Writing in English
Instructional format considers the shape and function of writing instruction in English. As with reading instruction, instructional format for writing should be purposeful, dynamic, stimulating, and ritualized. Motives, rationale, and goals should be explicit and transparent. Change, nuance, and enrichment should be a guiding principal and an actual practice. Teachers can change the format, vary internal elements, and offer opportunities for students to have new experiences. Teachers may also wish to have a broader ritual of practice so that students feel that they are participating within a familiar structure that allows for novelty.
Large group instruction should happen in small chunks. Teacher talk should be supported by visuals. Teachers can and should write with their students as often as possible and share their writing as models or as examples for discussion of writing techniques. Teachers should also share writing that is completed as well as in progress along with writing from outside of class that is noteworthy or exemplifies some instructional point in a current or previous lesson.
Reflect: List some instances when large-group instruction could be useful for teaching some aspects of writing. Provide reasons why a large-group format might be worthwhile.
As noted before, teachers should have a specific academic purpose or task for grouping students in a particular way. For example, initial discussion could be to inspire students to take positions or create ideas and topics for writing. Then, discussion might be about critiquing the content or clarity of the writing in progress. Later, small groups can simply provide an opportunity to share a final piece of written work. The grouping should be flexible so students don’t feel stuck or tracked, especially if the temporary grouping structure is based on ability level. Group structures should vary from pairs, triplets, and quads. Purpose and activity should also vary. Although writing is a process with clearly defined stages, those stages do not always occur in the same order all of the time. And there are many different ways to move from one part of the process to another.
Beyond the ways in which this social engagement in small groups can support later academic work, oral language development plays specific and complex roles in written language development. And similarly to when grouping students for reading tasks, students should also be given explicit instructions and roles in small-group work focused on writing.
Reflect: List some instances when small-group discussions could be useful for teaching some aspects of writing. Provide reasons why a large-group format might be worthwhile.