Teaching Writing in Varied Time Frames

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

You can't learn to run before you walk, and the same goes for writing. You must master the basics before putting together a bomb research paper. Read this lesson to learn about teaching students scaffolded techniques that will help them succeed when writing in varied time frames.

Everything Has a Process

We would never expect a young child who has never ridden a bike before to pick one up, get on it, and ride with ease. There is a process surrounding training wheels and adult support that typically happens before one is able to independently ride a bike. The same goes for writing. Before we can send students off to write a well-written paper, we have to show them how through modeling and in-the-moment feedback.

Read on to learn about teaching students writing techniques in varied time frames and scaffolding instruction to aid in the process.

Modeling: Writing's Training Wheels

Like riding a bike, we need to start slow. Take time at the beginning of the school year or unit to teach exactly what is expected of students in regards to writing dos and don'ts. Before we get our kids on the figurative bike, we need to break down the steps to becoming good writers. Start by modeling. Modeling is when a teacher shows students how to complete a task by performing the task herself, sometimes with the aid of the class. Whether it's working on thesis statements, collecting evidence, or writing arguments or thematic statements, it's imperative to start with a slow, logical process so students know what is expected of them.

Now, let's break down some key components that all writing forms use. By taking time to master these elements, your grading and feedback process will become much easier to manage, no matter the time frame.

Thesis Statements

Before we can send our students off to write, we need to make sure they know what they are writing about. For long and short writing assignments, such as open responses, long compositions and research papers, thesis statements are necessary for quality work. A thesis statement is a a sentence or two that provides a brief overview of the student's reasoning for writing and/or the main point. This main point can be an argument or answer to the prompt in question. Teaching students to work through main ideas from a young age will help them build the skillset of writing thesis statements and well-organized essays.

A great way to work through thesis statements is by modeling what is expected and giving ample time to practice. Put a prompt on the board and have students independently write a thesis statement. Next, have students read their statements out loud and work through perfecting a class thesis statement. This can also be done in groups, and groups can share their work. The important aspects of this technique are to let students see how many correct ways a thesis statement can be written and provide teachable moments for incomplete/inaccurate thesis statements.

Argumentation and Evidence

Now that our students have their argument, we need to teach them how to argue it. Whether this is an opinion piece, a research paper, or a literary analysis, evidence must be used to reinforce argumentation. The next step is modeling and practicing argumentation. For example, while you're modeling the thesis statement for an open response prompt, model the first paragraph as well. Have students work together out loud to form valid topic sentences; then have students select appropriate quotes and work through correct citation formatting to eliminate plagiarism and quote dumping. Students can see how to weave evidence into their answers and appropriately answer the prompt in connection to their thesis statements.

Again, the more you show a student how by reinforcing best practices, the more likely they are to succeed on their own.

Types of Writing and Time Frames

No matter which subject you teach, the types of writing typically stay consistent throughout a semester or school year. With that being said, it's important to take the time to work through the steps of each process before letting the bike go without the training wheels. Once students have a grasp on each piece of their writing tasks, and models are provided, they are ready to head off on their independent writing journeys.

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