Evidence-Based Instruction for Writing

Instructor: Linda Winfree

Linda has taught English at grades 6-12 and holds graduate degrees in curriculum and teacher leadership.

In this lesson, you will learn more about how to select and implement evidence-based writing instruction with your special education students. You will also explore specific examples of evidence-based instruction methods for writing.

Evidence-Based Instruction for Writing

As a special education teacher, you want to prepare your students for success. Writing skills impact academic achievement in multiple areas. Implementing evidence-based writing instruction is an excellent way to help your students achieve across the curriculum.

How do you know how to design writing instruction to best suit your students? Let's start by looking at the evidence, then following an inclusion teacher as she designs evidence-based writing instruction for her pupils.

What Does the Evidence Show?

The research on writing evidence provides an overview of what elements your instruction should contain. First, students need to write often to build fluency, allowing students to quickly get ideas down in writing. This means students should write daily, weekly, and monthly. Daily and weekly writings can be short reflections or answers, while monthly writings are usually writing process pieces, where students go through the steps of planning, drafting, and revising.

Further, students need practice writing in various genres and for a variety of purposes. That means writing to understand or to explore a topic. Students should write to explain, to narrate, and to argue. Plan to teach various text structures to help students approach each of these genres and purposes.

Also, the evidence shows that students become better writers when exposed to modeling. Examining mentor texts lets students see how proficient writers approach explaining, arguing, and narrating. You writing with and in front of your students is a powerful method of modeling as well.

Finally, your students will benefit from revising their writing. Again, mentor texts and your modeling are key to their success at this stage. Selecting and teaching specific revision strategies will strengthen your students' writing overall.

How Do You Implement Evidence-Based Writing?

Lesley is a new inclusion teacher who knows her students need help with writing. She collaborates with the English Language Arts (ELA) and social studies teachers on her team to devise a writing instruction plan. This plan includes instructional elements for three writing steps: prewriting, drafting, and revising.

In this case, the ELA and social studies teachers are already working together on a unit on the causes of the American Civil War. Lesley and her co-teachers know that incorporating writing into this unit will not only strengthen students' writing skills, but also help them acquire the historical content knowledge.

Lesley's students will review passages, charts, and maps related to the underlying causes of the Civil War, then write an essay to explain how those causes led to the conflict. To aid their understanding, Lesley and her co-teachers plan to have students complete quick writes each day to explore what they learned or questions they had about the resources. The ELA teacher works with Lesley to break the essay down into manageable parts using the predetermined writing steps.

Prewriting

Once students have finished the original study of the Civil War documents, Lesley and the ELA teacher guide students in prewriting by combining two evidence-based strategies, a question set and a graphic organizer. First, Lesley helps students develop a thesis statement to guide their thinking by using a question set. This thesis statement includes three causes of the war.

Students complete a graphic organizer with sections for each of the three causes. The graphic organizer guides their thinking by asking for their ideas on how this cause led to the Civil War. Then students provide one or more pieces of evidence from their documents to support their ideas. Next, they add to the organizer by explaining how the evidence shows this subject resulted in the war.

Lesley first models how to use the organizer and leads students in completing one section as a whole group. After students finish organizing their evidence and thinking, they again come together as a whole group to discuss their different ideas. Students are able to add to or refine their original thinking.

Drafting

Once the prewriting phase is complete, Lesley uses two strategies for support drafting. Students who require higher support receive frame paragraphs made up of sentence stems. To complete these paragraphs, students fill in missing information with their own ideas and evidence from their graphic organizers.

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