice.

Peer Editing

Mrs. McSwain likes to give students the chance to be peer editors. This means students revise and edit one another's papers for the conventions being taught in writing conferences, mini-lessons, or in context-based convention lessons. Students learn to apply what they learn quickly in this way, which makes the learning more meaningful.

Evidence-Based Speaking Instruction

Some children will not engage with their peers on their own socially. Research revealed that young children who are English language learners especially need adults around to help facilitate oral language and verbal discussion with students their own age. When a child approaches an adult, the adult can ask the student to ask one of their peers for help. You can suggest a sentence a student might use to approach the peer so the student learns new ways to interact socially with the language.

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