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Supporting Fundamental Writing Skills for Students

Updated: May 16, 2023

An image of a student practicing their writing skills using a pencil and paper.

Along with math, literacy is a subject area that is often placed as a priority in most school districts and curricula. This places a lot of demand and expectations on teachers to meet ministry standards to ensure their students succeed. For this reason, many teachers use literacy as the foundation of their classroom routines, long-range planning, and programming.

A class of students participating in a literacy discussion with their teacher.

Why is writing and literacy a priority in most districts and school boards?

There are several reasons why literacy is prioritized:

1. Literacy is a fundamental skill.

The reading, writing, oral communication, and media literacy skills taught in most language programs are essential to succeed in other subject areas, such as science, social studies, and math. Prioritizing literacy allows teachers to succeed not only in language but other subject areas as well. This means that strong literacy skills are correlated with overall academic success.

2. Literacy builds confidence and communication skills.

Literacy empowers students by allowing them to read and comprehend information in their daily lives. These communication skills are essential for success later in life, such as securing a job or starting a business. Strong literacy skills also enhance critical thinking, creativity, and self-expression, contributing to personal development.

3. Literacy can foster a love for learning.

Instilling a sense of passion in teaching literacy has the potential to ignite enthusiasm among students. This enthusiasm can grow as students get older and continue through their adult life. This allows students to explore reading materials that align with their interests which extends learning beyond the classroom.

An image of a school with a beautiful exterior and landscaping.

4. Promoting Equity and Reducing Barriers

Teachers are in a fortunate position to address educational disparities and promote equity by ensuring all students have access to a quality literacy program. All students should have equal opportunities to succeed regardless of their socio-economic situation.

5. Civic awareness and participation in society

Literacy skills are a necessity for active and informed participation in society.

Teachers can prioritize literacy education to prepare students to be active and engaged citizens. Furthermore, students need these skills to be aware of their rights and responsibilities and make informed decisions when voting or participating in their communities.

This is an image of someone casting a vote with a ballot.

How to Build a Strong Writing Foundation

In our writing program, we use a number of strategies to successfully scaffold writing concepts to promote student mastery. First, there are several approaches that can help develop students' writing skills:

1. Chunking

Rather than immediately introducing the culminating assignment or end-of-unit expectations. Instead, begin by working with the basics, such as grammar, sentence structure, organization, and style. Teach students writing techniques and strategies, such as brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revising, and editing. Additionally, introduce the writing components slowly and sequentially. Once the basics are mastered, explain the elements of your chosen form of writing and what is involved in producing a final writing piece.

2. Use Exemplars

Model good writing by demonstrating the writing process and showcasing examples of well-written pieces. Read these texts as a class and discuss them with students to enhance their understanding of effective writing. These examples are a great opportunity to use different teaching styles such as shared reading or small peer groups to analyze texts.

3. Write Regularly

Incorporate regular writing prompts workshops where students have dedicated time to practice and explore different writing genres. Provide prompts or topics that allow for creativity and personal expression. Encourage students to share their work, receive feedback, and revise their writing.

This graphic shows a student writing with pencil shavings scattered across the paper.

For more information about the benefits of daily writing prompts check out our other blog post. These are some of my personal favourite resources, particularly because they are incredibly easy to implement and are universally valuable in any classroom.

4. Peer Collaboration

Peer collaboration is a great way for students to practice their oral communication skills, as well as their writing through peer editing. I love having students work with their peers because students are able to share their unique perspectives and exercise their creative minds!

5. Cross-Curricular Integration

We recently made a blog post about how science and literacy are easily integrated together. This can help teachers save time and it allows students to see how literacy seamlessly integrates with other subjects. While this blog focused mostly on cross-curricular reading passages, this integration can also happen with writing. Teachers can ask students to write reports, analyze data, or express their understanding of concepts through written explanations. This integration reinforces the importance of writing across different disciplines.

This is a picture of students analyzing a wind turbine in an outdoor classroom. Students are writing notes which is a demonstration of cross-curricular subject integration.

6. Flexible Writing Options

It is important to realize that students have their own writing preferences and abilities. Providing students with flexibility makes learning more accessible. For example, teachers can offer support for struggling learners while providing extension activities for those who excel. Teachers also may want to consider providing assignment options so that students can write about topics of interest.

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