story by Claire Miller
Many English language arts teachers assign students passages to read, ask them to answer questions about the readings and grade their responses to gauge their comprehension.
This formula – read something, answer questions, receive a grade – has been standard practice for years. But Associate Professor Nadia Behizadeh’s research and experience at the middle school and collegiate levels have taught her that educators can teach writing lessons in a more authentic, engaging way.
In an article published in English Journal, she outlines five principles that teachers can use to encourage students to express themselves in their writing while following evidence-based practices for teaching writing skills effectively:
- Ask students to reflect on how they can make an impact on the audience they’re writing to and how their work can make a positive change in the world.
- Connect writing assignments to students’ personal experiences and the issues that their local communities face, and help them develop and track their goals for their writing.
- Establish a classroom environment where students can collaborate on writing assignments with fellow students, their teacher and the class as a whole, and allow them to exchange their ideas and receive feedback on them.
- Teach writing skills by modeling the assignment, giving them opportunities to practice and reflecting on their work so that students can feel supported when expressing themselves through their writing.
- Use a wide range of texts and allow students to incorporate different types of media in their writing assignments – books, articles, songs, videos and more.
Teachers who use these five principles can create a classroom environment that stimulates conversation, encourages students to think about their writing’s impact and gives them some creative freedom as they develop important writing skills.
“Students need powerful writing pedagogies that help them acquire linguistic and rhetorical skills, cultural and personal awareness and reflective capabilities, and the knowledge of how to use their words to produce texts that educate, inspire and advocate,” Behizadeh wrote.