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Writing for Success

(52 reviews)

the student were writing

Copyright Year: 2015

ISBN 13: 9781946135285

Publisher: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing

Language: English

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Reviewed by Tracy Peterson, Adjunct Writing Instructor, Southwestern Oregon Community College on 8/16/23

Index is highly comprehensive. It includes the title of chapters as well as each subsection that can be linked directly from the index to the page within the document itself. Chapters include all major areas of study within my WR90 course. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

Index is highly comprehensive. It includes the title of chapters as well as each subsection that can be linked directly from the index to the page within the document itself. Chapters include all major areas of study within my WR90 course.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

Information is accurate and well thought out. It would be great to have PDFs of exercises given in the book. As it is, I’m not sure how usable the exercises are in the digital only format. I do, however, appreciate the focus on sentence skills. These are greatly needed among my Wr 090 students.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

Content is pretty timeless, and I don’t believe updates will need to be made often.

Clarity rating: 4

Text is clear, though perhaps a bit hard to access for many of my Writing 090 students. Terms such as “Rhetorical Modes”, for example, would not be understood. Simpler language would be more useful in a lower-level course. The occasional flowchart is useful; I would love to see more diagrams and/or images and less heavy text. While examples are given (generally one or two per concept), more would always be helpful.

Consistency rating: 5

The text is very consistent with the way ideas are presented, giving tips and highlights, key factors, examples, exercises, learning objectives, etc. All of these things are reproduced in each section and within each chapter in the same way, making them easy to find and identify.

Modularity rating: 5

Chapters may be easily separated and rearranged according to the needs of the instructor. Subsections within each chapter are able to be completed independently.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The organization of the text is logical and rational. It begins with an introduction to writing, moves on to sentence skills, refining writing technique, the writing process, writing an essay, different rhetorical modes of essay writing, research and citations, presentations, and example essays.

Interface rating: 3

Title page could be a little more appealing. There are quite a lot of formatting issues, large oversized text boxes with writing in bottom quarter only throughout the entire text (Ex: pg 5), strange front sizes, and too much space on page (Ex: pg 72).

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The text contains no grammatical errors. It was well worded and well written.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

The text is pretty neutral. I would appreciate bringing in a little more cultural relevance into the text: images of multi-racial students, etc. However, the text does includes a section for English Language Learners which I greatly appreciate. These subsections could be added throughout the course, or done as a single unit.

Overall it is a well-made text. I personally would rather see a more project based textbook, but not finding any like that, I think this text creates a good jumping off point, from which the instructor can create and deliver more project based assignments.

Reviewed by Tonya Rickman, Adjunct Instructor English Department, Old Dominion University on 7/25/23

The content presented in this book is quite appropriate for college students, especially those students who are new to college and/or struggling with the rigors of reading and writing assignments required at the post-secondary level. The text is... read more

The content presented in this book is quite appropriate for college students, especially those students who are new to college and/or struggling with the rigors of reading and writing assignments required at the post-secondary level. The text is comprehensive as it encompasses a wide range of topics and strategies related to reading, writing, and academic work at the post-secondary level, making it a valuable resource for students and instructors alike. There is a glossary that includes key terminology – much of the language included in the book is straightforward (one does not need an extensive knowledge of English terminology to understand this book).

The text appears to be error free. There were a few examples provided in the grammar section (beginning on page 51), where the author discusses editing fragments that begin with prepositions. In those examples there appears to be a word repeated (e.g., when, When). However, it quickly becomes apparent to the reader that the repeated word “when” is not a typo, but it’s the format used to demonstrate a common error.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

Even though the text was published in 2015 the information is still relevant and aligned with most of the reading and writing learning outcomes expected in a freshman and/or sophomore English course as well as other disciplines. Based on the current cultural climate in academia and shifting cultural norms in the broader society, the author might update examples in the book to convey a bit more of a feel of cultural inclusivity as well as a broader sense of technological advances (AI). That said, the systematic academic styles and simplistic tone certainly puts the reader at ease, especially when reading grammar rules that students might find confusing when presented in a more complex resource. Additionally, the exercises used to provide the reader with practice (i.e., Writing at Work) are not only a thoughtful way to help the reader make connections with the content of the text, but also useful in expanding the reader’s thinking beyond the use of a particular skill for academic purpose to a real-world application (i.e., the workplace).

Clarity rating: 5

Readers of this book have likely encountered the vast majority of terms used in the book at other times throughout their time in academia. The author actually described grammar and punctuation in a way that is understandable (i.e., short descriptions, rudimentary examples).

The format pretty much remains the same throughout the text – the author consistently articulates learning objectives, concepts, strategies, practice, and key takeaways. Additionally, visuals and links to external resources are regularly available to aid readers in gaining a deeper understanding of ideas. There is a logical progression of ideas as the reader moves forward in the text. For example, the reader is introduced to strategies for time management and study skills before learning strategies for conducting research.

Absolutely, this text can be read in sequential order (i.e., chapter one, two, three…), or the reader could refer to any chapter of interest based on his/her learning needs. As an English instructor, who has directed students to a variety of grammar resources online, I could see the benefit of directing students to a page in this text instead of several different online resources. Based on the quality of content in this text, it’s an efficient and effective way put a useful resource in the hands of students.

The sequential order of topics in the text is sensible – the structure enables the reader to know what’s coming next. The concepts in the text become increasingly complex as the reader progresses through each section of the text. The end of the text gives the reader the opportunity to apply understanding of concepts discussed earlier in the text. The progression in the complexity of skills is most notable in the steps for completion of a research paper – here the reader is challenged to apply several skills discussed earlier in the text (e.g., identifying the scope and sequence, considering steps in writing process, managing time).

Interface rating: 4

The majority of hypertext links are useful in navigating to other sections of the text and many of the links to external sources are still active (e.g., Library of Congress Subject Headings link). After visiting the external website, the reader is able to easily navigate back to the original text. The actual images (e.g., charts and tables) in the text are appropriately displayed – the color, spacing, and fonts are visually pleasing.

A huge part of the text is dedicated to the use of grammar – there don’t seem to be issues with grammar.

The text feels a bit culturally neutral - most of the examples are pretty generic. The reader likely feels the author is most concerned with providing examples for the purpose of highlighting development of essential skills that are part of the reading and writing process. For example, while there are multiple examples that spotlight contemporary issues (e.g., mortgage crisis, low-carb diets), the style and tone of writing feel appropriate for an academic text – you feel the examples are provide for academic purposes not to convey any views or positions on any of the issues.

I would recommend this book to English teachers for use with secondary and post-secondary students.

Reviewed by Alicia Andre, Faculty, Century College on 3/8/23

Writing for Success is a good text for an intro-college writing and grammar text. There are 15 chapters, and each chapter is well-organized and includes some sample essays and grammar exercises. What I like about this text, is that you can pick... read more

Writing for Success is a good text for an intro-college writing and grammar text. There are 15 chapters, and each chapter is well-organized and includes some sample essays and grammar exercises. What I like about this text, is that you can pick which topics will fit your course design. The beginning of the book has a comparison/contrast on the expectations of high school and college. This is a good way to start a college composition course because students often do not understand the demands of college writing. It also starts with reading strategies, and this is also helpful because many students today do not read carefully, and this can be a problem when they start to write a paper that asks them to analyze a reading. There is a lot to pick and choose from in this 600-page book.

The authors did an excellent job in this area as there were not any errors that I could see.

The chapters are relevant for any college composition course. The only concern is that the MLA/APA chapter may need to be updated. It might be a good idea to have a link to the Purdue Owl English web page in this chapter as the rules of MLA and APA often change over the years. Some of the readings and links might need to be updated as well.

I thought the organization and content were clear and easy to follow. I like that the “objectives” are included at the top of each chapter as this can be a nice way to see how course objectives link to the textbook chapters. Also, there are “tips” to help learners along the way.

There is clear consistency and it is easy to follow. The terminology seems accurate as well.

The modules are comprehensive and topics that I use in my college composition courses. The writing text that I am using now, has these topics embedded in units, but this text has similar topics in separate chapters which can be easy for the instructor and the student to locate. For instance, if I want to go over “understanding purpose in writing”, I can find information in the introduction. If I want to go over sentence boundaries, I can go to Chapter 2 or Chapter 6 depending on which one is a better way to explain the importance of using cohesive devices in writing. There is also a chapter on study skills that I would use at the start of the semester.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

I suppose it isn’t easy to decide which chapter should go first to last. I looked at the organization of chapters and I would say Chapter 8 on “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin” should be after “Chapter 1: Introduction to Writing”, but since many teachers will simply assign certain chapters at different times, this isn’t a big problem. I like that the textbook included a chapter specifically designed for English Language Learners (ELL) since that is my subject area.

I think it is good, but I would like to see more visuals like graphs, pictures, and sample essays with edits. There are some good aspects though as the text has boxed information with samples. For instance, in the chapter on punctuation, the boxed information shows how the punctuation is used in the sentence. The text also includes some practice exercises in “blue” boxes. This is helpful because I can scan for those exercises and have students do those as homework. One concern I have is that some of the sample essays (i.e., Page 235) have small print and is difficult to read.

No errors that I can tell.

I think for the most part it is good in terms of being inclusive. The readings in the unit on narration included readings from Sandra Cisneros and Sherman Alexie. Some of the readings might include some sensitive topics related to race and abortion that could be problematic. However, I think that if I use this textbook, I can just pick and choose which topic best fits my students' needs.

I think this is an excellent book for a college composition course.

Reviewed by Jiale Hu, Assistant Professor|Director of Research and Global Outreach, Virginia Commonwealth University on 8/10/22

It is a comprehensive book introducing writing skills. This book covers all the necessary writing basics, from words, sentences, and paragraphs to the whole essay. The authors also provide detailed instructions on the steps of writing. read more

It is a comprehensive book introducing writing skills. This book covers all the necessary writing basics, from words, sentences, and paragraphs to the whole essay. The authors also provide detailed instructions on the steps of writing.

Although some references need to be updated, the contents are accurate. The book provides error-free and unbiased content on writing.

This book is very helpful for students or even junior faculty who want to improve their writing skills.

As it is a book introducing academic writing skills, the authors did a fantastic job of writing this book in a clear way.

I appreciate that the authors structure all the chapters and sections in a consistent way. It makes reading and navigation more efficiently.

The book uses multiple strategies to break the contents into smaller reading sections. There are no enormous blocks of text without subheadings.

The contents of this book are well organized. Each chapter has multiple subchapters. Each subchapter has multiple sections to present the contents and topics in a logical, clear fashion. The authors have learning objectives at the beginning of each subchapter and key takeaways at the end of each subchapter. Major headings and subheadings are clear. All the further explanations or clarifications and examples or exercises have been put in the boxes for easy navigation.

Interface rating: 5

This book provides five formats, including online, pdf, ebook, XML, and ODF. Each format looks great! I did not experience any interface issues. I did not find any navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse readers.

After I read the book thoroughly, I did not notice any grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

The book has a chapter for English language learners. This is greatly appreciated. I did not see any text culturally insensitive or offensive. The essays in the final chapter also include a variety of examples.

My favorite chapter is Chapter 8: The Writing Process: How Do I Begin? This chapter provides detailed steps of the writing process: Prewriting, Outlining the structure of ideas, Writing a rough draft, Revising, and Editing. Especially in the chapter on outlining, the authors provide great examples showing different ways of organizing ideas and constructing outlines.

the student were writing

Reviewed by Seo Lee, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin - Superior on 8/21/21

comprehensive book to adopt effective writing strategies for college students read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

comprehensive book to adopt effective writing strategies for college students

it was very accurate and clear, such as the basics of vocabulary, paragraph development, and introduction of essay paper.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 3

since I do not have a lot of writing assignments for the class, this book is not relevant to my course work

this book is very easy to follow through the context of book, very organized that need to college students

Consistency rating: 4

very structured and well-organized content

Modularity rating: 4

Yes. it help to write essay paper, the learn the process of writing

well-organized content

easy to follow, introduce the basic elements of writing for college students

Grammatical Errors rating: 3

I do not see grammatical errors

Cultural Relevance rating: 2

did not involve the cultural contexts.

Reviewed by Pam Whitfield, English faculty, Rochester Community & Technical College on 12/21/20

Pretty accessible for students. Maybe a bit simple for freshman writing, but I would consider using it in a comp 101 course and supplementing with my own materials. I am most likely to use it for a “higher level” developmental writing... read more

Pretty accessible for students. Maybe a bit simple for freshman writing, but I would consider using it in a comp 101 course and supplementing with my own materials. I am most likely to use it for a “higher level” developmental writing course. Grammar comes first in the table of contents. That’s fine with me as it makes accessing those sections easy, but I would not teach these chapters chronologically. I would pick and choose, reordering chapters for my students to teach more holistically, so comp methodology has grammar embedded in it.

No glossary or index. This is a large omission and could be easily corrected: hire a grad student to do it as a summer project.

The content and examples are accurate overall. Ch 6 replaces persona/speaker/writer with tone in the rhetorical triangle. I find that reductionist or overly simplistic. But the chapter as a whole is superbly geared toward the dev ed writers I typically teach. I would use it in a class for students who missed the testing placement cut off for freshman composition.

I'd call its approach pretty classic in terms of comp pedagogy. It will not become obsolete in the near future. Updates should focus on new media and digital sources/examples.

Highly readable for students.

Yes, it's a text that provides a great overview but does not go deep into any one area or skill set. For ex, Chapter 5 for ELL students is just a start. Or perhaps it’s a jumping off place for teacher’s own pedagogy and materials. The slang and idioms lists are very short, for instance. They are just a starting point. This chapter could be an effective review for a competent ELL student or allow the instructor to assign one section/topic as needed to individual students.

I like the amount of sectioning; it reads in bite sized pieces for students. This is a long book—over 600 pages. It could be intimidating to dev ed and ELL students.

What helps make this text more organized and user friendly: key takeaways list at end of each chapter. charts and lists for quick reference by students. quick tips in text boxes. “writing at work” tips that help students connect the usefulness of what they’re learning in the classroom to the workplace.

There are a few poor design choices. For ex, student examples are displayed in italic font (as if the student were writing cursive). Italic font slows reading speed on the page and increases eye fatigue. Never put more than one sentence total into italics. The PDF version really needs a way to "tag" or jump to each chapter directly. Better yet, to jump to each section in the chapter by using a hyperlink or similar tool in the table of contents.

Everything I read was clean.

There is some variety. I would not term this a standout or obvious strength of the text.

I would test drive it for one semester in dev ed first, then consider adapting and supplementing it for my first year comp students.

Reviewed by Christian Aguiar, Asst Professor of English, The University of the District of Columbia on 12/21/20

This text provides extensive coverage of all of the content areas typically covered in first-year composition courses at community colleges. It includes chapters on paragraph structure, the writing process, rhetorical modes, research, MLA and APA... read more

This text provides extensive coverage of all of the content areas typically covered in first-year composition courses at community colleges. It includes chapters on paragraph structure, the writing process, rhetorical modes, research, MLA and APA documentation, sentence structure, punctuation, mechanics, revision, and even designing presentations. Individual chapters include check-in questions and, in most cases, suggested activities for students to complete as they read. There is also a selection of sample essays that follow the rhetorical modes. Finally, hyperlinks have been strategically placed to help students review important concepts by referring them back directly to the chapter where that concept was first introduced. This makes for a richly layered reading experience while also facilitating modular usage of the text.

The text generally follows the established approach to teaching writing, so its discussion of research writing, for example, includes sections on topic selection, planning, conducting research, organizing ideas, drafting and revising.

Wisely, the authors have avoided over-embellishing their work with examples that might become dated. Those examples critical to student learning tend to focus on general, enduring topics. Some of the suggested topics and activities may not age quite as well - for example, one activity asks students to complete an idea map to analyze the impact of “social networking,” which may already be a somewhat dated concept for students. Since the activities are clearly set apart in lightly-shaded boxes, it’s easy for users to update these activities as needed. It must be said that the included student examples are pretty generic; I’ve never used them.

In a nod to digital reading habits, the authors have kept paragraphs mercifully short - typically 2-3 sentences, rarely any more. Sub-headings are used judiciously. Each chapter section introduces learning objectives at the top of the page and “takeaways” at the bottom. The authors don’t attempt to over-simplify the writing styles, so the readability score is relatively high, in the 10th-12th grade or college range. This makes the text ideal for a first-year writing course, though it may prove somewhat challenging when used as part of development coursework, such as in a corequisite course.

The design of the text is clear and lucid. There are fifteen chapters, each divided into several sections covering individual topics. Each topic begins with clear learning objectives and concludes with one or more key points. All chapters feature built-in comprehension questions, short writing activities, and/or writing tips. The visual design is crisp; it makes use of white space and a consistent color palette to improve readability.

The organization of the text makes it very easy to assign a single chapter, or section of a chapter, at a time. Each section has its own URL that can be embedded in an LMS to bring students directly to the desired reading. The use of hyperlinks to refer back to ideas covered in “previous” chapters makes it easier to take the text out of order, as students are able to readily access concepts.

See consistency

The digital interface is clean, consistent, and easy to navigate. The text does not generally make use of images, though there are frequent tables, charts and organizers that read clearly on Chrome and Firefox.

In two years of teaching with the text, I have found no grammatical errors.

The text is culturally competent in the sense of being quite generic and inoffensive; it does not necessarily engage a range of experiences or voices. I haven't found this a problem because the text does not include any embedded readings - it is strictly focused on writing content, so I supplement it with short stories, essays, and films that I have selected. This makes the text readily adaptable to varied cultural contexts. The student sample essays included at the end of the text do embody a white, middle-class aesthetic, though: one describes baseball, “America’ pastime,” while another compares London and Washington, D.C.

I’ve used this book as a core text for my first-year writing course for two years, and I find it generally does everything the standard first-year writing textbook does with the added benefits of being clearer, more concise, editable and, of course, free. It is designed to support process- or modes-based courses, but it can also be easily used in smaller chunks to support other approaches to first-year writing.

Reviewed by Holly Armstrong, Instructor, Middlesex Community College on 6/30/20

Writing for Success thoroughly covers all aspects of writing. Beginning with the basics of vocabulary, the text progresses through word order, paragraph development, sentence variety and clarity, then moves on to beginning an essay through to... read more

Writing for Success thoroughly covers all aspects of writing. Beginning with the basics of vocabulary, the text progresses through word order, paragraph development, sentence variety and clarity, then moves on to beginning an essay through to research writing. For first year students, including English language learners, the textbook provides clear and thorough descriptions of the writing process and provides examples of completed essays for review as well.

The content of the text is accurate and error-free. While the text covers more topics than I would use in my Reading, Writing, and Reasoning course, the review of vocabulary development, word order, sentence variety, grammar, and paragraph writing are crucial for my students.

Instructional material in Writing for Success is up-to-date and not likely to go out of date since the focus is on the very basics of introductory writing through to essay formats.

Writing for Success is easy to read and appropriate for first year students. While lengthy, the overall review of vocabulary, word order, sentence writing, paragraph development, including help for English learners especially regarding word choice and sentence order, provide clear and concise information.

Tone used is consistent throughout the text. Examples and exercises for each covered topic are easily found and clearly labeled.

Writing for Success covers all aspects of reading and writing, while also incorporating grammar review, and providing help for English learners. While the text is long, instructors can pick relevant material to use and students have a resource that can be used as a reference tool for later courses as well.

Writing for Success follows a logical flow for introducing writing to first year students. The text has a detailed table of contents and each section is clearly labeled and easy to follow. However, there is no index or glossary as part of the text, and this feature is one that could be added for greater ease of use.

I read Writing for Success online and did not have any issues. I was able to navigate the text easily.

The text contained no grammatical errors.

The text was not culturally insensitive. Perhaps the readings included can be updated to include more relevant and timely topics.

Writing for Success is a thorough text encompassing all aspects of the writing process. For first year students, it provides a complete grammar review as well as clearly organized and detailed instruction for essay writing, including model essays. Throughout the text, clear and thorough explanations of concepts are given. Although the text contains limited images, it is well organized and easy to follow. While some students may not need such a thorough review before beginning essay writing, a text that can meet the needs of all learners in my introductory course is welcome.

Reviewed by Brenda Williams, Faculty, Lane Community College on 6/23/20

It is complete and accurate. It covers a lot of material. read more

It is complete and accurate. It covers a lot of material.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

No errors and it is unbiased.

It is very relevant. It will help college students adjust to the college environment and expectations.

The text is direct and clear. An easy read.

It is consistent throughout each chapter and easy to navigate.

It does cover alot of material but that could make it easier to break up into smaller assignments.

It flows and is organized. It can be taught in a different order though which can be helpful.

I had no issues. Things were easy to find and navigate.

I didn't find anything insensitive or offensive.

It was written well.

Reviewed by Dr. Deborah Bradford, Part-time Professor, Bridgewater State University on 6/11/20

This book is very complete, but does not have an index or glossary. It does have a Table of Contents. It might be the most extensive book I have encountered for the topics that are covered. read more

This book is very complete, but does not have an index or glossary. It does have a Table of Contents. It might be the most extensive book I have encountered for the topics that are covered.

This book is accurate and unbiased with no errors.

Writing for Success is timeless in its content. I don't see anything that would make it obsolete. If any updates were needed, I'm sure they could be made easily.

Writing for Success is very clearly written which is especially helpful for beginning writers. The examples given are also very clear followed by exercises that reinforce the material. I did not find any outstanding (in a negative way) technical terminology.

The text is very consistent regarding terminology and framework. One can expect to always find the same headings/subheadings in each chapter such as Learning Objectives, Exercises, Tips, Writing at Work, Key Takeaways, etc. My additional comments about organization (which is very close to the meaning of framework) are below.

Writing for Success is a huge book that covers just about everything a professor would want for any level writer. There really is no way the book could or should be used in its entirety during one semester. It definitely can be easily broken up and reorganized into smaller sections according to what is needed at different points in the semester.

This book is very well-organized. When one becomes familiar with how the material is presented after the first chapter or so, it is comforting to see this same format followed throughout, making the information easier to read and comprehend. The headings and subheadings are clearly marked and bolded and the information that is in a box (Learning Objectives, Tips, etc.) in one chapter is consistently in a box in the other chapters. However, chapters 2-5 (or at least chapters 2-3) might be better placed nearer the end of the book, after the rhetorical mode essay examples or in an appendix. After reading chapter 1, I was surprised to suddenly be thrust into chapters on grammar and punctuation when I would have preferred continuing to read about the elements of writing that are discussed after chapter 5. However, the sequence of chapters can be changed according to the needs of the particular class (as noted in the Modularity section above).

I did not encounter any interface issues.

I did not find any grammatical errors.

I did not find the book to be culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.

This book is great and I would recommend it to any professor who is teaching a beginning or even intermediate writing course. I especially like the sections entitled Tips and Key Takeaways which serve as very helpful and concise information/reminders of what to keep in mind for good writing. I was so happy to also see the section entitled Writing at Work included, as I have not seen similar content in many writing books. It is so important to include, as I always want to have my students make a connection between their school work and the outside world, i.e. their real world professional work -- a connection that is sometimes difficult for them to make, especially for the traditional college-aged students.

Reviewed by Eileen Feldman, Instructor, Bunker Hill Community College on 6/4/20

This book presents traditional aspect of writing: grammar, sentence construction, paragraph development, essays, research. It raises the bar by adding chapters directed to novices transitioning into college, to English Language Learners, and to... read more

This book presents traditional aspect of writing: grammar, sentence construction, paragraph development, essays, research. It raises the bar by adding chapters directed to novices transitioning into college, to English Language Learners, and to making oral presentations. There is a Table of Contents but no index

The material and grammar/spelling showed no errors

The relevance is written for longevity. Contemporary technology is referred to and can be added to by interested readers. The topics suggested for writing exercises are timeless but could also be expanded by the Creative Commons agreement.

The text is clear in language, font, and format. There are so graphics , but charts and blue shading for tips help focus attention.

The framework of this book is consistent. Each chapter contains purpose statements, tips to help students, workplace writing situations, key takeaway summaries, and end of chapter quizzes. There are student paragraphs and essay to demonstrate each concept.

Each section can be separated and used as students' needs are assessed. The order of chapters can be changed at teacher's discretion.

The text is clear and logical. The entire Appendix of student sample essays of each rhetorical style appeared rather surprisingly and could be incorporated with those preceding sections.

There are no interface problems, but neither are there many charts or images.

THere are no glaring grammatical errors.

The topics suggested are of American interest and might not resonate with a variety of cultures in the class. Likewise the sample student essay might be intimidating or irrelevant to some readers.

The two outstanding contributions added to this rhetoric are1) the lengthy socioemotional introduction to college level work and challenges and 2)the concern with incorporation of these wkills into workplace environment.

Reviewed by Christy Moore, Associate Professor, Marian University on 3/27/20

The text is VERY comprehensive. I believe it would be difficult to get all the way through the text in one semester. It covers the most basic writing processes early and then eases the student into a more complex understanding of what he/she needs... read more

The text is VERY comprehensive. I believe it would be difficult to get all the way through the text in one semester. It covers the most basic writing processes early and then eases the student into a more complex understanding of what he/she needs to know to write effectively for the assignments normally given at the college level. The Key Takeaways sections and End of the Chapter exercises really provide teachers a way to continuously assess student understanding throughout the semester.

The content is accurate and all of the exercises that I tried, that are provided to test student understanding, were written correctly as well. Each section is very specific and accurately instructs on certain skills and topics essential for quality writing.

Based on the fact that this text covers English grammar and writing at an acceptable level for a college student, the material is very relevant and should remain that way quite easily. Any student that did not have the opportunity to have a strong grammar/writing class in high school will learn so much from the material provided in the text. As technology grows and changes, there may be a place for additions to different formats for student writing.

I believe the text to be clear, concise and to the point. All of the exercises provided throughout the text allow for students to check their own clarity and understanding of the material as well. The writing and grammar terminology used in the text is clear and specific in both definition and organization.

The consistency of the terminology and framework is more than adequate. One thing that this text provides that I think is essential for the student just entering college is predictability. All of the chapters follow a similar framework that can really provide much needed continuity for a student just getting started a college level reader and writer.

Depending on pre-assessment of students in the course, I believe that this text is set up for easy reorganization of material. There will be some sections that students should be able to test out of due to more than adequate prior knowledge. For those though that need a more step by step approach to topics, the content is divided into very manageable sections that will not be overwhelming to a novice to the writing process.

The structure of the text is logical and clear. The text is formatted in a way where an instructor can jump back and forth to meet the needs of specific students for the writing assignment at hand. I would like to see some writing assignments earlier in the text which could help incorporate a student's understanding of the grammar and mechanics that he/she just learned.

The book's interface had no issues. I navigated the chapters and sub-sections very easily and viewed many of the quality charts, graphs and examples provided throughout the text. I liked the bolded vocabulary terms and links provided that take you back and forth to chapters that supplement one another.

I found no grammatical errors.

I did not find the text to be culturally insensitive or offensive.

I wish all of the students that I have in my Reading and Writing in the Content Areas course would have the opportunity to utilize this book in an entry level writing class on campus. It would give me the peace of mind that they have all been introduced to the material that is essential to develop good writers and that they can move on to teach writing appropriately in their future secondary classrooms.

Reviewed by Joseph Amdahl, Adjunct, Chemeketa Community College on 5/21/19

This category might indicate one of the downsides of this particular textbook -- the text covers quite a bit of ground, coming in at a mere 645 pages. Having said that, a lot of the page includes examples, exercises, and their "Key Takeaways"... read more

This category might indicate one of the downsides of this particular textbook -- the text covers quite a bit of ground, coming in at a mere 645 pages. Having said that, a lot of the page includes examples, exercises, and their "Key Takeaways" section -- so the page count doesn't come across as overwhelming as it might seem. Overall, thorough/useful text that would work well for a composition course.

There were no glaring issues with the book regarding accuracy. Writing comes across as objective. A few minor aspects -- for example, the author writes: "A good paragraph contains three distinct components: a topic sentence, body, and concluding sentence." Would have liked more regarding paragraph transitions and implementation of both topic sentence and paragraph transition sentences for students. Overall, book seems accurate and with low bias.

The first half of the text will hold up well, -given that it covers less malleable material like grammar/usage/etc. The essay/writing exercises could be useful in the second half - though not totally inspiring. Given that MLA/APA format evolves/changes, the last section of the textbook will probably go out of date within the next few years.

The material in the textbook is fairly clear. One of the downsides of this text is how much ground is covered. Would probably be more clear if the book was split into two books -- one on grammar/usage and one on the writing process and the elements of an essay.

The text seems consistent regarding both terminology and framework.

Given the page count of this textbook, it might be difficult to cover this much material in a 10-week term. The "Key Takeaways" sections of the chapters were useful and a neat way to add clarity to the intention of each section. Again, given the white space on the page, the text doesn't come across as overwhelming -- though it could have been split into two books in order to add clarity. Would be easy for an instructor to assign sections here (one per week might be manageable).

The layout of the textbook makes sense. From the building blocks of language/grammar/usage to the writing process, essay assignments, editing, and finally formatting. Again, could probably split into two textbooks -- one that covers grammar/usage/format and one that covers the writing process & essay assignments.

The text has no glaring interface issues; however, a few of the pages had quite a bit of white space. For example, page 460 ends after a short paragraph, followed by mostly white space, and then some boxes containing information on pg. 461. Organization like this was probably an attempt to make the content as clear as possible.

There were no glaring grammatical errors.

I didn't notice anything offensive or culturally insensitive within the textbook.

This textbook would be useful to a range of students. The exercises, on a variety of grammar/usage topics, are clear and thorough. The one downside is just that this textbook covers quite a bit of ground.

Reviewed by Candace Hoes, Adjunct Lecturer, LAGCC on 5/17/19

The textbook begins at the basics of writing, such as grammar, word choice, and constructing sentences, and then builds to more complex concepts such as creating a thesis in a research paper. There are adequate stepping stones along the way, with... read more

The textbook begins at the basics of writing, such as grammar, word choice, and constructing sentences, and then builds to more complex concepts such as creating a thesis in a research paper. There are adequate stepping stones along the way, with examples of strong and weak theses that gradually build upon each other. I could see using this textbook for both an intro composition course and several building levels. There are examples of several types of essays both within the text itself and hyperlinked to outside websites.

The instructional matter of this textbook seems consistent with basic composition courses.

I wish that instead of links, the textbook provided a few examples of parenthetical citations of commonly used types of sources. I can see the advantage to providing links is that it more or less places the burden on those websites to stay up to date with the MLA's stipulations instead of updating the textbook itself. However, in my experience, students don't always follow links and would probably ask the professor directly instead. The websites that are linked, such as Purdue Owl, are very robust, but beginning composition students have difficulty navigating those websites to find their answers.

This textbook avoids jargon when explaining concepts and breaks down concepts that can easily confuse a beginning composition student, such as the main idea versus a controlling idea.

This textbook uses the same terminology throughout.

The textbook is highly modular. For example, in my composition course, I would assign brief, five-minute presentations to the students on grammar and punctuation as a review. The sections on word choice and additional help for English language learners would be good as individual readings or to refer students to on a case by case basis if I noticed errors in their essays. The sections that discuss essay types are very in-depth, so I would use them as the backbone for a lesson delivered during the class and assign them as reading as reinforcement. They could be used to open up a unit that culminates in that type of essay. I would focus on one skill in particular in each unit, such as a strong thesis, body paragraphs, introductions and conclusions, etc.

However, the example I gave drew from several different areas of the textbook. It's designed in such a way that it's easy to pick and choose what you need. You wouldn't have to adhere to their organization or go "straight down the list" in order to make sense and use of the textbook.

I appreciate that the learning objectives are separated out into boxes at the beginning of each sub-unit to make it easier for the instructor to scan for individual lessons. The organization of subjects are designed build upon each other from the smallest building blocks of writing to more complex assignments. Key takeaways and exercises are included at the close of each section as well.

The text itself is well formatted in an easy to read typeface and font.

The table of contents on the PDF is easy to use and has internal links to pages, which eliminates the need for searching for page numbers. Each subsection is also linked, which comes in hand because the chapters themselves have been broken down into such discreet sections that it's easy to find just the lesson that's needed rather than search an entire chapter.

Some of the external hyperlinks are no longer working.

I wish that some of the images and charts were easier to read in the PDF, but they can be clicked on and printed for handouts.

I did not find any glaring grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

In the lesson on developing a thesis, the textbook asks students to write a thesis on, "Texting while driving; The legal drinking age in the United States; Steroid use among professional athletes; Abortion; Racism." While these are topics that students are likely to have strong opinions on and therefore it's easy for them to create an "argument," I do not find that beginning compositions students have the finesse to address abortion and racism delicately. That could easily spiral into a hurtful and insensitive writing exercise. The examples of essays included in the textbook themselves seem pretty homogeneous from a cultural perspective. There are external links to essays from more culturally diverse perspectives, but unfortunately some of them are no longer active.

Overall this is a very robust and useful textbook.

Reviewed by Bradley Hartsell, Adjunct English Instructor, Emory & Henry College on 3/13/19

With 600+ pages, this textbook really builds college writing from the ground up, starting with 'sentence writing' and 'subject-verb agreement' all the way up to writing a research paper and examples of 10 different kinds of essay. In between, the... read more

With 600+ pages, this textbook really builds college writing from the ground up, starting with 'sentence writing' and 'subject-verb agreement' all the way up to writing a research paper and examples of 10 different kinds of essay. In between, the textbook is thorough in its explanations and rife with exercises concerning grammar-related instruction and essay construction. I'm not left feeling an aspect I teach in my courses is ignored or goes underserved.

Content Accuracy rating: 3

The textbook's explanation of grammar and sentence construction certainly seem correct, as does their advanced lessons such as developing and revising a thesis statement. However, I did errors on pg. 44 and pg. 49 ("Computers are tool" has a missing word; "The entire family overslept Because because we lost power" and "He has been seeing a physical therapist Since since his accident" seem indicate that those are correct sentences as written, failing to account for the repeated and incorrectly capitalized word). Regarding biases, on pg. 359, in strengthening a working thesis about teenage girls becoming too sexualized, the authors take some editorial liberties asserting that "It is true that some young women in today's society are more sexualized..."; it seems distracting for them to comment on this topic at all, at least without any providing any couched language, like "While the writer of this thesis may feel this way, he or she should also consider X, Y, and Z..."; for example, the authors suggest this 'student' should ask themselves the following questions, including "What constitutes 'too sexualized?'" which is an instructive question for the 'student' to ask themselves but the authors should also be operating within those same parameters, or better yet, abstaining from any comment on female sexuality at all. Also, their example sentences/questions seem conspicuously politically-charged (e.g. "The welfare system is a joke" pg. 358; "Despite his promises during his campaign, President Kennedy took few executive measures to support civil rights legislation." pg. 357; "Closing all American borders for a period of five years is one solution that will tackle illegal immigration." pg. 355). And lastly, there are unnecessary editorial uses (i.e. not instruction sentences, examples, etc.) of gendered pronouns ('He' being a bad storyteller, pg. 353).

English grammar and college writing have the convenience of not really going out of date; APA/MLA formatting can easily be updated accordingly.

This textbook does a good job of putting grammatical jargon, like independent clauses, in plain terms so that anyone can understand it. Even as an English instructor, I don't always readily recall the correct terms and exact definitions, even if I know how to use them in practice, so Writing for Success does a nice job of stripping away heightened language and providing plenty of right/wrong examples, therefore making something otherwise pedantic fairly accessible.

Throughout the comprehensive span of the textbook, I see no departure in the terminology or the fairly conversational style of communicating information.

This textbook is formatted and coherently layered in a way that is easy to visualize and process, with properly sectioned-off section introductions, lesson 'tips,' examples, and exercises.

The textbook flows in a logical, linear fashion, beginning with simple 'subject-verb agreement' and each section linearly building from the one that came before it, until now-grammatically correct sentence structure can be built into more complex sentences, and thus drafting a college essay (and so on).

The interface is fluid; it's convenient that it goes to desired page upon click in the table of contents; places to enter answers prompt a text bar to allow you to write into.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

See above--there are no major errors that I can tell, but I did see careless mistakes on pg. 44 and pg. 49.

I find this textbook greatly lacking here. Exercise 1 on pg. 355 asks students to make a student for, in part, 'abortion' and 'racism.' Why? The former is especially charged. Elsewhere, the authors can be clumsy when addressing femininity, race, and politics. Again, why include charged examples? Yes, most language is mostly inoffensive (e.g. "My mother freezed the remaining tomatoes from her garden so that she could use them during the winter), but be it editorial or 'student' examples, they needlessly make allusions to divisive topics. Allow me to restate from above: on pg. 359, in strengthening a working thesis about teenage girls becoming too sexualized, the authors take some editorial liberties asserting that "It is true that some young women in today's society are more sexualized..."; it seems distracting for them to comment on this topic at all, at least without any providing any couched language, like "While the writer of this thesis may feel this way, he or she should also consider X, Y, and Z..."; for example, the authors suggest this 'student' should ask themselves the following questions, including "What constitutes 'too sexualized?'" which is an instructive question for the 'student' to ask themselves but the authors should also be operating within those same parameters, or better yet, abstaining from any comment on female sexuality at all. Also, their example sentences/questions seem conspicuously politically-charged (e.g. "The welfare system is a joke" pg. 358; "Despite his promises during his campaign, President Kennedy took few executive measures to support civil rights legislation." pg. 357; "Closing all American borders for a period of five years is one solution that will tackle illegal immigration." pg. 355). And lastly, there are unnecessary editorial uses (i.e. not instruction sentences, examples, etc.) of gendered pronouns ('He' being a bad storyteller, pg. 353). Regardless of the authors' politics, left or right, it seems relatively easy to use language and examples without allusions to politics--socially, bodily, or otherwise.

The idea and general execution of this textbook is everything I want in an English textbook--free for my students to use and comprehensive enough to cover any reasonable topic to expect in my composition classes. For me, the variety in my class calls for some students needing very basic attention paid to grammar (check), while others ace grammar and need thesis strengthening or outlining of research topics (check). There are a couple of grammar mistakes I've noted (which suggests there could be more that I've missed), and I strongly believe some (many?) editorial decisions need to be shelved, namely that of the authors' inclusion of politically-adjacent (or even politically-charged) language and examples. Students in a first-year writing course shouldn't be asked to develop a thesis statement about abortion, or read the authors imply something of a referendum on an assassinated president.

Reviewed by James Gapinski, Instructional Specialist, Chemeketa Community College on 3/8/19

WRITING FOR SUCCESS has extensive depth and breadth. It is over 600 pages in the PDF format, but it doesn’t contain much redundant or extraneous information. The book starts with some discussion of how college writing is different from other forms... read more

WRITING FOR SUCCESS has extensive depth and breadth. It is over 600 pages in the PDF format, but it doesn’t contain much redundant or extraneous information. The book starts with some discussion of how college writing is different from other forms of writing—setting up that distinction provides realistic expectations and contextualization for beginning college-level writers. The book moves into a discussion of reading strategies, emphasizing the importance of comprehending and exploring college readings before diving into writing assignments. I like how these pre-writing discussions frame the entire book, moving naturally toward more technical chapters on grammar and usage, revision, research, and documentation styles. This book is a beast, containing just about anything a writing teacher might need for introductory composition students.

This book is accurate and thorough. I do not notice errors in fact.

WRITING FOR SUCCESS contains useful information that is likely relevant on many college campuses. It is current, but it is not necessarily forward-thinking in its scope. Within the state of Oregon—and more broadly on the national stage—college-level writing is moving toward multimodal composition. This book covers the classic writing assignments found in a typical college classroom, but it does not dive as explicitly into emerging forms of writing. In coming years, outcomes and assessments will likely focus on multiple expressive modes within the composition process. Shifts toward new modes of writing will render the book obsolete if it is not amended or updated. Moreover, there are some missed opportunities in this book for embedding more URLs that prompt additional research and intertextual learning. There are some chapters that incorporate links to online writings by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., links to online library resources, and so on, but these are few and far between in WRITING FOR SUCCESS. A broader focus on new media could greatly improve this book’s long-term relevance.

This textbook is clear and accessible. Whenever new terminology is introduced, definitions are readily provided and explained. It scaffolds information meaningfully and thoughtfully.

This book features consistent formatting and organization. After students have read one or two chapters, they will expect some charts and tables that help define concepts, quick tips in each chapter, and regular exercises to practice what they’ve learned. These learning tools are provided in predictable ways, so students are not caught off-guard by new content.

WRITING FOR SUCCESS breaks information into recognizable modules. Chapters are clearly organized around core themes, and they could be easily assigned piecemeal or out-of-sequence. Additionally, within each chapter, information is presented in bite-sized pieces, with clear headings for navigation and reference. Overall, navigation is clear, and this textbook’s format allows instructors to pick and choose which topics they want students to read.

Topics follow a logical order. The book starts with an introduction to college writing, moves into writing basics, and ends with discussion of formal research writing. The section on English Language Learners felt out of sequence, as if it were placed into the book at random. The ELL chapter is extremely valuable and should remain in the book, but on a macro level, it does not flow with the surrounding chapters. Still, that is only one hiccup in an otherwise well-organized book.

The interface is clean, and this book is offered in multiple formats for ease of access. I personally read the PDF format, and it was easy to navigate. The informational boxes with tips and exercises were eye-catching, and the text itself is formatted well.

I did not notice any glaring grammatical problems.

WRITING FOR SUCCESS draws from examples and recommends additional readings across several cultural contexts, so it earns some kudos for that. Moreover, the book is aware of its own textual inferences; when the book presents students with hypothetical examples, the fictitious students are not exclusively given Indo-European names. However, some problems arise elsewhere in the text. For example, there is a sample exercise that talks about “gay marriage” being legal in six states. Not only is “marriage equality” a more inclusive term, but the exercise itself is outdated and does not reflect the fact that marriage equality is now recognized on the federal level. In another example, the narrative essay section directs students to several pieces written by Sherman Alexie. While its important to include native authors in textbooks, Sherman Alexie has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct. In the #MeToo era, perhaps Natalie Diaz or Louise Erdrich are more appropriate native writers to highlight. While these are just two isolated examples, I found several other microaggressions and culturally insensitive missteps in this book. It feels out-of-touch in key moments. These problems could be addressed through some surgical revisions, but this aspect of the text is problematic in its current form.

Overall, this is a comprehensive book with many valuable chapters. It has some shortcomings, and I would be hesitant to adopt the book in its entirety. However, its incredible breadth and thoughtful modularity allows instructors to pick and choose which chapters best fit their learning goals.

Reviewed by Dhipinder Walia, Lecturer, Lehman College on 5/21/18

This text covers all structural and technical concepts in Standard American English using succinct tutorials and relevant examples. Additionally, there are several sections that may guide student writers towards major writing assignments like the... read more

This text covers all structural and technical concepts in Standard American English using succinct tutorials and relevant examples. Additionally, there are several sections that may guide student writers towards major writing assignments like the research paper, the narrative essay, and the expository essay.

The content is accurate and error-free.

The instructional material is up to date and will not easily become out of date. The only portion that I found less than timely is the APA/MLA portion as well as the visual chapter. The aesthetics of charting and presentations has already changed since this publication.

There is no jargon here. Everything is intended for a beginner writer. It is also easy for instructors to layer on difficult concepts during lecture if students are up for it.

The tone is consistent as is the emphasis on the writer and their process.

Modularity rating: 3

I didn't find the organization to be effective. Traditionally, in a composition course, I am not going to assign a student to read chapters on mechanics. Rather, I would assign a type of writing alongside a reading alongside a particular concept. It might be interesting to readjust the organization to show the way grammar, structure, and content work together rather than apart.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

As mentioned above, I don't think the flow works as an instructional tool for a first year writing course. I think it works better as a supplementary resource for a student writer.

There were no interface issues.

This text contained no grammatical errors

The text is not insensitive though the readings are political in nature.

This is a useful text for composition instructors to have, particularly when teaching an online course. I could easily copy and paste tutorials into my feedback for students. Should the structure of this text change, I may consider using it as a text.

Reviewed by Catherine Batsche, Associate Dean, University of South Florida on 3/27/18

This text provides a comprehensive overview of writing. The text covers basic writing skills, organizational skills, and the writing process. There are even chapters on writing research papers and various types of essays. It could be used as a... read more

This text provides a comprehensive overview of writing. The text covers basic writing skills, organizational skills, and the writing process. There are even chapters on writing research papers and various types of essays. It could be used as a text for a writing course or as a reference book for students who need to work on selected problem areas to improve their writing.

The text provided accurate information, good examples, and several activities to reinforce the major points in each chapter.

The book contains basic information about writing that should continue to be relevant over time.

Clarity rating: 3

The writing style of the book is extremely clear and easy to follow.

The framework for this book is applied consistently across chapters and sections. Each chapter begins with clearly stated learning objectives, exercises, learning tips, and key takeaways.

The book can easily be used as stand-alone chapters, entire sections, or the book as a whole. I plan to use several chapters in workshops to train teaching assistants who will grade assignments in writing-intensive courses. The teaching assistants will then use the entire book as a reference book when providing feedback to students.

The text is well organized and flows in a clear, logical fashion. Some chapters may be less useful for some classes depending on the purpose of the class. For example, the first few chapters on study skills seems out of place in relation to the remainder of the text. Likewise, the chapters on APA and MLA style are too condensed to provide more than an overview and will need to be supplemented with other material. However, these chapters do not detract from the overall quality of the book.

The presentation of the book does not have as much visual appeal as some other online books. It is text-heavy but well organized. I had no problem navigating the book.

I have not found any grammatical errors.

I have not found any examples that might be offensive. However, I have not yet used the book in its entirety so I will learn more about this aspect as I begin to use it with students.

Many undergraduate students need to improve their writing skills but don't know how to get the help they need. This book provides a valuable resource for students who need to learn more about the writing process as well as those who need to improve in specific areas such as grammar and punctuation. I plan to use the text to train teaching assistants how to provide feedback to students who are taking courses that have major writing assignments. This is an excellent book that can be used as a stand-alone text or as a supplemental reference in any course that has major writing assignments.

Reviewed by Davida Jordan, Adjunct Instructor, Portland Community College on 8/15/17

Extremely comprehensive, clocking in at over 600 pages, this book is an excellent grammar reference for writing students. It includes practical exercises that can be used to strengthen work writing or academic writing. It would appeal to a wide... read more

Extremely comprehensive, clocking in at over 600 pages, this book is an excellent grammar reference for writing students. It includes practical exercises that can be used to strengthen work writing or academic writing. It would appeal to a wide variety of students, from beginning to advanced and is arranged in order of increasing difficulty. Besides giving practical information about grammar and writing, the text includes helpful suggestions on organization, time management, and study skills.

There are some small typos such as missing letters or words. Overall, the book is mainly error-free, but for a good grammar and writing textbook, it really should be 100% accurate. The tone is unbiased and in fact is encouraging and fair.

The book addresses the complexities of writing in the twenty-first century and guides students through carefully choosing their online resources and verifying their validity.

I appreciated the additional examples of different rhetorical styles at the very end of the book; however, many of the links were broken. This is an easy-to-remedy problem, though.

The text uses encouraging languages and easy-to-understand metaphors to illustrate abstract concepts.

The text is consistent in terms of terminology and framework from chapter to chapter. There is a reliable pattern that each chapter follows.

Most of the time, it's easy to pick out the different sections of the book because they are color-coded or similarly marked. For example, nearly all of the Key Takeaways are in a green box. All of the Tips for Writing at Work are in a grey box. All of the Learning Objectives are in a black box.

It's possible to click on writing examples and view them in a larger version in a new window.

Although the book builds in terms of levels of difficulty, it would be very easy to use a chapter out of order to suit the instructor's needs. Each chapter can stand alone even though some pieces of writing are carried through as examples from chapter to chapter. This gives the book cohesiveness but doesn't impede its modularity.

The text is logical and clear. Grammatical concepts are explained thoroughly, and the writing process is taken apart step-by-step for the students.

There are several parts where an underlined sentence is referred to, but it's not actually underlined in the text. It's possible this is only a problem in the PDF version. Overall, the formatting is clear and easy to follow.

Seeing as it's a grammar and writing textbook, the grammatical errors are minimal.

The text includes great excerpts from diverse authors such as Amy Tan, Sherman Alexie, Sandra Cisneros, Gary Shteyngart, and MLK.

In the opening chapters, some grammatical concepts were addressed superficially but then were returned to in more detail in later chapters, which was reassuring. Chapter 5 focuses on English language learners, the students I teach. However, the entire book could be useful to both native and non-native English speakers.

Reviewed by Rachel Wilson, Adult Education Instructor, Bossier Parish Community College on 6/20/17

The text covers all its bases, from success and study skills for new college students to draft, revising, writing, and presenting a research paper. Chapters 1 through 5 cover the basics of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice,... read more

The text covers all its bases, from success and study skills for new college students to draft, revising, writing, and presenting a research paper. Chapters 1 through 5 cover the basics of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice, and these chapters cover only that which is most important to writing without getting into unnecessary grammar review. The text provides relevant exercises to go along with each chapter and its individual sections. In chapter 6, the author discusses paragraphing, while in chapter 7, he provides the student tips on improving writing at a sentence level. Chapter 8 covers the writing process, providing ample information on pre-writing strategies and revision and editing techniques. The text also effectively walks the student through the process of writing an essay in chapter 9 and discusses the rhetorical modes in depth in chapter 10. The last chapters (11-15) are dedicated to researching, writing research papers, presenting those papers,0 documenting sources, and providing sample essays in the different rhetorical modes. While the author does a good job covering the basics of documenting sources, I would still have to send my students to their writing handbook or the OWL at Purdue for comprehensive coverage of the source citation formats.

This text is, as far as I can see, both accurate and error-free, though, as stated above, there are a few sections (mostly with documentation) where outside sources would have to be consulted for in depth discussions of the topics.

The only area I feel could use a little updating would be the documentation chapter, though for just an overview, it does its job adequately. The text is set up in a way that seems to allow for easy updates as necessary, and the information contained within is timeless enough to withstand possible changes in writing instruction.

The text is written in easily understandable prose and defines its particular terms in an accessible way for students.

Consistency rating: 2

The text maintains consistency and follows a well-organized framework.

This text is organized in such a way that makes it easy to assign small readings to students without having to jump back and forth between chapters or different parts of the book in general.

The text builds on itself, from having the necessary study skills to understanding basic grammar and sentence structure to navigating the writing process. It then transitions from the writing process to the essay, the types of essays, and research papers. It ends with documentation and presentation of research. I would suggest, though, including chapter 15 (readings on the rhetorical modes) in the chapter on rhetorical modes (chapter 10) or distinguishing it as an appendix rather than a chapter of its own at the end.

The features of the textbook within the text itself are easily navigated, especially with hyperlinks to jump to specific parts of the book. However, while the book does have a short section index at the beginning of each chapter, a comprehensive table of contents at the beginning, or even an index at the end, of the book would go a long way in making this work more easily accessible to the everyday user. As it currently stands, a user must scroll through the entire document to find what the book covers. While an instructor can direct his or her students to specific sections with the appropriate PDF page number, the student user would not be able to discover specific information in the text efficiently right off hand.

With having read through the text, and to the best of my grammar knowledge, I see no major errors or typos.

The text is appropriately inclusive and culturally sensitive.

As an Adult Education Instructor without access to textbooks in the classroom for my students, it is especially helpful to have access to a college level textbook that discusses the basics of grammar and writing my students will need very soon. Instead of having to make copies that will get thrown away or lost, I can give my students the link to this text and assign them specific sections to read before each lesson. As I will soon be teaching a college-level English 101 as well, I am excited to have this text as a supplement to the department-required text.

Reviewed by R.A.Q. Jenkins, Assistant Professor, Southern University and A&M College on 6/20/17

One of this text's advantages is its comprehensiveness. However, I find that too much emphasis was placed on writing basics, which in fact, comprises the bulk of the text. While this portion is extensive, I found the chapter on rhetorical modes... read more

One of this text's advantages is its comprehensiveness. However, I find that too much emphasis was placed on writing basics, which in fact, comprises the bulk of the text. While this portion is extensive, I found the chapter on rhetorical modes lacking. For example, Narration was covered in four pages. I would have preferred more emphasis on basic features of each mode, guided writing practice, and illustrations/visuals (annotated sample essays). The text does not include a glossary or index, which are additional disadvantages. Overall, however, I find this text effective.

The content appears accurate and error-free.

The overall content is foundational, so relevance is not an issue. Formatting and style guides, URLs, and sample essays can be readily updated as needed.

Besides its comprehensiveness, a highlight of the text is its clarity. The writing directly addresses the student much more so than other texts I have used. The conversational tone, especially in the early chapters, should engage even the most reluctant writer. Many of the tips and advice provided serve to assist students beyond the composition course into the whole of their academic career and the workplace. This is definitely a student-friendly text.

Chapters are consistently organized throughout and feature learning objectives, exercises, collaborative activities, and key takeaways, which should be particularly helpful for students. Several of the exercises require students to revisit and revise a previous exercise, as new skills and knowledge are acquired.

This text is suitable for modules, which would allow instructors to organize chapters according to the demands of the course and student's needs. Much of this text's early chapters would serve as much needed review and guided practice for students, since more so than other texts I have used, this one provides in-depth coverage of basic writing skills. Chapters 10-15 should meet the needs of most first year writing programs.

The text is well-organized. However, the sample essays (ch. 15) would have been better placed after the rhetorical modes chapter (ch. 10). The strength of the text's organization are the chapters on writing a research paper and visual presentations.

I downloaded the PDF version and had no significant problems with the interface. The only issue I did have was after clicking a hyperlink then attempting to return to the text, I was redirected to the beginning. This may be an inconvenience for some.

I did not notice any grammatical errors.

The text refrains from cultural insensitivity. Several of the examples, grammar exercises, and sample readings were inclusive of various kinds of diversity. In particular, a text's sample essays plays a crucial role in my overall satisfaction, as I expect to see culturally relevant essays that may resonate with my students. This text included commonly used standbys, such as King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail and Alexie's Indian Education.

Reviewed by William Broussard, Assistant Professor, English, Southern University on 6/20/17

The book covers the writing process, several essay styles, as well as grammar and syntax exercises thoroughly without being intimidating, and is excellently paced. Particularly impressive is the amount of detail given to the sentence, paragraph,... read more

The book covers the writing process, several essay styles, as well as grammar and syntax exercises thoroughly without being intimidating, and is excellently paced. Particularly impressive is the amount of detail given to the sentence, paragraph, punctuation, and the particulars of the writing process.

The book accurately describes, in great detail, all elements of the writing process. Combines all elements of a traditional handbook with specific reference to the rhetorics of several essay styles, and does so in an encouraging manner. Aim is clearly to encourage non-English/Writing majors.

Content appears up-to-date, and of note is a section on presentations and visual rhetorics which will be useful and likely interesting to contemporary students. Book is light on visual imagery, making it less appealing to contemporary/millennial students, but its structure seems amenable to relatively easy updating, and all links were accurate.

The book is clear and provides many examples of student writing to explain the application of material discussed in each chapter.

The book moves along at a predictable pace and begins with building blocks of writing (sentence and paragraph style, punctuation, process) before moving on to more complex assignments. By Chapter 15, which focuses on a number of essay styles, the student has had individual chapters to prepare each step of building an essay, ensuring mastery before taking on more complex projects.

It is simple to imagine this textbook divided into two parts so as to encompass an English 1 and English 2 textbook, and to imagine teaching the introductory elements while interspersing major assignments from Chapter 15 alternatingly.

Well-organized, and as mentioned previously, it is excellently paced with each ensuing chapter building logically upon the previous one.

The book is lacking only in this area. The pdf version features noticeably few visual images and pictures, and very few links for students to interact with supplementary materials to the text. However, the author provides a link for the submission materials which shows an openness to addressing it. However, what is included is accurate and appropriate.

No perceived grammatical or spelling errors. Simple and clear writing style.

Text is inoffensive, but lack of visual texts or discussion of more challenging contemporary topics (the book does not include any sample texts by contemporary authors on challenging issues).

An excellent choice for introductory writing courses.

Reviewed by Emily Aucoin, Assistant Professor, River Parishes Community College on 6/20/17

The textbook effectively covers the writing process and addresses mechanical and grammatical concerns. While the chapter devoted to rhetorical modes is not terribly in depth, it does an adequate job of introducing and explaining each type of... read more

The textbook effectively covers the writing process and addresses mechanical and grammatical concerns. While the chapter devoted to rhetorical modes is not terribly in depth, it does an adequate job of introducing and explaining each type of writing assignment. The research section of the text is effective, but the MLA references are dated. There also is a detailed table of contents but no glossary.

The textbook's content seems accurate, error-free, and unbiased.

For the most part, the content seems relevant and long-standing. The main area in need of updating is MLA, but linking to an outside website could quickly remedy this problem.

The book is written in a straight-forward, clear manner that should be readily understood by most freshmen-level students. The embedded exercises and tips also are accessible.

The included terminology is clear and consistent, as well as appropriate for the subject matter. The chapters also follow a logical framework and reinforce material through exercises and relevant examples.

The textbook easily can be divided into smaller, stand-alone reading sections. Instructors should be able to readily assign portions of the text to meet their course learning outcomes and objectives.

Overall, the textbook is well organized; it effectively addresses key elements of grammar and mechanics, walks students through the writing process, and details various types of writing. While I would like to see Chapter 10 (Rhetorical Modes) divided into separate, better detailed chapters, on the whole, the textbook's organization is logical.

The textbook was easy to follow, particularly because of the detailed table of contents and chapter outlines. Some links also were included throughout to help readers more easily navigate the text.

The text seems free of grammatical errors.

The text does not seem culturally insensitive or offensive. Some of the linked essays in Chapter 15, for example, provide students with readings that are culturally diverse.

On the whole, this is an effective, comprehensive resource that could be of use in any freshman-level composition course.

Reviewed by Genevieve Halkett, Instructor, Chemeketa Community College on 4/11/17

The book is extremely comprehensive, beginning with the concept of college writing, moving on to writing basics such as sentence structure, punctuation, and paragraph structure. it provides a good guide to essays; it includes basic structure,... read more

The book is extremely comprehensive, beginning with the concept of college writing, moving on to writing basics such as sentence structure, punctuation, and paragraph structure. it provides a good guide to essays; it includes basic structure, rhetorical modes, research and documentation and ten different types of model essays.

The index is complete and easy to follow.

There are a few typographical errors but the majority of the 607-page resource was accurate.

There was no real bias though I would like to see more cultural variety in the literary excerpts and situations used in the exercises.

Most of the resource focuses on writing and grammatical structure; there may be small changes that need to be made as the use of the English language evolves; however, this will be negligible. I anticipate this text requiring very few changes in years to come.

it is well laid-out and easy to follow. The explanations, examples, and directions are clear and concise. It is also written with both native and English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) speakers in mind; the word choice and structure reflect this.

The text's framework and terminology are consistent; I did not see any examples of inconsistency.

This resource lends itself to a modular approach; it would be easy for an instructor to relevant chapters that reflect student needs, course time constraints, or changes within a curriculum.

The resource's is consistent overall; each chapter begins with learning objectives, explanation, examples, exercises, and key takeaways. It is a good resource for students since they are quickly able to anticipate and follow each chapter.

This resource was quite simply designed; there are no charts or images that would lead to confusion. Enough space is given so that blocks of text are read without difficulty and it is free of distraction.

Since it is a writing textbook, I was gratified to find that the grammatical structure and use was very accurate.

I would definitely have like to have seen more examples of the races, ethnicities, and backgrounds I encounter in class; most of the examples used were extremely neutral and reflected a very narrow strata of society. For me, this was the weakest part of the text.

This is an excellent resource-well structured, user friendly and easily adaptable. My main concern-the lack of cultural relevance- can be balanced by providing supplementary materials reflective of the learners' cultures and backgrounds.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Sandell, Professor, Minnesota State University, Mankato on 4/11/17

Provides instruction in steps and sections; builds writing, reading, and critical thinking; and combines comprehensive grammar review with paragraph writing and composition. Provides a range of discussion ideas, examples, and exercises. Serves... read more

Provides instruction in steps and sections; builds writing, reading, and critical thinking; and combines comprehensive grammar review with paragraph writing and composition. Provides a range of discussion ideas, examples, and exercises. Serves both students and instructors. 600+ pages -- very comprehensive.

Quite accurate in terms of the information provided. Uses sources that we use in my writing-intensive classes, so the book is addressing real needs in the classroom. Suggestions reinforce the concepts and practices that our librarians share with students and instructors.

Thought-provoking scenarios provides opportunities for collaboration and interaction. The exercises are especially useful for working with groups of students, which is how I organize workshops and discussions in my classes. Tips for effective writing are included in every chapter. It's nice to have positive examples of how to write, rather than dwelling on negative examples of how not to write. Addresses each concept with clear, concise,and effective examples that are reinforced with opportunities to demonstrate learning. This textbook will be useful for students throughout their academic studies.

Very clear. Clear exercises teach sentence and paragraph writing skills that I already try to emphasize in my classes. I will use many of the exercises, but base them on the content of my course curriculum, instead of generic assignments.

Provides consistent and constant reinforcement through examples and exercises about writing. Involves students in the learning process through reading, problem-solving, practicing, and experiences in the processes of writing.

Modularity rating: 2

Each chapter is stand-alone and easy to read on-line or to print and read off-line. Each chapter has examples that organize the discussion and form a common basis for learning.

Overall, the organization, structure, and flow is fine. Textbook is more than 600 pages, which makes it more of a reference / resource book. I will pull materials that I need for my specific writing-intensive course.

Presents comfortable, easy-to-read material with simple graphics and helpful charts. The Table of Contents does not allow the reader to jump directly to the chapter or section.

The text contains no grammatical errors that I found... If there had been a few mistakes, I would still use the text as a resource.

I am starting to use the idea of the academy as a culture. So, in the writing-intensive course I teach about human relations in a multicultural society, I emphasize how student writing in college must be qualitatively different than writing in secondary schools. I am delighted that this text begins with an introduction to that very idea. Word choices in the text imply inclusion of a variety of ethnic groups and audience backgrounds (e.g., Malik, Miguel, Elizabeth).

I will use this book in a second-year general education writing-intensive course. This resource is useful and friendly, although it is very long. With its incremental approach, the text addresses a wide range of writing levels and abilities. I think students will appreciate it as a resource that they can use throughout their academic life.

The text would also be valuable in a first-year intro-to-college course (we call it First Year Experience), because it teaches many useful academic study practices. For first-generation college students, this text introduces many strategies about how to "do college" with which their families may not be familiar.

Reviewed by Leann Gertsma, Adjunct English Instructor, Minnesota West Community & Technical College on 2/8/17

I was surprised to find this textbook to be a very comprehensive writing handbook. It not only covers grammar and sentence structure, but also devotes a lot of time to the topics of college writing, the writing process, writing techniques, and... read more

I was surprised to find this textbook to be a very comprehensive writing handbook. It not only covers grammar and sentence structure, but also devotes a lot of time to the topics of college writing, the writing process, writing techniques, and essay types. All the sections are clearly labeled with useful exercises to guide students through the material. I appreciated the hyperlinks throughout to navigate to other related sections. One area that seemed to be lacking was the table of contents in each new chapter. These pages were not enabled with hyperlinks and failed to have page numbers associated with them.

I felt this text was accurate. It contains good information for first year writing students. I did not see any bias or errors throughout.

While I did find most of the information current and very relevant to writing students, some of the links in the last chapter did not work. As websites continually change, these would need to be updated on a regular basis. The research chapters would also need to be updated on a regular basis as these materials change frequently.

I found the textbook to be clear. The prose was adequate for first year composition students. There are many examples in the chapters that are relevant to the readers and help put the concepts into practical application.

This textbook is consistent in language, tone, and structure.

The textbook is arranged in an easy to use fashion. The chapters have easy to follow headings, and the key concepts are highlighted. All the chapters are arranged in a similar manner with objectives, lessons, examples, exercises, and key takeaways. Instructors can easily assign specific sections or chapters, while skipping others without confusion. I think the APA and MLA chapter should be split into two chapters to avoid confusion.

The topics are arranged in a clear structure throughout the text. I would have liked to see the chapters arranged in a different format, but this is a minor problem as the instructor can assign the chapters in a different order than they are presented.

This textbook was easy to navigate. The only concern I saw with this was the several of hyperlinks in the final chapter did not work anymore.

I did not find any errors in the text.

I did not see any insensitive or offensive language in the text.

I liked the example papers in the text. However, I wish there were more of them. I also found the chapter on APA and MLA a bit confusing. Students often struggle with these concepts so I think they should have been presented differently. The two styles should not be lumped together in one chapter. They should be separated.

Reviewed by Timothy VanSlyke, Instructor, Chemeketa Community College on 2/8/17

Although there is no index or glossary, I feel that the text is very comprehensive in its coverage of developmental writing. The text clearly walks the student through the writing process and introduces the major rhetorical styles students will... read more

Although there is no index or glossary, I feel that the text is very comprehensive in its coverage of developmental writing. The text clearly walks the student through the writing process and introduces the major rhetorical styles students will face in college. It is clear that the author has worked extensively with the population(s) likely to have need of this course and has planned a comprehensive curriculum to serve them. Having worked extensively with students needing to develop their academic writing skills, I found it very straightforward to adopt the text and align it with my course outcomes.

Content is definitely error free and unbiased. I haven't found any errors or content that struck me as biased or inaccurate.

I think this book will be relevant for quite some time as the need for students to communicate effectively in writing is not going to change. The organization of the text lends itself to updating quite well. For example, the sections devoted to grammar and mechanics, the writing process, and rhetorical styles may need little or no updating, while over time, the sections devoted to research writing (e.g. MLA style) might need more revision.

Given that this book is intended for developing writers, I feel clarity is essential. Too much jargon would scare away students who may already feel overwhelmed. This book strikes an excellent balance between communicating important concepts and terms without being overly technical. Good examples of this can be found in the sections on grammar and mechanics as well as in the rhetorical modes section.

The organization of the book easily lends itself to easy navigation, chapters are divided into logical sections (e.g. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3) and each section follows a consistent format. There are recurring sections that are color coded (exercises in blue boxes, "key takeaways" in green boxes) and the numbering system is clear and logical. The only downside is that the downloadable PDF version of the book doesn't have a table of contents, but I found that if your pdf reader can show bookmarks, there are bookmarks to each of the sections.

This book is very modular. Each chapter is divided into sub-sections (chapter 1.1, 1.2, etc) and the sections are logically divided and lend themselves to easy be assigned as separate readings.

The structure of the text is logical and clear, but what I like most is that the chapters are not overly dependent on a linear flow, which allows me to assign chapters out of sequence without worrying that it will be disruptive to students.

I would describe the interface as quite user friendly. A quick skim of the online Table of Contents is all that is needed to understand the organization of the text and its major sections. Accessing each section is quite easy with the links provided.

One standout in this area is a complete chapter devoted to second language learners, which is quite useful for this population. Otherwise, I have found this to be an excellent resource that introduced students to the academic culture.

Overall I am very pleased with this text, and excited that I can offer my students a book of this quality completely for free!

Reviewed by Jennie Harrop, Chair, Department of Professional Studies, George Fox University on 2/8/17

Writing for Success is admirably comprehensive, but maybe a little too much so. While some professors will find the one-source stop helpful in reducing textbook costs, many students will be overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of information. Because... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

Writing for Success is admirably comprehensive, but maybe a little too much so. While some professors will find the one-source stop helpful in reducing textbook costs, many students will be overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of information. Because the text attempts to cover so much in a single volume, much of the information is offered at a surface level without the depth necessary for the content to become memorable and meaningful. Two key components that are missing in this text because of its surface-level scope are the WHY (why is this information relevant?) and the HOW (how do I apply this?).

Most information is accurate, although some is not thorough enough. When explaining the dash or parentheses, for example, it might be helpful for students to hear when and why these punctuation marks are most effectively used. If a student masters the use of parentheses as described in section 3.6, should he or she pepper an essay with lots of parenthetical asides? If not, why not?

In the section on APA formatting, the title page running heads are not correct.

The key information in the text will not become outdated, although the examples and the sample texts will. The book would benefit from consistent updates to ensure that the examples are culturally sensitive and generationally appropriate. The APA and MLA sections will also need consistent updates.

The prose is clear, but the information covered is not always. In section 5.2 titled "Negative Statements," for example, students are told that negative statements are the opposite of positive statements, but the text does not explain why this information is worth considering. In section 5.6 titled "Modal Auxiliaries," the text moves immediately to examples and exercises without an explanation of why this information might be pertinent or useful.

The terminology and framework presented are consistent throughout.

The text is consistently broken into individual chunks of information rather than meandering prose, which can be enormously helpful for students. Some sections jump directly into the modular chunks of examples and exercises without bothering with any explanatory sections at all, however. In those cases, students need some kind of explanation of why the information presented is important and relevant.

The text's organization is consistent and easy to navigate. The information is presented in divisions familiar to most writing texts: (1) mechanics, (2) writing process, and (3) sample essays.

The Table of Contents is a helpful feature, allowing one to skip through topics easily. I was unable to download this text in a way that would allow me to highlight or make notes.

The grammar is correct throughout.

The examples used are culturally sensitive but mostly bland in a way that makes them forgettable and unimpactful. If cultural relevance means that we whitewash, this text is successful; if it means that we step into the controversy, then the examples in this book need to be more forthright and genuine.

I have used this book in a basic writing course, and I found the students informed but uninspired. I will continue to require this text as a reference books for all students in our program, but I will seek a more lively text for future writing courses in order to keep students engaged, enthusiastic, and forward-thinking.

Reviewed by Sherri Kurczewski, Instructor , Portland Community College on 12/5/16

This book has sections that I would cover in my class. It is a basic writing tool for beginner writers in college. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 1 see less

This book has sections that I would cover in my class. It is a basic writing tool for beginner writers in college.

Overall the book is accurate. It goes over the basic differences of high school vs. college writing with additional grammar explanations and exercises.

This book is for a basic writing class for students who are underprepared for college level writing.

The book was written very direct to the beginning college writer. The tables help explain the differences in high school vs. college writing.

The consistency of the book was good. There was not a lot of terminology that would be over the students understanding.

The book is good at putting each section together. There are small, yet informative grammar sections. An instructor may skip over some chapters without confusing the student.

The organization of the book seems fine. It has the basic ideas of writing and then leads to grammar.

There were no issues with navigation of this file.

I did not see any errors in grammar.

This is a straightforward book without many examples. I did not see any issues.

I would definitely use this book in my basic writing class. It is a quick read and I could easily pull out sections to use and compare.

Reviewed by Anna Erwert, Adjunct faculty, Portland Community College on 8/21/16

The book is extremely comprehensive. If a college works on a 10-week quarter, it's unlikely a student would use the whole book. However, I personally like this completeness because it allows flexibility. Whole class, we could use the chapter on... read more

The book is extremely comprehensive. If a college works on a 10-week quarter, it's unlikely a student would use the whole book. However, I personally like this completeness because it allows flexibility. Whole class, we could use the chapter on the writing process, and then after essay 1, I could assess writers and assign them portions of the sentence level and grammar sections as needed. Also the most common writing errors, like comma splices and frags, are covered and include exercises.

With a decade plus teaching college Writing and Reading, I feel the book is accurate in the sense that it covers what students actually need. I did not see bias. It is very concise and matter-of-fact.

It's relevant eternally, but one caveat: most colleges are moving toward supporting Reading and Writing in one class. Integration of reading skills would be a way to keep this book fresh.

Very little jargon. Everything is well defined, though I do think more examples and samples would be nice. However: this is an easy section for the individual instructor to augment.

Very consistent.

This is my favorite part of the book. It is way more inclusive than we could use in one quarter, but I could assign grammar or sentence level stuff with flexibility, as needed. I could also do the whole book in reverse (sometimes I like to start big, then move to smaller concerns)or present only the Research section for a Reading class.

Very logical but also easy to manipulate logically

There isn't anything confusing about it. I don't think it is the most engaging, exciting design in the world, but perhaps that is not the goal here. More pictures though, sorry- it is a visual age- would be welcome. Still, instructors could add in pics, slides, video, etc.

I saw no errors

The book is geared more to the college student, not the particular culture or gender. In some ways this is a relief to me, as I am trying to work with topics that bring us together, like say, the cost of college, as opposed to those that fragment us, like racial profiling. In a ten week course in one of the most diverse campuses in the PCC system, this is becoming very important. In this sense, the book fits.

Super useful framework. Teachers will augment with samples, interactive activities, visual aids, etc., but that makes it better for your specific audience anyway.

Reviewed by Olga Filatova, Visiting Assistant Professor, Miami University on 8/21/16

I was surprised by how much useful content the book has. It covers everything I would need to teach in a first year college composition writing class. The text gives overview of reading and writing strategies, and covers everything from grammar,... read more

I was surprised by how much useful content the book has. It covers everything I would need to teach in a first year college composition writing class. The text gives overview of reading and writing strategies, and covers everything from grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, sentence structure, elements of composition and writing process, to rhetorical modes and elements of research. It has so much material, that it can be adjusted to a wide range of students' needs and writing abilities. Parts of the book can be used as a reference. The book is very much in line with my course goals, and is particularly effective in helping students with writing in a variety of genres, introducing a clear thesis statement and sustaining it throughout the paper with support and evidence. It also has good tips for reading, writing and editing. However, I didn't find the section for language learners helpful. I teach composition to international students, and would definitely skip the chapter. The concepts in the chapter are not well-explained and application exercises are insufficient. This chapter can be used as a reference for instructors who don't usually work with LLs.

The content is accurate. I didn't find the readings particularly engaging, but they are good for structure analysis. The links to additional essays provide opportunities to choose more engaging reading material.

Writing foundation principles are solid. MLA and APA citation and formatting would need most often updates. The link to Purdue OWL solves this problem.

The book is written in a very clear manner. However, some of the explanation might be too long and lack sufficient examples.

The book is very consistent. I would rearrange the chapters and start with the writing process. Grammar, vocabulary and punctuation can be in a reference section of the book.

The text is divided into chapters and sections. Each of the chapters follows the same structure. The chapters have clear learning objectives, subtitles and exercises for practical application. The main points are summarized at the end. Students would have no trouble navigating the content.

The topics are presented in a logical way. As I mentioned above, I would rearrange the chapters in the book. The way the chapters are arranged now puts the emphasis on developmental writing vs rhetorical practices.

The books interface is very good.

The book is excellently written. I didn't see any grammar errors.

The book is culturally relevant. It focuses on American culture. It lacks elements of global cultural awareness, but it is good enough for the purposes.

Thank you for the book. It is very good. I will use it with my students next semester!

Reviewed by Laura Funke, Instructor, Inver Hills Community College on 8/21/16

The text is almost too comprehensive—trying to cover writing, reading, and study skills strategies. Within writing, it covers grammar, mechanics, paragraph writing, essay writing, ELL troublespots, and even documentation. Although an instructor... read more

The text is almost too comprehensive—trying to cover writing, reading, and study skills strategies. Within writing, it covers grammar, mechanics, paragraph writing, essay writing, ELL troublespots, and even documentation. Although an instructor could easily focus on specific chapters based on the level of the class and needs of the students, the effort to be comprehensive led some areas to be overly simplistic and basic. For example, in the section on writing introductions, there is a list of strategies for starting the essay (the hook or attention grabber) but not much direct instruction or modeling. In other words, quality was sometimes sacrificed for quantity.

From my experience, the content of the book was accurate in most areas, but some advice was simplistic. For example, telling English language learners to avoid slang and idioms is wrong. What often makes ELLs’ writing awkward is the lack of idioms. The advice to avoid slang might be better for a chapter for native English speakers. In the same ELL section, the author stated that simple present is used “when actions take place now” but that is not the case. Present progressive verbs are used for the current moment (“Right now, I am writing a review.”) These inaccuracies happened on occasion, but in general, the advice and information given by the writer was accurate.

The text can be easily updated because of the modular organization. The topics used for examples or exercises would benefit from regular updating. Some topics are engaging for students, but others would not be for most students (such as ‘the hardiness of the kangaroo rat’).

The text is written in using clear, accessible language that is appropriate to first year college students. New terms are explained clearly and put in bold letters. It might be helpful to put key terms and definitions in margins, as many textbooks do, or at least consider an index and glossary at the end of the book.

I didn’t notice any inconsistencies in framework or terminology.

The text is structured in such a way that instructors and students can pick and choose among relevant chapters. There are references to prior chapters, but the text doesn't assume that students have read the text from front to back. Students can easily refer back to prior chapters when more background is needed or if additional follow-up instruction is needed. One recommendation would be to include the chapter and section number on each page in a footer or header.

The information flows logically for the most part. The book begins with a broad overview of writing and student success strategies. Then it moves from sentences, to paragraphs, to essays, to research papers. One section that seemed out of place was to include 'purpose, audience, and tone' in the chapter on paragraph writing. It would seem to be a topic that could use its own chapter. I also felt that chapter 7 on sentence variety was misplaced after paragraph writing. Still, I appreciated that the author circled back to some topics briefly even if they were covered in more detail in another chapter. For example, the author discusses wordiness and word choice in the chapter on revision even though those topics were discussed in an earlier chapter. Imbedding some sentence-level concerns into the chapters on paragraph or essay writing helps students to see the relevance of the sentence-level instruction.

Occasionally an informal font is used to show student examples of writing. This playful font is difficult to read (see p. 233). It would be better to use a standard font like Times New Roman to make the text easier to read. Also, the book is very text-heavy. There are few to no engaging photographs or images for readers. Even though it is clearly organized with headings, subheadings, bold words, and other organizational devices which are very helpful, it is not visually engaging. There is a nice use of internal links. In one section, chapter 6.2 p. 247-248), the directions prior to three model paragraphs said “The topic sentence is underlined for you” but I didn’t see any underlining. I don’t know if that is an error in the text or a problem with my own computer.

I noticed no grammatical errors when reviewing the text.

The text is not culturally insensitive. However, I wouldn’t say that the writing samples are particularly engaging or daring in terms of challenging the status quo. Most of the topics are standard examples: “How to grow tomatoes from a Seedling,” “Effects of Video Game Addiction” and “Comparing and Contrasting London and Washington D.C.” I would like to see more creative and engaging course readings in the text, readings that address the interests and backgrounds of culturally- and linguistically-diverse students.

The practice exercises are often very engaging and creative. For example, p. 287 the author explains an exercise in which students rewrite children stories (written using simple prose) with more complex syntactical structures to practice sentence complexity and variety. Most all exercises are practical and student-friendly. The text doesn’t get bogged down with excessive use of exercises; instead, students’ own writing is often the basis of the exercises, making them relevant to developing their own writing skills.

Though I appreciate the author’s efforts at comprehensiveness and detail, I found the text quite dry. With more visuals, updated course readings, and perhaps an updated format that isn’t so text-heavy, the text would be more engaging for students.

Reviewed by Jennifer von Ammon, Full-time faculty, Lane Community College on 8/21/16

The text is primarily focused on grammar review and would be an appropriate text for a development writing course. Although there are several chapters dedicated to mechanics, there are limited essay assignment options, so an instructor would need... read more

The text is primarily focused on grammar review and would be an appropriate text for a development writing course. Although there are several chapters dedicated to mechanics, there are limited essay assignment options, so an instructor would need to craft engaging essay assignments to supplement the lessons.

The book appears accurate and unbiased.

Content seems fairly up-to-date though some of the suggested topics were somewhat overused (abortion, legal drinking age). Inclusion of different learning styles (visual, verbal, auditory, kinesthetic) is relevant.

The text is written clearly and has helpful headings/subheadings to organize material. Incorporating more images/illustrations could have enhanced the text.

The book is consistent in tone and structure.

The text could be assigned into smaller reading sections. I appreciated the "key takeaways" at the close of each chapter.

Though I appreciated the comprehensive coverage of grammar/sentence structure/mechanics, I would have liked to have seen the text incorporate writing assignments earlier in the text.

The text is clearly presented with headings/subheadings, but including more images may make the text more engaging for students.

The text appears to have no grammatical errors.

I did not find the text insensitive or offensive though some of the topics and references seemed somewhat outdated (MTV).

Reviewed by Paul Carney, English Instructor, Minnesota State Community and Technical College on 8/21/16

The text covers all the essentials of college composition, from the writing process and mechanics to rhetorical modes and the research paper. The material devoted to grammar, punctuation and usage is well organized and fairly thorough. While very... read more

The text covers all the essentials of college composition, from the writing process and mechanics to rhetorical modes and the research paper. The material devoted to grammar, punctuation and usage is well organized and fairly thorough. While very brief, the sub-divided units on punctuation could be more developed. That said, too much textual explanation and not enough modeling can be a real turn off for students struggling with these mechanical issues. One cannot defer to the text for teaching. The rhetorical modes are equitably covered, though persuasion might welcome more attention and development. For a basic college composition text, this text certainly suffices.

The information is accurate and consistent with language arts standards for bias and equity. However, the example essays in the back could be more reflective of cultural and class diversity.

The writer does a fine job of using examples (exercises, models, examples, etc.) relevant to students in the near future. With supplemental readings and other OERs, this text will withstand expiration of content for at least three years.

The book's clarity is, perhaps, its greatest strength. The writer is keenly aware of his/her audience, college students who approach writing with an array of aptitudes and attitudes. Chapter 1, for instance, "Introduction to Writing," begins a foundational conversation with the reader, a conversation suitable to and supportive of most college students. The sentence complexity is appropriate for the audience. Also, student readers will appreciate the inclusion of "Tips" for building clarity.

The text is consistent in terms of utilizing and referencing terminology and other sections of the book.. The writer consistently uses and revisits key concepts and terminology (grammar, sentence structure, paragraph development, unity, etc.), reminding the reader that writing is a recursive process involving strategic "layering" of ideas and skills.

Each chapter in Writing for Success can "stand alone" if necessary. Oftentimes, in the interest of responding to differentiated learning styles, instructors must isolate and prescribe content for students' individual writing challenges. This text lends itself to easy access to subheadings for particular reference and reinforcement.

I do appreciate the inclusion of exercises at the end of chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5.

The text's organizational format may be its greatest and only notable weakness. The book begins with a thorough, thoughtful introduction to the writing process by citing fears and misconceptions commonly held by college students. This section of the book is critical to establishing a casual but accurate understanding of the writing process. Then, rather abruptly, succeeding chapters shift to local writing issues relating to writing basics - fragments, punctuation, sentence fluency. Typically, and I would argue more logically and appropriately, these localized writing matters should appear in the back of the text for easy access and reference. Logically, the chapter(s) following the discussion of the writing process should launch the student into the writing process itself.

I had initially downloaded the pdf version of the text, thinking that was the one and only interface for accessing, reading and utilizing the text. However, in a later attempt I was able to access a digital version that is quite easy to navigate. I like the ever-present position of the table of contents for easy point-and-click navigation. The chapters line up sequentially and the display is reader-friendly.

The style and mechanics reflect mastery of grammar and usage.

Again, I would point to the example essays as evidence of shallow (not necessarily insensitive) attention to cultural and class diversity. Were I to use this text, I would supplement the example essays with models reflective of wider cultural experiences (class, gender, race, LGBT).

Writing for Success is what it says it is, a book that provides essential instruction in how to approach and embark on the writing process. It provides a basic review of grammar and usage that probably would require additional instruction and opportunities for practice. A college writing instructor who usually defaults to his or her favorite and reliable "bag of tricks" would find this open text very useful for foundational instruction.

Thanks for this opportunity to review an open text in the Creative Commons.

Paul Carney

Reviewed by William Wells, Instructor, Metropolitan State University on 8/21/16

This book covers all the topics I would normally cover in a first year composition course and more. I would like to see an effective, preferably interactive, Table of Contents and a glossary. read more

This book covers all the topics I would normally cover in a first year composition course and more. I would like to see an effective, preferably interactive, Table of Contents and a glossary.

The content is extremely accurate and well-articulated.

This book will likely be useful until we communicate exclusively with emoticons. Necessary updates should be fairly easy to integrate.

Clear and well-written for its audience.

The text is generally consistent in tone and framework and uniformly consistent in terminology.

The text appears as of it would be easily adaptable as modules.

Some of the topics seem slightly out of place, but it has a clear structure.

The text appears to have several broken links, particularly in the beginning, in the .pdf version.

I had some questions about word usage--particularly the heading of "Dos" and "Don'ts" which, to my eye, looks funny. I would probably go with "Do's and Dont's."

The text does not seem culturally insensitive and makes an overt attempt to accommodate those students with differences in learning styles.

I will be giving it a try in my next class.

Reviewed by Michelle Robbins, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

Writing for Success includes all the topics I cover in a developmental writing class, plus a large chunk on research papers. It covers grammar and constructing paragraphs and essays in a comprehensive manner. For developmental writing, I did... read more

Writing for Success includes all the topics I cover in a developmental writing class, plus a large chunk on research papers. It covers grammar and constructing paragraphs and essays in a comprehensive manner.

For developmental writing, I did find that Chapter 2 was a bit light on the parts of speech. For instance, in one exercise students must identify adverbs and adjectives, but there is no real explanation of them first. However, the sentence practice in regard to subjects, verbs, and independent clauses was solid.

Chapter 6 on purpose, tone, audience, and content was excellent. I haven't seen those elements addressed in quite the same way (sometimes barely at all) in other textbooks I have used.

I was also pleased with the links to articles and essays. (More on this in relevance and cultural relevance.)

Content is accurate, error-free, and unbiased. The author includes a variety of links to additional readings and does an excellent job of covering different sides of an issue. For instance, he is sure to link to articles arguing both for and against the use of torture.

Because grammar, language, and writing change fairly slowly, the content here is relevant and lasting. Some articles may become dated, but those are easy to change. Many of them won't need to be replaced anyway because, regardless of their dates, they are still good examples (and, obviously, in writing and literature older works are critical to examine). One of the sample essays was written in 1994. Certainly our outlooks on the material has changed (the role of wives), but the piece is still a good (and creative) example of a definition essay--and fodder for discussion.

The text is clear and accessible for upper-level remedial students and still works for 100-level courses. The student examples are useful, but a few of them were not especially compelling or strong examples and could be replaced.

It is consistent. I thought the repetition of sections such as "writing at work" and "key takeaways" were helpful for students absorbing a lot of information.

The organization of sections made the text easy to follow. At first I thought it would be better organized by integrating the writing samples in the last chapter into the instructional chapters, but ultimately, I found that grouping the types of content (grammar in one area, writing instruction in one, samples in another, and so on) made accessing content easier--especially because they are also cross-referenced within the chapters.

Much of the time, I want my students to access different topics simultaneously, so I found the organization here to work fine. The chapters and sub-sections are clear, so it is easy to move between them.

I found the cross-referencing of sub-sections to be particularly helpful, as in the chapter on coordination: it refers back to the section on semi-colons and vice versa.

All worked well for me. All graphics were clear, and it was key to be able to magnify the student samples for better readability.

One significant issue is that many of the links to essay examples in Chapter 15 are dead.

I found no errors.

The links to outside sources included cultural variety (and were quite interesting!). Perhaps the examples within the text itself might show more variety.

I was especially impressed by the links to Chapter 15 examples (those that worked); there were blogs, poems, and magazine articles. The variety of source types and authors was excellent, and the pieces themselves were compelling.

Overall, Writing for Success was clearly written, useful, and fairly comprehensive. I would definitely use it in my developmental Writing 90 course. I can also envision using many sections for Writing 80.

Reviewed by Kelsea Jones, Adjunct Instructor, Treasure Valley Community College on 1/7/16

McLean's text is surprisingly comprehensive, covering topics from reading and study strategies, to grammar, to writing paragraphs and essays, to research. While some of this material would be spot-on for first year composition, I feel as though... read more

McLean's text is surprisingly comprehensive, covering topics from reading and study strategies, to grammar, to writing paragraphs and essays, to research. While some of this material would be spot-on for first year composition, I feel as though most of the strategies are more appropriate for developmental composition courses (like WR 115: Intro to College Writing in the Oregon system).

The major downside of this text is that there is no Table of Contents or index for this 600+ page book.

The information in the text appears to accurate, unbiased, and very detailed.

The text makes use of sentence and essay examples that are relevant and that will not have to be constantly updated. The main pieces of information in this text that would need to be updated are the APA and MLA style guides; however, both guides follow the most recent editions. Otherwise, the links provided in the text, such as those to the Purdue OWL, may need the most monitoring and updating.

The writing style of this text is accessible and conversational. Terms are introduced with examples, including some excellent graphic organizers, before they are used in the text, and the terminology is consistent throughout.

There is a consistent framework in each chapter: learning objectives are listed, information is presented with tips and examples, and the information is summarized in a "Key Takeaways" box.

The text is divided into chapters and sub-sections that could be divided into smaller reading sections or reorganized to fit individual course needs. Instructors could take or leave any of the content without confusing their students.

The text is organized so that students can build upon their skills, from reading and studying all the way to researching and making presentations; in that way, it is a clearly organized and structured text. However, this organization is what makes the text more appropriate for developmental writing courses than first year composition courses. The reading, studying, and grammar sections of the text could easily be organized into appendices at the back of the book to act as supplemental material rather than the meat of the text.

Interface rating: 2

There are a few confusing interface issues with this version of the text: 1) None of the paragraphs are indented, which makes skimming the text difficult. 2) The learning objectives and tips in the text are set off in a light gray color that is easy to miss while scrolling through the pages; the blue and green colors chosen for the exercises and key takeaways are much easier to see and read. 3) Several headings for sections, tables, and figures are cut off from the information they introduce. 4) There are no clickable links in the text, table of contents, or index to aid navigation. 5) There is no title page for the text!

The text contains no apparent grammatical errors.

There was no content that was culturally offensive, but I also did not find the text to be particularly inclusive.

Overall, I found this text to be a good Open Educational Resource that offers a real wealth of information about college writing. For all of its interface problems, the text would be easy enough to adapt to either developmental composition courses or first year comp courses. I would recommend this text to instructors interested in using OERs in their classes.

Reviewed by Shawn Osborne, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

The text clearly covers all areas and ideas of the subject at this level and is well organized. A nice addition is that each chapter opens with Learning Objectives and closes with Key Takeaways. read more

The text clearly covers all areas and ideas of the subject at this level and is well organized. A nice addition is that each chapter opens with Learning Objectives and closes with Key Takeaways.

I found the content to be accurate, error-free, and unbiased.

The content is up-to-date and relevant. It is arranged in such a way that any necessary updates should be quite easy to implement.

The text is straight forward and clear.

The terminology and framework of the text is consistent.

The text can be divided into smaller reading sections easily.

The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear way.

There are no interface issues. The images/charts and other display features are well placed and bring clarity to the learning point.

There are no grammatical errors in the text.

The text is culturally relevant.

Chapter 5: Help for English Language Learners and Chapter 14: Creating Presentations are useful additions to the text. I also appreciate the links to further readings in Chapter 15 and believe this will be very beneficial for students.

Reviewed by Fran Bozarth, Adjunct Professor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

This book really covers it all so long as there is no need to address reading fiction - in fact, it has way more than I would be able to use in a term! However, it appears to be appropriate for a semester course, or for two terms of... read more

This book really covers it all so long as there is no need to address reading fiction - in fact, it has way more than I would be able to use in a term! However, it appears to be appropriate for a semester course, or for two terms of quarter-length courses.

Subjects are covered appropriately, although I don't know that students would find all of it particularly engaging - use of this material would be VERY reliant upon an effective, engaging instructor.

At our college we have the additional course goal of requiring some understanding of reading fiction, and an instructor utilizing this book would need to supplement for it.

While the Table of Contents is very clear, there is no index or glossary.

The content in this book is consistent with the goals of most Reading/Writing/Study Skills/College Success courses I have encountered. It seems to be error-free, and the author did a particularly good job of projecting no biases that I could detect.

The content related to this text has remained fairly static for decades, though there have been some developments in the past few decades regarding holding students more accountable for knowing their learning styles, and for constructing meaning with connections to their own experiences. This book addresses the basic, standard content, and nicely brings in opportunities for students to better understand themselves as learners. Again, this will depend heavily upon the instructor and their ability to engage students.

Some of the exercises and examples may become obsolete if there are any major technological changes in our society (for example, if email is suddenly abandoned in favor of something else.) However, I believe that such updates would be quite easy to implement given the use of a simple "Find & Replace" feature.

Clarity is a strong suit for this text. I did not locate any portion of the book that lacked clarity. Context was provided for examples of poor writing as well as for strong writing. Context was also provided for any specialized language.

The book is extremely consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

The framework utilizes a "here is what you will learn" type of bulleted list, followed by sections that match the bulleted list, with examples where appropriate, and exercises at the end of the chapter. The end of the book includes not only a full-text example of each type of essay, but also provides links to additional examples written by often well-known and well-regarded authors.

The structure of the overall text is appropriate, and logical. I really appreciate that exercises aren't just randomly thrown in, as many published textbooks often do.

The text is easily readable, but I find that the layout of the pages can cause the text and sections to run together. More effective use of headings and subheadings would make this easier for students to follow. Additionally, there isn't an easily discernible break between chapters/sections. I would very much like to see more solid page breaks (title pages perhaps?) at the beginning of each chapter/section. Given the learning styles assessment at the beginning of the book, it would be appropriate to at least include some icons that match each section - for example the "Key Take Aways " could have a key icon. Some suggestions for students regarding how they can apply this using their unique learning styles might be helpful as well. Otherwise, that learning style information seems to be unrelated from the students' point of view.

The links in the PDF did not seem to work. I don't know if I need to consider looking at this material in a different format in order to use the in-text links. (In other words, I don't know if it's me or if it's the text or the technology or what....)

The topics in the text are presented in a very appropriate fashion, with concepts building in a logical way, one upon the next. Very nicely scaffolded!

The interface seemed to be working correctly. I was able to read everything, and things seemed to be correctly placed. I was not sure if the blue text was supposed to be linked. I was unable to click it and go to any links (which were typically references to other chapters within the text, so it wouldn't be impossible to locate those items - just tedious.)

The text appears to have been impeccably edited. All of the writing lesson content was modeled within the text. Items that were incorrect were clearly labeled as being examples of poor writing, or were clearly used for the purpose of applying identification and editing skills.

This text appears to be quite sterile when it comes to cultural sensitivity. Given the audience, the examples are typically American with some culturally diverse names thrown in. The examples given weren't particularly indicative of one race, ethnicity or background or another. In some ways, I am thankful for the lack of contrived cultural sensitivity. I didn't note anything that would create a barrier to culturally diverse populations, other than the assumptions that are made based upon american culture (such as the notion that we have all had a job at one time or another, or at least have some understanding of the concept of employment.)

This book has much to offer. The authors did an excellent job of including the content that is consistent with standard reading/writing/study skill content. I think it will be very workable and pliable for use by instructors who chose it.

Reviewed by Kimberly Gutierrez, Assistant Professor of English, Bismarck State College on 1/7/16

One of the classes I teach is a freshman composition writing lab that focuses on sentence level errors and sentence clarity. This is a super resource for that type of class. The book contains all sentence, grammar and mechanics concepts that are... read more

One of the classes I teach is a freshman composition writing lab that focuses on sentence level errors and sentence clarity. This is a super resource for that type of class. The book contains all sentence, grammar and mechanics concepts that are essential to teaching students to recognize and repair sentence-level errors. The Table of Contents clearly outlines all of the all of the component of the book. As far as being the main source for a first semester freshman composition class, if I used it, I would certainly supplement it with more readings, but for freshman composition sentence level instruction, this book is very thorough. My comprehensive rating reflects that particular focus.

The descriptions of the concepts are very detailed, and these descriptions are very accurate, explaining the concept with correct sample sentences.

Since the primary focus of this book is the grammatical concepts that impact sentence issues, the text will not necessarily need updating. Of course, MLA formatting guidelines do change, so these changes will will need to be updated within the book, but the general sentence concepts presented in the majority of the book will not soon become obsolete.

All portions of the book are very clearly presented. Grammar can be confusing to first semester freshman composition students, but the explanations are clearly presented. Examples are clearly connected to the grammar explanations.

Terminology is consistent within the text. Within the framework of a composition lab class, this text is consistent, covering all essential components covered in the course scope.

The clarity with how the concepts are presented in the Table of Contents allows instructors to pick and choose which the concepts will be presented and the order of presentation.

The book has a clear organizational flow (considering that I would use this book for a composition lab that has a sentence practice focus). The sentence concepts build logically on each other.

No interface issues occur when accessing the chapters, and there are no display features that distract the reader. The lessons are presented very clearly, and the practice exercises are easy to follow.

The grammar lessons are error free.

The practice sentences do not contain an culturally biased material.

This is a text that I would consider using for a composition lab course (sentence practice focus). I would also consider using the text for first semester freshman composition, but using the text for that type of course would require finding supplemental readings.

Reviewed by Brandy Hoffmann, English Instructor, Central Lakes College on 1/7/16

Writing for Success offers a variety of sections that could be extracted as resources/readings for a first year writing course. In other words, despite some weaknesses, this text serves the function of an OER, and parts of it could be utilized... read more

Writing for Success offers a variety of sections that could be extracted as resources/readings for a first year writing course. In other words, despite some weaknesses, this text serves the function of an OER, and parts of it could be utilized widely. Overall, I would not feel comfortable using this as a primary text to teach rhetorical modes, including argumentative research writing, but I would use it as a supplementary text.

Strengths: I found the coverage of the following subjects to be generally effective: the overall writing process; the revision process (with exercises, p. 470); the editing process (with exercises, p. 476); thesis development (with samples of weak/strong, Chapter 9); paragraphing and topic sentences (with models of different types of paragraphs--summary/analysis/synthesis/evaluation, Chapter 6); sentence fluency and variety (with exercises throughout Chapters 2 and 7); preliminary research and research proposals (Chapter 11); outlining (with samples, Chapter 8), and basic MLA and APA documentation, including an effective discussion of in-text citations on pp. 501-503.

I want to point out the overall usefulness of the exercises offered throughout this text (adding value to the text, since practical exercises for college writing instruction can be hard to come by). I also appreciated the beginnings of chapters, which effectively addressed the questioning student and established the context.

Weaknesses: Viewed as a whole, the text struggles in terms of audience and purpose, organization of content, and content selection and emphasis. The text emphasizes some extraneous subjects while understating other topics that would be important to many composition courses. For example, for a composition course built on rhetorical modes—narration, description, illustration, argumentation, etc.--this textbook offers only a short overview of each. It also offers a few models and links to outside readings, but it doesn't include anything on composing annotated bibliographies, rhetorical analysis essays, critical reviews, or literature reviews. There is an overview on how to write a research paper, but the discussion on how to integrate sources effectively - quoting, paraphrasing, summarizing - is somewhat weak, and the discussion of plagiarism is limited.

The text offers an extensive section on study skills (in chapter 1), which seemed misplaced in this text - unless it was modified to address study strategies for a writing course, specifically (for example, rather than models of lecture "note taking," how about models of research note-taking in chapter 11; and instead of comparing general high school and college assignments, compare writing assignments specifically). I would recommend an overall reorganization of the text, moving chapter 8 (writing process) toward the front, for example, while moving chapters 2 (sentences), 3 (punctuation), 4 (words), and 5 (ELL) toward the end--to emphasize higher order concerns, first; lower order concerns, second.

I appreciate the attempt to address workplace writing as well as academic or in-school writing, but I found the brief "Writing at Work" sidebars a bit forced, possibly distracting, and unnecessary (e.g. pp. 224-225; p. 348). The attempt to include a pseudo student to shed light on the subject is sometimes helpful (Mariah, Chapter 8) but sometimes forced and not developed enough to be useful (Crystal, Chapter 1). The brief bits on "collaboration" throughout the text could be deleted- not developed enough to be useful. There is no index or glossary, and in the PDF I was using there was no table of contents, though this is available elsewhere. Despite these weaknesses, there are many reasons to use this text, as outlined under "Strengths" above.

Overall, this is an accurate and unbiased text. There will always be subjectivity in the delivery of academic writing advice because of varying preferences and changing ideas about what is appropriate or inappropriate. I tend to disagree with the following suggestions or omissions offered in this text: suggestion (through models that indicate 3 points to support a thesis) that a 5-paragraph essay is still the go-to formula for college writing in (Chapter 9); suggestion that a thesis is always one sentence; suggestion that it's a good idea to search for a random quote for your introduction online (p. 361); omitting any reference to intentional sentence fragments; omitting idea that contractions can be used in academic writing (in certain instances); omitting clear attribution and documentation in the summary on p. 220 apart from the opening signal phrase--not the best summary sample; the suggestion that a topic sentence begins an essay or article (p. 233), which seems misleading.

Writing advice tends to be timeless, to an extent, so there aren't big concerns that the content will become outdated. The author avoided pop culture and current event references, which was smart. The only suggestion would be to modify the text to better address new challenges and innovations in writing genres/writing instruction - perhaps including a chapter on multimodal writing and online writing toward the end of the text. (The use of "trade books" in Chapter 1 seems outdated, not fully defined.)

Overall, I found the writing to be very effective - definitely student-friendly yet not patronizing and still sophisticated. The writer avoided convoluted, wordy prose, and wrote in a tone appropriately formal yet conversational and relatable.

Yes, despite the overall issues with content organization and selection, which I address elsewhere, I found the text to be internally conistent with terminology and framework.

Yes, this text is easily divisible into smaller reading assignment, given the breakdown of subsectios within each chapter and the inclusion of exercise sections, etc. There are some issues with headers/interface, depending on the version of the text used, addressed in interface section.The text did not seem self-referential.

As stated above, I would recommend an overall reorganization of the text, moving chapter 8 (writing process) toward the front, for example, while moving chapters 2 (sentences), 3 (punctuation), 4 (words), and 5 (ELL) toward the end--to emphasize higher order concerns, first; lower order concerns, second.

Including Learning Objectives at the beginning of each chapter is helpful, allowing easy alignment with course objectives; the "key takeaways" at the end of each chapter are also helpful.

Please note: I was evaluating a downloaded PDF version of the text, so experience may be different in a different mode. Throughout the text, headings/labels can be difficult to distinguish from one another, making it challenging to follow the hierarchy/logic of the text. The organization of the "Reading Strategies" section in Chapter 1 was a bit confusing, listing the "three broad categories" of strategies but then failing to organize section headings that aligned. On p. 10, I would recommend moving "Ask and answer questions" before "Summarize."

For the "tips" offered throughout the text, it would be helpful if they were labeled in some way (e.g. "Tips: Succeeding in Timed Writings," p. 34). I would suggest eliminating the "Writing at Work" sidebars but turning some of these into tips (e.g. "Tips: Emailing Your Professor," p. 17). The paragraph on p. 38 that lists all chapters seems unnecessary and overwhelming. In the discussion of the SQ3R Strategy on p. 12, it seems like these steps should be handled separately with headings. The four academic purposes in Chapter 6 should be obviously highlighted at the beginning of the section rather than listed in the middle of the paragraph without emphasis (p. 217). On p. 230, "6.12" is referenced but does not exist? Use of "for this assignment" on p. 461 seems misleading.

Also, the font size, heading placement, spacing, indenting, and bullet formatting are all a bit awkward throughout; the text could be cleaned up for improved design and readability, though these issues do not detract largely from the text's usability.

Please note: I was evaluating a downloaded PDF version of the text, so experience may be different in a different mode. I located a few interface issues in my reading of the text: On p. 238+ the text keeps referring to underlined topic sentences, but they are not underlined. On p. 244 the text refers to underlined transitional words, but they are also not underlined.

Certain references to other sections in the text are colored in a way that makes them seem as if you could click on a link and be carried to a different section of the text, but this didn’t function, at least not in the PDF that I had downloaded (such as “see Chapter 12 ‘Writing a Research Paper’” on p. 10).

It would be helpful if there was a repeat of the chapter title on the top of each page of the text.

I located the following dead links in the PDF that I downloaded: p. 546,_Sherman_-_Indian_Education_TEXT.rtf p. 596 p. 602*f0NQJGyoXgI8AR*3Rat-AyxVuVAgEE bfbuyGbTu9gpi7z3gT4jqd52W3fBsDRfFGgEgLxB5wO4/GetItRight.PrivatizeExecutionsArthurMiller.pdf p. 605 p. 607 p. 609 p. 613

The title and link has changed for article p. 598: should be List of "Sources" on p. 568 awkward too... not sure links are directing to intended spot.

I located a few mechanical/sentence-level errors: p. 2 in Preface, 2nd paragraph, the list with "instruction in steps, builds writing, reading, and critical..." could use semicolons for clearer listing/separation of items. p. 166 wording issue: "jargon a type" p. 202, 213, 275, 340, 366 spacing errors: "errors within, at and on"; "butit"; "thanswimming"; "Fencessymoblize"; "Writingis"; p. 208 lack of consistent periods at end of phrases in Table 5.16 p. 300 words/punctuation missing: "For example, for every Roman numeral I, there must be a For every A, there must be a B."

The text did not seem culturally insensitive or offensive and seemed usable by a wide audience of students.

I plan on using segments of this text in future writing courses, and I am grateful for the availability of OER texts like this one. So, despite any weaknesses addressed, this is still a valuable resource for faculty who are trying to lower the barriers to student success in their classrooms through the adoption of OER resources. I recommend the text, but study it carefully to determine how it will be used in your specific writing courses. It is probably best used as a supplementary text.

Reviewed by Michelle Cristiani, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

What I look for in a writing text at this level is flow from simple to complex: word placement and part of speech up through essays. This text follows that format beautifully. One glaring omission is fragment and run-on work. This is such a... read more

What I look for in a writing text at this level is flow from simple to complex: word placement and part of speech up through essays. This text follows that format beautifully. One glaring omission is fragment and run-on work. This is such a common issue at this level. I would also want to see more transition from sentence to paragraph, not just paragraph to essay. There are a couple of underdeveloped sections as the topics grow in detail: for example, nine rhetorical modes are discussed, which is a wide array, but within each section there is not much elaboration or examples. But overall, there are appropriate exercises after concepts are introduced. The text provides a solid framework for instructors to build upon as they see fit. The table of contents are easy to navigate and generally well-organized. I do find chapter 8 misplaced, though – it is titled ‘how do I begin.’ Because it describes the writing process from prewrite to edit it seems sensible to place it closer to the beginning. I especially appreciate the inclusion of research and citation – it is well-done.

The lessons and examples are true to the field. The structure mirrors most other texts in organization and usage. The research and citation sections are more-or-less current.

Longevity is easy to attain with this discipline because grammar/writing rules are tried and true...but the organization of this text makes it a true 'open' resource. One could update or mold portions into a larger discussion on grammar concepts like punctuation, or writing for description. The APA and MLA sections are vague enough as to not need much updates as the rules change. The links work. I see at least one MLA rule that has changed since 2009, but it's relatively minor, and easily updated.

Grammar-heavy texts can be tricky for students because there are so many labels, like 'rhetorical mode,' that they know the definitions of, but have not heard the terms themselves. This text keeps that jargon to a minimum, so that students can focus on the concept and not the vocabulary. Subject-verb agreement is the least accessible, but that is often difficult to explain for any text, and the exercises support the instruction. Parallelism could be defined more cleanly. The research section is quite clear. The learning objectives are clear enough as to be useful tools themselves.

Exercises are often post-concept and always post-chapter. Learning objectives are defined at the beginning of each section. Each section resembles the others, and for that reason can be easily modulated - but there are no clear cumulative assignments.

These chapters can stand alone quite easily. This works especially well for instructors like myself who teach grammar concepts side-by-side with writing concepts - they will pair closely in this model. The end-of-chapter exercises could easily be used as pretests as well as post-tests. Chapter 13 on research documentation is slightly self-referential, but the sections are unlikely to be taught separately and it doesn't feel overdone.

As previously mentioned, chapter 8 on getting started might be moved forward. Ideally the text would pair the writing process stages directly with modes, as they do change given the purpose...but since this might made the text less modular I understand the vision behind its generality. The reading examples might be closer to the chapter on modes, instead of at the end after research. Within chapters, flow is sensible and straightforward.

The layout and structure is simple and clean. Charts keep their shape even when window size is minimized. The clear table of contents is navigable by both scroll and click.

Grammar texts especially need to be spotless; I spotted no errors. Most importantly, there is consistency in structure and punctuation, for example in learning objectives from chapter to chapter.

Most important in this volume are the sample essay readings. Linked and cited authors include various time periods and controversial yet not sensitive topics. The text is to be commended for inclusion of essays from at least five different races and a variety of worldviews.

A solid framework and foundation for essay writing. The book could be used for a class specifically about writing, or as a companion to another course. Modules on research and citation are of specific relevance to a variety of content areas, and the extra essays in the final chapter can inspire debate and argument both in writing and verbal discussion.

Reviewed by Mary Sylwester, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

This textbook is amazingly comprehensive--probably more than any teacher actually wants. It covers strategies for success in college, reading, grammar, spelling, drafting, revising, thesis statements, and various rhetorical modes. Unfortunately,... read more

This textbook is amazingly comprehensive--probably more than any teacher actually wants. It covers strategies for success in college, reading, grammar, spelling, drafting, revising, thesis statements, and various rhetorical modes. Unfortunately, it does not include an index. The table of contents is fairly detailed, however.

The content is accurate: rules for spelling and punctuation and general rhetorical content are presented as any writing instructor would expect. More explanation about rules for grammar and punctuation would be nice: for example, the explanation of the dash is "to set off information in a sentence for emphasis." This is accurate, but not the whole story.

The main portions of this text will not become outdated. The section on readings, however, is already problematic. The book offers one reading example per mode, and then others as links. Just in a quick survey of links in two of the rhetorical modes, I found five that were no longer operational. To be fair, the book does try to get around that problem with multiple link sources for the same essay, but I found this strategy confusing, as it tends to look as if there are more readings available than actually are present. In the future, as with any textbook including readings, there will be a need to provide up-to-date topics.

I found the book very readable. There is little or no jargon. This book would be appropriate for a freshman in college.

The page design is consistent: examples and exercises are similarly formatted and easy to locate. The author uses fictional student names to illustrate how some principles might be applied in real life.

In the "Exercise" sections, the book does refer the studen to other parts of the chapters. All the examples I found, however, referred the student to sections within the same chapter and not out to other chapters of the book. For example, in the Exercises for Ch. 8, the instructions say: "Working in a peer-review group of four, go to Section 8.3 “Drafting” and reread the draft of the first two body paragraphs . . . ."

This book starts with strategies for success, which seems reasonable, but then has a giant section about sentence grammar & spelling before even getting to writing paragraphs. "Refining Your Writing" comes before "How Do I Begin?" which seems backwards. The topic of thesis statements does not come up until Chapter 9, which seems terribly late. If I were teaching from this text, I would probably skip from Chapter 1 to Chapter 6, and use Chapters 2-5 (grammar and spelling) as references.

The display seems fine: I read it online rather than downloading. One benefit to the online format is the search window at the top, which offers a kind of substitute for indexing.

The only problem I ran into was that several links to the readings in Chapter 15 were nonfunctional.

The text contains no grammatical errors.

Student example names used seem to cover a variety of ethnic backgrounds, but most are women's names. Readings cover a wide spectrum of ethnicities. For example, links to readings in the "Narrative Essay" section include Chicano, Russian Jewish, and Native American.

This is generally a well written textbook. However, there are two problems that instructors will encounter in using it: (1) it is not organized pedagogically, so instructors will need to consider the order of readings carefully, and not just move chapter by chapter through the book. (2) many links to readings are not functional, so instructors will need to be aware of that and either find new links or provide their own readings.

Finally, I have grave reservations about the ethics of using weblinks for essentially all the current readings in a textbook. I understand that using links in an online class for one-time readings is fine, but many of these links (especially those that remain functional) are to publications that have paying subscribers, such as The New Yorker. I would feel better about using a textbook that actually had permission to use other writers' work as a permanent fixture of the book.

Reviewed by Laura Sanders, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

This text covers a range of topics students might need while building reading, critical thinking, research, and writing skills in developmental to upper division courses. read more

This text covers a range of topics students might need while building reading, critical thinking, research, and writing skills in developmental to upper division courses.

I see no evidence of inaccurate, erroneous, or biased content.

I believe it is safe to say that this book will be useful for a long time. While APA and MLA style may change and grammar rules may soften or transform, this book would be easy to update.

The book is accessible to students entering a course with various levels of academic preparation and experience.

Each chapter begins with learning objectives and ends with takeaways. Throughout each chapter, there are charts and exercises to clarify and emphasize key content.

Clearly marked sections focus on student success strategies, grammar and punctuation, and approaches to composition. Instructors could easily select the chapters most relevant to individual reading and writing courses at all levels.

The book is structured very well. It begins with reading strategies and helping students transition from a high school to college learning environment. It moves into sentence-level techniques, including specific areas for English language learners. The text also includes sections on the writing process, rhetoric, research, documentation, and presentation.

The text is easy to navigate.

I do not see any grammatical errors.

While I do not see anything I consider offensive, I do believe few of my students would "see themselves" in this text. The sample names (like "Steve" and "Jones") and sample essay topics (baseball, video game addiction) do not suggest a recognition of the broad cultural diversity instructors encounter in college classrooms today. For me, this lack of inclusiveness marks the main weakness of this text.

I enjoyed reviewing the text and plan to assign a few chapters to my online writing students.

Reviewed by Amy Forester, Instructor, Clackamas Community College and Portland Community College on 1/7/16

The text is very comprehensive. There are sections that are useful for many different writing levels, from students in need of grammar and punctuation instruction to research writing. Also, each section is nicely developed with examples,... read more

The text is very comprehensive. There are sections that are useful for many different writing levels, from students in need of grammar and punctuation instruction to research writing. Also, each section is nicely developed with examples, explanations, and exercises.

The text is very accurate. It gives clear and easy-to-read instruction on many topics.

This text has great longevity. I can imagine using it for many years because the examples are not time-sensitive. This is a great book to accompany a reading list or anthology.

This is one of the first things I noticed about the text. I really like the tone and style of the writing. It is clear and does not over-complicate ideas. The author clearly has experience with first-year writing students because it is written in a clear, accessible way.

I appreciate the consistency of this text. The terminology is direct and logical, and students will find it easy to get a broader understanding of a topic because the text provides links to other parts of the text where the term is mentioned. Also, the chapter organization is perfect for first-year students who do not want long, meandering chapters.

I will be using this book in modules for different writing classes. For example, it is easy to teach the grammar and punctuation sections in a remedial course and leave them out in research writing courses. Each section is very well developed.

The topics are nicely organized in this text. Each chapter has the same features, so students know what to expect. I am particularly impressed with the section Writing at Work, which gives students a sense for how each strategy is used in the workplace.

Overall, the interface is very easy to read. The one improvement that should be made is, at least in my screen view, the student writing samples are hard to read because they are small and in a difficult font.

It is grammatically correct.

The text is not culturally insensitive. It seems inclusive in its examples.

I am particularly impressed with the grammar and punctuation chapters. I have used many different books to teach these topics, and have found that they are often explained in complicated, technical language. I will definitely use these chapters in my classes.

Reviewed by Katie McCurdie, Instructor, Portland State University on 1/7/16

The comprehensiveness of this text is very impressive. At 600 pages, it covers so many aspects of college writing, from grammar to essay writing to creating presentations, that pieces of this text would surely be useful for a wide variety of... read more

The comprehensiveness of this text is very impressive. At 600 pages, it covers so many aspects of college writing, from grammar to essay writing to creating presentations, that pieces of this text would surely be useful for a wide variety of courses, but it is probably best suited to a first-year composition course. The first chapter provides a good introduction to writing in college, which includes a comparison to writing assignments in high school, along with more general advice on succeeding in college. This would be useful for just about any student entering an American university. It would also aid international students in understanding the expectations surrounding reading and writing as they transition from schools in their home country, where expectations, amount of coursework, and types of assessments can be drastically different. The next four chapters focus on sentence-level language issues: sentence structure, punctuation, vocabulary, and a whole grammar chapter for English language learners. These chapters could provide a great introduction to or review of the basics of English grammar, as well as the metalanguage needed to talk about grammar. In fact, I could see all four of the chapters begin useful for English language learners at intermediate and advanced levels. Chapters six through thirteen cover writing, from paragraphs to research papers, and fourteen focuses on presentations. Short exercises immediately reinforce the content in a variety of ways, such as by editing, completing sentences, and identifying and labeling grammar items. The amount of exercises might be enough for relatively advanced users of English, but those at a lower level would likely need additional exercises from another source. The “Writing Application” exercises at the end of most chapter sections provide opportunities for students to use what they’ve learned in short writing activities. In addition, there are end-of-chapter exercises for more practice.

Throughout the text, there is a combined focus on writing for academic purposes and writing in the real world. Examples and exercises reinforce this with work emails, business letters, job descriptions, cover letters, advertisements, and personal narratives and essays. This should send the message to students that the skills they are learning will be applied to all areas of their lives.

Although this text hasn’t reinvented the wheel in terms of writing instruction, it does present some novel ways to approach certain topics. For instance, there is a section in Chapter 2 on identifying and correcting fragments and run-ons that would potentially be very helpful for both native and non-native writers. It includes flow charts that students could use on their own to aid them in finding and fixing these all too common sentence structure errors in their own writing – an excellent tool to help students move towards becoming independent writers.

The table of contents is detailed and descriptive, but is not included in the pdf version.

I found the content to be mostly accurate. However, there are a couple places where the labeling of grammar items seemed incorrect or inconsistent to me. For instance, in Chapter 2, the text introduces some sentence structure basics including prepositional phrases (“At night,” “In the beginning,” etc.). However, when discussing how to fix fragments that begin with prepositional phrases a few pages later, the example sentences do not actually contain them; instead, they begin with adverb clauses or phrases (“After walking all day…”). For a native writer, distinguishing between these two different structures might not be crucial since the point here is fixing the fragment error. If using this text with English language learners, however, the discrepancy could cause confusion.

Information and example essays seem relevant and up-to-date although the chapter on MLA and APA documentation will have to be updated in the future. Updates should be easy to perform due to the text’s modularity.

The language used in the text is very easy to understand and approachable. Examples mostly consist of everyday language and situations or general academic vocabulary.

The text seems consistent to me except for the grammar terminology error I mentioned above.

This text seems made to be divided into smaller parts to be covered individually or even in a different order. Although the text does refer to itself at times, it does not rely on these references to convey information clearly and completely. Therefore, I noticed some sections of the text that necessarily repeat information from previous sections so as to stand alone as an independent lesson.

I appreciate how the book is organized, beginning with the introduction to college writing, which orients students to what they’ll be doing and why. I think it was a good choice to then put the grammar chapters next, before getting into the writing chapters. Writing books I’ve used tend to stick the grammar instruction at the end of the text or even hide it away in an appendix, but this text encourages students to become proficient writers from the sentence level up. The only part that seems oddly placed to me is Chapter 7, “Refining Your Writing,” which covers sentence variety, coordination and subordination, and parallelism. Also, I agree with another reviewer who said that it would be better if each rhetorical mode were given its own chapter. I never teach nine different modes in one course (maybe two or three), so the modularity would be better if each mode could be separate. On the other hand, I like how research writing is divided into two chapters and covered in detail. This type of writing is so difficult for most students, so it’s nice to have that comprehensive instruction. It’s also great to have the additional chapter at the end with example essays.

The interface is user-friendly with clear headings and sub-headings, logical use of bold text, numbered and bulleted lists, and blocks of subtle color to set off certain pieces of text from the main text. When suitable, information is presented in chart form or inside boxes. The font is highly readable and not distracting. Each chapter has a few main sections that are consistent throughout the text: “Learning Objectives” at the beginning, “Exercises” sprinkled throughout the chapter, and “Key Takeaways” at the end. There are also small boxes labeled “Tips,” which give advice on succeeding academically, and “Writing at Work,” which offers suggestions on how to use writing in real communication situations. As a result, the set-up of each chapter is predictable, which would theoretically allow teachers and students to fall into a comfortable routine.

One problem I found with the interface is that sometimes the margin sizes are not consistent from one page to the next. For instance, an indented list that begins on one page and continues on the next may not be indented on the second page. This is a small issue and may just be in the pdf version of the text.

I also noticed some navigation mistakes, when the text refers the reader to another part of the text, but it’s not the intended part. For example, in the section on fixing run-ons, it says, “For more information on semicolons, see Section 2.4.2 ‘Capitalize Proper Nouns’. However, there is nothing about semicolons in this section; this would most likely be in Chapter 3, which covers punctuation.

I did not see any errors.

I did not notice anything culturally insensitive, and there are some inclusive examples.

Overall, I find this text to be thoughtfully written, and I’d definitely consider using it for upper level writing & grammar-focused courses in the Intensive English Program.

Reviewed by Kirk Perry, Adjunct Instructor, Portland Community College - Cascade on 1/7/16

This textbook aspires to be a combined grammar book and reader. It covers all the appropriate areas, but the coverage is a bit thin when it comes to examples. read more

This textbook aspires to be a combined grammar book and reader. It covers all the appropriate areas, but the coverage is a bit thin when it comes to examples.

As far as I can tell.

The instructional content is very plain and basic; it will be sure to bore students for decades to come.

The readings (links) are good quality and likely to be useful for a decade or so.

Very clear and plain language--but again, not enough examples.

If anything, this text could be more technical. I think it is unhelpful to describe subordinating conjunctions as "dependent words." This strikes me as vague and misleading.

Yes, quite consistent.

Yes, it is effectively modular. Helpful subheadings and sections. There are lists and diagrams, but some sections can be a bit too text-y (dense paragraphs).

Yes: overview > grammar > process > writing modes > research > citation.

However, the example essays for the modes come in the final chapter. There is no good reason why "Chapter 10: Modes" could not be merged with "Chapter 15: Readings: Examples of Essays"--particularly because most of the examples are links.

Appears good.

Didn't notice any problems.

The example essay links provide a variety of ethnic/cultural perspectives.

This book is helpful but tries to do a bit too much--being both a grammar and a reader. It needs more examples of everything: run-on sentences, sense details, example essays, etc.

To adopt this for a course such as WR 115 or WR 121, I would have to provide many supplemental readings.

Reviewed by Annie Knepler, University Studies Writing Coordinator, Portland State University on 1/7/16

Writing for Success is quite thorough. It covers everything from sentence structure to the writing process. It has additional sections on creating effective presentations and concludes with sample essays. I could see how instructors could use... read more

Writing for Success is quite thorough. It covers everything from sentence structure to the writing process. It has additional sections on creating effective presentations and concludes with sample essays. I could see how instructors could use various elements of the text and adapt it to their course.

At the same time, it often felt a little too comprehensive, and sometimes seemed to aim for breadth over depth. For example, not much space is devoted to integrating sources and ideas. Learning how to apply sources, and develop your own ideas based on research, is such an important element of college writing. Paraphrasing and integrating source material is complex, and takes a lot of practice. Otherwise, students tend to let the sources speak for them instead of truly conversing with the sources (which is what I would begin to expect of college level students). The text leaves the impression that integrating sources is a straightforward task as opposed to one that involves critical thinking and analytic skills. Overall, I found the research section fairly weak.

I have looked at and worked with several writing texts, and I’m used to ones that either focus on a specific aspect of writing (such as research writing) or have a specific approach. This text tries to be a more general writing text, and it, perhaps, tries to cover too much.

The book strikes me as accurate, thorough, and generally without bias. At the same time, I don’t fully agree with the approach it takes to writing and grammar. The text does a really nice job of explaining certain grammatical elements and providing several examples to demonstrate the idea. However, the text generally treats grammar as rules rather than conventions. These conventions often change or shift over time, just as writing conventions change over time.

Similarly, whereas I appreciated the texts emphasis on writing as a process, Writing for Success does not really highlight the idea that writing can also be a process of discovery for the student. To me, this is an important concept for both learning and writing, and it helps get students excited about the possibilities for college writing. For example, when discussing thesis statements, the book indicates that a writer might end up revising a working thesis to broaden or narrow down their thesis. However, it does not present the possibility that students’ ideas may shift in significant ways as they write, research, and discover ideas. I allow my students to leave themselves open to the idea that their working thesis could change in significant ways as they write.

Overall, for me, it does not adequately emphasize the idea that writing should be both dynamic and purposeful.

The book is designed in a way that makes it easy to update specific details and examples. In general, many of the concepts it covers, such as specific issues students should pay attention to as they edit and revise (such as wordiness, transitions, etc.), will likely remain consistent.

However, I would not characterize the text as particularly relevant given the current conversations in the field of composition and composition pedagogy. In recent years, there has been a much stronger focus on purpose, audience, and genre in relation to writing, and although these concepts are addressed, they are not really emphasized or approached with the degree of complexity I would expect out of a college-level writing course. Writing for Success seems to encourage an expanded version of the five paragraph essay rather than providing students with the tools to recognize multiple approaches to writing. It approaches writing with a step-by-step approach, rather than as a complex task that involves continual critical thinking and problem solving.

Although the text encourages students to apply these ideas to other writing tasks (something I really appreciated about the text), it often implies that the writing they will do in their writing class may not have a clear context or purpose. It even states that students’ “college composition courses will focus on writing for its own sake.”

The writing in the text is very clear and straightforward. It would be helpful for the authors to more clearly define the audience for the book. It strikes me as a text that would be too basic for many first-year college writing courses.

I also found some of the organizational decisions confusing (I address this below under organization/flow).

Consistency rating: 3

The chapters follow a fairly consistent structure in terms of content. They all start by stating objectives, explain the main concepts, review the concepts, and provide exercises. The text also fairly consistently encourages active learning by posing questions for students/readers to consider as they delve into a topic.

To my eyes, there are some inconsistencies in terms of the framework and the message of the text. For example, it opens by framing writing as a challenge, and I was prepared for it to address several of the complexities of college writing. Instead, it goes on to take a fairly formulaic approach to writing, and even implies at times that the five-paragraph essay is a common form for college writing.

The text is broken into clear sections. I’m not sure how well the text would work if assigned from start to finish, but I can see how instructors might select specific chapters for a specific purpose. I usually have a select group of students that might struggle with a certain issue and I would, for example, direct a student that is struggling with commas to that specific section.

I also appreciate the way the is designed to work with other classes that a student might be taking. The exercises often direct students to apply the ideas they’re learning to a piece of writing that they are already working on for another class or to a task they have been assigned in their job.

The structure of the text was, at times, a little confusing. For example, the fact that tone, audience, and purpose are first discussed under a chapter on paragraphs was a little disorienting. Though these elements clearly relate to paragraphs and paragraph structure, they are really a central element of the larger structure and purpose of an essay or paper. Beyond that, in this section the author clearly explains different types of paragraphs, and provides a clear and detailed description of concepts such as analysis and evaluation.

There were a few other choices that did not make sense to me. For example, why are signal phrases and verbs discussed in the section on formatting as opposed to the section on integrating material into texts? That doesn’t really make sense.

My main concern is with the larger structure of the book. It starts by breaking down sentences structure and explaining the parts of the sentence. It seems like these chapters would make more sense in connection to editing since these are issues students should explore as they are editing their work. Most research shows that students more successfully learn grammar and sentence structure when it’s addressed in a specific context (such as their own work). The structure of the book implies that students can “learn” elements of a sentence and then easily apply that to their work.

I read the text in iBook, and the formatting did not always functioned properly. Some of the tables/columns were hard to read, and there were instances where the text referred to underlined sections of the examples, but there was no underline in my version.

I did look at the PDF version, and this did not seem to be an issue.

The book is generally free of errors. I looked at some of the previous reviews, and it seems as though some of the specific errors people noted have already been edited out of the text. I did find one clear typo on page 408 where the word “Thesis” in a title is written “ThesIs.”

The book did not make any statements that were insensitive or inoffensive. At the same time, it also did not address issues of language that relate to culture or gender. So it essentially avoids the topic, which is insensitive in its own way. For instance, it does not deal with issues of language and gender, and in the chapter on pronouns it does not examine the increasingly common use of the singular “they.” I appreciated the section for English language learners, but was a little confused about it’s overall purpose. It did not in any ways address some of the rhetorical issues that multilingual and international students often struggle with, and instead seemed to want to take the place of an English language course. In other words, it seemed as though it was well meant, but not sufficient or clear.

I appreciate that the text encourages students to be not only active readers and writers, but also active students. It emphasizes that they should seek help if they need it, and demonstrates ways to engage with reading.

The lists of words, such as transitional words, were very helpful. My experience is that students benefit greatly from these types of examples. The section on presentation skills was also useful and provided some good tips concerning tone, voice, and connecting with your audience.

I also appreciate the use of examples in the text, and these were generally very helpful. The sample essays at the end were helpful, and I really appreciated all the links to model readings available on the web. Despite the examples, while reading the text, it often feels like there’s a little too much telling students how to write rather than showing.

My main concern is that it wouldn’t work well for a more theme or genre-based writing course, one that worked to place student writing in a specific context. At our university, writing instruction is integrated into yearlong, theme-based courses for first-year students. When I taught composition at a university with a more traditional first-year writing sequence, the courses were theme-based, and students were encouraged to think of their writing as contextualized and purposeful. Writing for Success often seems to assume that writing courses function more as isolated courses where students focus on the structures and processes of putting together expository writing.

As I note above, I think it would be helpful to better define the specific audience for this textbook. It’s certainly not appropriate for the college writing classes I’ve taught or worked with, and it could be that it has a different purpose. A college writing course should introduce students to more complex ways to approach their writing, and get them excited about the possibilities for communicating their ideas. I’m not sure that this text would achieve that goal.

Reviewed by Sara Crickenberger, Instructor, Virginia Tech on 6/10/15

The pdf of the textbook does not provide a table of contents or an index/glossary. It opens with a Preface then jumps right into Chapter 1. These omissions are inconvenient for planning and for both students and instructors trying to locate... read more

The pdf of the textbook does not provide a table of contents or an index/glossary. It opens with a Preface then jumps right into Chapter 1. These omissions are inconvenient for planning and for both students and instructors trying to locate specific material in the 613-page book. However, the textbook covers a wide breadth of material relevant to a first-year writing class, ranging from basic discussion and tips to help students succeed as college-level readers and writers to sample essays employing a variety of rhetorical modes. I likely would not use everything in this textbook, but it contains a great deal of material that I would find useful.

The content appears to be accurate and unbiased. I did not find any factual errors or inconsistencies.

The material in the textbook is up-to-date and relevant. Some examples use historical references, which are essentially timeless. A couple of the sample essays discuss topics such as universal health care and low-carbohydrate diets that may be front page news one day and off the public radar the next, but the material was not dated in a way that made it less valuable as a resource for students. The sample essays are in the last chapter in the book, which could easily be updated with newer essays.

The book is easy to read and clearly speaks to college writing students. The language is accessible, explanations are clear, and instructions are easy to follow. The author defines terms that are specific to the study of language and writing and gives examples illustrating how they are used. After each section students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the material by completing exercises based on their reading.

The book uses a consistent framework that includes learning objectives for each section, discussion/explanation of the material, exercises that allow students to practice what they have been reading/learning, tips to make difficult ideas more accessible or reinforce messages, key takeaways to reinforce the learning objectives for each section, and a writing application.

The book is divided nicely into numbered chapters and sections that work well as self-contained units. Each section has clear learning objects, examples, exercises, and a writing application. It would be easy to assign a chapter or section within a chapter with the accompanying examples and exercises for students to compete.

The chapter on Writing for English Language Learners seems a bit oddly placed. Since that material is relevant for only a segment of the student population, I probably would have moved that chapter toward the back of the book with the more specialized content on documentation and presentations rather than between the chapters on word choice and shaping content. However, the content in the ELL chapter does relate closely to word choice and sentence structure, so another instructor might think this is the perfect place for this material.

The biggest problem with navigation in this textbook is the lack of a table of contents and index is. However, I had one other problem with the formatting. The text is double spaced, but paragraphs are not indented and there are no blank lines between paragraphs, so it is difficult to tell where paragraphs break. This is an issue in terms of ease of reading, and it sets a poor example for students who are learning the conventions of mechanics and formatting.

There are a few spacing issues. In some places subheads butt directly against body copy or tables, for instance. And some page breaks cause awkward breaks in exercises, tables, and charts. These are small issues that don't significantly affect the readability or usability.

I found few errors in the book. One issue that I did notice is a problem that is common among my students, so I was especially disappointed to see the error in the text. The author uses "where" in reference to something other than place: "...establish a buddy system where you check in with a friend about school projects" (25).

The text has a few other issues, such as bullet points that don't use parallel verb structures, some use of "to be" constructions that could easily be revised to more active/vivid sentence structures, and some typographical errors, such as "accuratelydid" (92) and "ascrawny" (149). These errors are relatively rare but start to get annoying after a couple of hundred pages.

The book does not contain references that are culturally insensitive or offensive. The author switches between male and female names in examples/exercises and uses names that are reflective of a diverse population.

I am planning to use this book as one of my texts in a first-year writing class next fall. I likely will adapt it a bit by adding a table of contents, indenting paragraphs, correcting mechanical errors, etc. so that it is more functional and serves as a model of the writing and formatting I expect from students. I actually like the double spacing, which most publishers don't use because of space/cost issues. It provides plenty of room for students to annotate the text electronically or on print copies. I am not sure I am up for undertaking indexing.

Reviewed by Kari Steinbach, Instructor, University of Northwestern - St. Paul on 7/15/14

The text covers some helpful elements of a first college writing course, such as an overview of several genres of writing assignments, some grammar and usage issues, use of peer review and collaboration in writing, and research strategies. Some... read more

The text covers some helpful elements of a first college writing course, such as an overview of several genres of writing assignments, some grammar and usage issues, use of peer review and collaboration in writing, and research strategies. Some may consider the addition of the study strategy and reading strategy material to be too basic--even for a first year writing course. Without a clear table of contents or index, the organization was difficult to decipher and required paging back and forth throughout the book.

The book appears to be free from any obvious errors. Because of the rapid changes in databases, electronic research strategies, and documentation styles, it is likely that updates will need to be made--but this is the case for any text dealing with research and documentation.

Aside from requiring updates due to documentation and research changes, there may need to be an update of sample essays that have subject matter that may become outdated. Examples of cited sources may become outdated--especially in fields that change quickly.

The use of flow charts to help students understand grammar concepts is helpful. A better use of white space, illustration, font changes, bullets, and color in the design would make the text more visually fluid and more readable. The addition of full text student sample papers to show formatting is very helpful. I also appreciated the list of objectives at the beginning of each chapter.

The text appears to be consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

It would be helpful for the rhetorical mode section to be split into separate chapters, with each genre given more individual emphasis and examples of the strategies required for that genre.

My preference would be to teach grammatical concepts as they come up within the course of writing assignments. I would prefer a text that had grammar covered in an appendix that could be referred to throughout the course and as the issues came up during the writing assignments. I would not teach grammar independent of the writing assignment.

There is a need for a clear table of contents and index.

There are no obvious issues with the book's grammar.

There are no obvious issues of cultural insensitivity in the text.

Reviewed by Jonathan Carlson, Instructor, Composition, University of Northwestern - St. Paul on 7/15/14

The first chapter covers many "first year" or "freshmen" tips, best practices ideas and how-to info. Probably good material for the group using this book, but not essential. Table 1.2 is valuable to a student's overall understanding of writing.... read more

The first chapter covers many "first year" or "freshmen" tips, best practices ideas and how-to info. Probably good material for the group using this book, but not essential. Table 1.2 is valuable to a student's overall understanding of writing. Table 8.1 is great! The outline checklist on 301 and 302 is good info. I like the discussion of thesis statements on page 341. It points out significant errors. I appreciate the section on plagiarism. This is such a key issue today, with so much research done online with text that is so easy to copy and paste. I like that the book notes that there is intentional and unintentional plagiarism. I think the reading examples in chapter 15 could be stronger. The compare and contrast essay is quite brief, and it is not organized for easy reading (one massive paragraph and one short paragraph). The cause and effect essay is rather short. I would like to see 3 to 5 page examples - approximations of what I will be expecting my Comp 1 students to write. I feel the persuasive essay is much too brief to be persuasive. Universal health care coverage is a massive and nuanced topic, and to serve it up in two pages seems almost offensive. By the by, the linked essays seems very good. I just think the book needs better, stronger examples of student essays. Overall, I think this is perhaps the most comprehensive writing textbook I've seen. However, the sample writings included in the text need to be expanded and off "better quality"--closer to what a student would turn in for a Comp I course.

Pg 319: "Generally speaking, write your introduction and conclusion last, after you have fleshed out the body paragraphs." This is dangerous advice. While I don't think it means to, I feel it downplays the importance of a thesis and/or mapping statement/plan of coherence. Without such a guide directly in front of them, many students will go off course. I feel the discussion/instruction of the thesis statement should occur in the outlining and drafting segment. It can and should be revisited later, but to wait to this point could be detrimental to the paper. Section 11.4: Accurate and essential. Students really need to know how to evaluate source material. From page 435: Questionable sources: free online encyclopedias. Thank you! From page 438: "Think ahead to a moment a few weeks from now, when you've written your research paper and are almost ready to submit it for a grade. There is just one task left - writing your list of sources." I've always thought it wise to have students created their references page as they write the paper. They can delete a source they don't end up including, and if they wait to the end, they are more likely to forget a source. Page 570: The chart should probably be labeled "Winter Olympic Medal Standings since 1924." If the combined total is calculated, the US has more than double our closest competitor, the Soviet Union. Also, the URL included in the text does not work. On the whole, the info is accurate and will be very helpful to students.

Not much in the book seems dated. Not much background is given for the fictional students in the book, and no pictures of them are provided. While this does increase the longevity of the book, it also decreases the chances of a real student identifying with the students in the textbook. The sample student writing on 361 is or will be dated, but if you're writing about tech, it's going to be. Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets from page 455. This is quite dated. After the myth that Atkins died from heart issues circulated, the low carb movement died with him. The process that this paper goes through is structured well. And I think that the teaching done by it is very relevant. So...I don't think that it's relevance as a fad should necessarily be considered. But if the book gets updated in 5 to 10 years, I'd recommend a different topic. The annotated essay portion on page 470 looks like it was created on an old-school typewriter. Ding! Page 531: The discussion of the URL vs. DOI is timely but may become irrelevant. I'm glad to see it's in here, but it may become irrelevant in the future.

All the language seems clear to me. However, I have a Master's in Writing. It's difficult to take that filter off and think as a college freshman would. For example, page 327 uses the phrase "formal English." I have a strong context for that, but would most college freshman. I honestly am not sure. It might be helpful to have a few early college students review the textbook.

Yes, it is internally consistent. The book uses similar language throughout and references previous and upcoming chapters frequently.

The textbook seems appropriately modular. An instructor could use portions he/she wanted or needed and leave out non-applicable content such as the "freshman seminar" type sections. Nearly half the book is grammar, punctuation and "college wisdom" content, which makes modularity especially important if the book is being exclusively used a Composition I textbook. And I do think its modularity is designed well and designed well enough to function in that way. The text does references previous and upcoming chapters frequently, but I think this still works fine.

There is no table of contents at the front. The portions about Crystal, while they are related thematically to the text, still seem out of place. I've used another textbook with a similar element (a group of first-year students who share their struggles and successes). In the textbook I used, there were pictures of the students, and their comments and insight were set off in colorful textbooks. While it seemed a bit cheesy, as does this, the concept is helpful to students, I think. Setting off this element in sidebar allows the text to flow more smoothly and helps to identify the comments as such. Some of the tables are broken at the page breaks in segments that make them hard to follow. For example, if they were broken between rows instead of in the middle of them, that would make them easier to follow. Exercise 2 on page 544/545 is an example of a terrible table break. The overview of sections on page 38 is very confusing. This info should be included mainly in a table of contents or a chapter introduction. The Choosing Specific, Appropriate Words section on page 327-328 could be set off with a different color or the like. It seems odd simply being part of the flow of text. Something to consider: This textbook is set up in something of a narrative structure. It might be more effective if set up as an owner's manual, considering our current generation of learners' aversion to lengthy text. 9.1 Developing a Strong, Clear Thesis Statement Chapter 9 is covering developing a thesis, but chapter 8 looks at writing the draft. The instructions on the thesis need to come before instructions on writing the draft. Consider adding table 8.1 to page 354. Finally, there is no index, glossary or works cited sections at the end. The overall organization is good, quite functional, but some of the "accessories" are missing.

The color scheme is too muted. Various sections are "highlighted" in light gray. More distinct colors would give the reader clearer clues about how the text is organized. Also, some sort of picture or icon would help to recognize certain segments. For example, the "Writing at Work" segments could have a small picture of a person at an office desk (preferably Dwight Schrute). I really like the charts on page 49 and 51, 54.

I found a few punctuation errors, but they're all essentially the same: missing spaces. This may have happened when the document was converted to PDF. Orunless on page 52. "athesis" on page 338. Fencessymbolize on page 340. seeChapter 6 on page 368. From page 392: "Writers are particularly prone to such trappings in cause-and-effect arguments "Shouldn't it be "traps" instead of "trapping"? Manual published from page 424 Table 11.1 on 423 and 424 uses two fonts inconsistently. asSmithsonian Magazine orNature from page 434 at and at on page 492. From page 521: "byperiods." From page 516: "inand"

I didn't find much that was necessarily inclusive, other than the names of the fictional students. There were some sample essays (linked) that included non-white authors, which is certainly inclusive. However, I don't think any of the examples or articles were exclusive. Being a "white" male myself, I have a filter that is difficult to remove. I would hope that you could find some non-white reviewers to give you their opinion of this element.

Very, very comprehensive. I actually felt all the grammar and "freshmen seminar" elements took up too much of the textbook, but since it's free and the modularity works well, that's fine. Please add stronger student sample essays, a table of contents, glossary, index and works cited sections. And make the color scheme bolder. Thanks for the opportunity to review this textbook!

Reviewed by Tanya Grosz, Assistant Professor of English & Director of Undergraduate Pathways, University of Northwestern - St. Paul on 7/15/14

I was surprised at just how comprehensive this book was. It covers everything from study strategies to prewriting to editing and punctuation and research writing. Also, it includes writing strategies for ELL students which is very helpful. While I... read more

I was surprised at just how comprehensive this book was. It covers everything from study strategies to prewriting to editing and punctuation and research writing. Also, it includes writing strategies for ELL students which is very helpful. While I would have liked to have seen more full-text essays woven throughout the text, there are several in the final chapter, there are links to others, and there are a few throughout the book.

I have taught writing for 20 years, and I find this text to be both accurate and helpful. I find that students, regardless of age, struggle most with essay organization, and this text devotes the appropriate amount of time to organizing a paragraph and essay.

Updates could be made in a straightforward and easy fashion; many of the principles are solid and timeless. The MLA/APA part can be easily updated as can the essay examples.

The tone is extremely accessible. As I read through chapters 1 - 3, I was concerned that the text was almost too basic to be used with college freshmen, but as I reflected upon this, it dawned upon me that I cover some of the same concepts in the first week of class based on a writing and editing assessment. A teacher could easily extract those components that aren't necessary. Ultimately, this book is clear and readable.

Each chapter has a framework that is consistent; there is review at the end that is helpful and exercises for the student who wishes to practice what has been covered in the chapter.

I could easily see myself extracting certain elements of various chapters and using some chapters but not others. The book lends itself to easily using some chapters and not others and certain parts of a chapter without the entirety.

This is a difficult question because no one would likely organize a textbook the same way as someone else. I found the Refining Writing chapter (Chapter 7) a little oddly placed, but it certainly was not a deal-breaker, and because of its excellent modularity, one could easily organize the presentation differently. The topics are definitely presented clearly and logically.

The charts and graphs did not present very clearly on my screen, but I'm not sure if that's the text or my computer. While it wasn't distracting, the graphs were a bit pixelated and fuzzy. The essay samples were clear. Navigation was easy.

I thought the grammar, sentence flow, punctuation, etc. was excellent.

I wish I had access to the chapter for ELL students 20 years ago! I found nothing offensive in the text and found helpful chapters for college-bound high school students, freshmen or sophomore college students, and adult learners.

I find this book to be pragmatic, helpful, clear, straightforward, and well done. I am going to recommend it to my department for review. I think there should be a Learning Style quiz embedded or linked to when discussing learning styles for students. The writing tips and advice given were accurate and relevant. Literally, the only piece I would have liked to have seen addressed but did not was how to be an effective peer editor, but the tips for editing one's own paper could easily be applied to editing a peer's essay. While I would likely not use the chapter on presenting with my own class, I found it to be helpful. I do have one question about the formatting of the essays in chapter 12 at the end of the book: Why were the paragraphs not indented? I know of no composition instructors who allow block formatting for submitted essays. I recommend reviewing this book!

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Writing
  • Chapter 2: Writing Basics: What Makes a Good Sentence?
  • Chapter 3: Punctuation
  • Chapter 4: Working with Words: Which Word Is Right?
  • Chapter 5: Help for English Language Learners
  • Chapter 6: Writing Paragraphs: Separating Ideas and Shaping Content
  • Chapter 7: Refining Your Writing: How Do I Improve My Writing Technique?
  • Chapter 8: The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?
  • Chapter 9: Writing Essays: From Start to Finish
  • Chapter 10: Rhetorical Modes
  • Chapter 11: Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?
  • Chapter 12: Writing a Research Paper
  • Chapter 13: APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting
  • Chapter 14: Creating Presentations: Sharing Your Ideas
  • Chapter 15: Readings: Examples of Essays

Ancillary Material

About the book.

Writing for Success is a text that provides instruction in steps, builds writing, reading, and critical thinking, and combines comprehensive grammar review with an introduction to paragraph writing and composition.

Beginning with the sentence and its essential elements, this book addresses each concept with clear, concise and effective examples that are immediately reinforced with exercises and opportunities to demonstrate, and reinforce, learning.

Each chapter allows your students to demonstrate mastery of the principles of quality writing. With its incremental approach, it can address a range of writing levels and abilities, helping each student in your course prepare for their next writing or university course. Constant reinforcement is provided through examples and exercises, and the text involves students in the learning process through reading, problem-solving, practicing, listening, and experiencing the writing process.

Each chapter also has integrated examples that unify the discussion and form a common, easy-to-understand basis for discussion and exploration. This will put your students at ease, and allow for greater absorption of the material.

Tips for effective writing are included in every chapter, as well. Thought-provoking scenarios provide challenges and opportunities for collaboration and interaction. These exercises are especially helpful if you incorporate group work in your course. Clear exercises teach sentence and paragraph writing skills that lead to common English composition and research essays.

Exercises are integrated in each segment. Each concept is immediately reinforced as soon as it is introduced to keep students on track.

Exercises are designed to facilitate interaction and collaboration. This allows for peer-peer engagement, development of interpersonal skills, and promotion of critical thinking skills.

Exercises that involve self-editing and collaborative writing are featured. This feature develops and promotes student interest in the areas and content.

There are clear internal summaries and effective displays of information. This contributes to ease of access to information and increases the ability of your students to locate desired content.

Rule explanations are simplified with clear, relevant, and theme-based examples. This feature provides context that will facilitate learning and increase knowledge retention.

There is an obvious structure to the chapter and segment level. This allows for easy adaptation to your existing and changing course needs or assessment outcomes.

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Efficient Ways to Improve Student Writing

Strategies, Ideas, and Recommendations from the faculty Development Literature

General Strategies

  • View the improvement of students’ writing as your responsibility. Teaching writing is not only the job of the English department alone.  Writing is an essential tool for learning a discipline and helping students improve their writing skills is a responsibility for all faculty.
  • Let students know that you value good writing. Stress the importance of clear, thoughtful writing. Faculty who tell students that good writing will be rewarded and poor writing will be penalized receive better essays than instructors who don't make such demands. In the syllabus, on the first day, and throughout the term, remind students that they must make their best effort in expressing themselves on paper. Back up your statements with comments on early assignments that show you really mean it, and your students will respond.
  • Regularly assign brief writing exercises in your classes. To vary the pace of a lecture course, ask students to write a few minutes during class. Some mixture of in-class writing, outside writing assignments, and exams with open-ended questions will give students the practice they need to improve their skills.
  • Provide guidance throughout the writing process. After you have made the assignment, discuss the value of outlines and notes, explain how to select and narrow a topic, and critique the first draft, define plagiarism as well.
  • Don't feel as though you have to read and grade every piece of your students' writing. Ask students to analyze each other's work during class, or ask them to critique their work in small groups. Students will learn that they are writing in order to think more clearly, not obtain a grade. Keep in mind, you can collect students' papers and skim their work.
  • Find other faculty members who are trying to use writing more effectively in their courses. Pool ideas about ways in which writing can help students learn more about the subject matter. See if there is sufficient interest in your discipline to warrant drawing up guidelines. Students welcome handouts that give them specific instructions on how to write papers for a particular course or in a particular subject area.

Teaching Writing When You Are Not an English Teacher

  • Remind students that writing is a process that helps us clarify ideas. Tell students that writing is a way of learning, not an end in itself. Also let them know that writing is a complicated, messy, nonlinear process filled with false starts. Help them to identify the writer's key activities:
  • Developing ideas
  • Finding a focus and a thesis
  • Composing a draft
  • Getting feedback and comments from others
  • Revising the draft by expanding ideas, clarifying meaning, reorganizing
  • Presenting the finished work to readers
  • Explain that writing is hard work. Share with your class your own struggles in grappling with difficult topics. If they know that writing takes effort, they won't be discouraged by their own pace or progress. One faculty member shared with students their notebook that contained the chronology of one of his published articles: first ideas, successive drafts, submitted manuscript, reviewers' suggested changes, revised version, galley proofs, and published article.
  • Give students opportunities to talk about their writing. Students need to talk about papers in progress so that they can formulate their thoughts, generate ideas, and focus their topics. Take five or ten minutes of class time for students to read their writing to each other in small groups or pairs. It's important for students to hear what their peers have written.
  • Encourage students to revise their work. Provide formal steps for revision by asking students to submit first drafts of papers for your review or for peer critique. You can also give your students the option of revising and rewriting one assignment during the semester for a higher grade. Faculty report that 10 to 40 percent of the students take advantage of this option.
  • Explain thesis statements. A thesis statement makes an assertion about some issue. A common student problem is to write papers that present overviews of facts with no thesis statement or that have a diffuse thesis statement.
  • Stress clarity and specificity. The more the abstract and difficult the topic, the more concrete the student's language should be. Inflated language and academic jargon camouflage rather than clarify their point.
  • Explain the importance of grammar and sentence structure, as well as content. Students shouldn't think that English teachers are the only judges of grammar and style. Tell your students that you will be looking at both quality of their writing and the content.
  • Distribute bibliographies and tip sheets on good writing practices. Check with your English department or writing center to identify materials that can be easily distributed to students. Consider giving your students a bibliography of writing guides, for example:

Crews, F.C. Random House Handbook. (6th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.

A classic comprehensive textbook for college students. Well written and well worth reading.

Lanham, R.A. Revising Prose . (3rd ed.) New York: Scribner's, 1991. Techniques for eliminating

bureaucratese and restoring energy to tired prose.

Tollefson, S. K. Grammar Grams and Grammar Grams II . New York: HarperCollins, 1989,

1992. Two short, witty guides that answer common questions about grammar, style, and usage. Both are fun to read.

  • Science and Engineering Barrass, R. Scientists Must Write. New York: Chapman and Hall, 1978. Biddle, A. W., and Bean, D. J. Writer's Guide: Life Sciences. Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 1987.
  • Arts and Humanities Barnet, S. A Short Guide to Writing About Art . Boston: Little, Brown, 1989. Goldman, B. Reading and Writing in the Arts. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1978.
  • Social Sciences Biddle, A. W., Fulwiler, T., and Holland, K.M. Writer's Guide: Psychology . Lexington, Mass,:

Heath, 1987. McCloskey, D. N. The Writing of Economics . New York: Macmillan, 1987.

  • Ask a composition instructor to give a presentation to your students. Invite a guest speaker from the composition department or student learning center to talk to your students about effective writing and common writing problems. Faculty who have invited these experts report that such presentations reinforce the values of the importance of writing.
  • Let students know about available tutoring services. Individual or group tutoring in writing is available on most campuses. Ask someone from the tutoring center to give a demonstration in your class.
  • Use computers to help students write better. Locally developed and commercially available software are now being used by faculty to help students plan, write, and revise their written work. Some software available allows instructors to monitor students' work in progress and lets students collaborate with their classmates.

Assigning In-Class Writing Activities

  • Ask students to write what they know about a topic before you discuss it. Ask your students to write a brief summary of what they already know or what opinions they hold regarding the subject you are about to discuss. The purpose of this is to focus the students' attention, there is no need to collect the summaries.
  • Ask students to respond in writing to questions you pose during class. Prior to class starting, list two or three short-answer questions on the board and ask your students to write down their responses. Your questions might call for a review of material you have already discussed or recalling information from assigned readings.
  • Ask students to write from a pro or con position. When presenting an argument, stop and ask your students to write down all the reasons and evidence they can think of that supports one side or the other. These statements can be used as the basis for discussion.
  • During class, pause for a three-minute write. Periodically ask students to write freely for three minutes on a specific question or topic. They should write whatever pops into their mind without worrying about grammar, spelling, phrasing, or organization. This kind of free writing, according to writing experts, helps students synthesize diverse ideas and identify points they may not understand. There is no need to collect these exercises.
  • Have students write a brief summary at the end of class. At the end of the class period, give your students index cards to jot down the key themes, major points, or general principles of the day's discussion. You can easily collect the index cards and review them to see whether the class understood the discussion.
  • Have one student keep minutes to be read at the next class meeting. By taking minutes, students get a chance to develop their listening, synthesizing, and writing skills. Boris (1983) suggests the following:
  • Prepare your students by having everyone take careful notes for the class period, go home and rework them into minutes, and hand them in for comments. It can be the students' discretion whether the minutes are in outline or narrative form.
  • Decide on one to two good models to read or distribute to the class.
  • At the beginning of each of the following classes, assign one student to take minutes for the period.
  • Give a piece of carbon paper to the student who is taking minutes so that you can have a rough copy. The student then takes the original home and revises it in time to read it aloud at the next class meeting.
  • After the student has read their minutes, ask other students to comment on their accuracy and quality. If necessary, the student will revise the minutes and turn in two copies, one for grading and one for your files.
  • Structure small group discussion around a writing task. For example, have your students pick three words that are of major importance to the day's session. Ask your class to write freely for two to three minutes on just one of the words. Next, give the students five to ten minutes to meet in groups to share what they have written and generate questions to ask in class.
  • Use peer response groups. Divide your class into groups of three or four, no larger. Ask your students to bring to class enough copies of a rough draft of a paper for each person in their group. Give your students guidelines for critiquing the drafts. In any response task, the most important step is for the reader to note the part of the paper that is the strongest and describe to the writer why it worked so well. The following instructions can also be given to the reader:
  • State the main point of the paper in a single sentence
  • List the major subtopics
  • Identify confusing sections of the paper
  • Decide whether each section of the paper has enough detail, evidence, and information
  • Indicate whether the paper's points follow one another in sequence
  • Judge the appropriateness of the opening and concluding paragraphs
  • Identify the strengths of the paper

Written critiques done as homework are likely to be more thoughtful, but critiques may also be done during the class period.

  • Use read-around groups. Read-around groups are a technique used with short assignments (two to four pages) which allows everyone to read everyone else's paper. Divide the class into groups no larger than four students and divide the papers (coded for anonymity) into as many sets as there are groups. Give each group a set and ask the students to read each paper silently and decide on the best paper in the set. Each group should discuss their choices and come to a consensus on the best paper. The paper's code number is recorded by the group, and the same process is repeated with a new set of papers. After all the groups have read all the sets of papers, someone from each group writes on the board the code number from the best paper in each set. The recurring numbers are circled. Generally, one to three papers stand out.
  • Ask students to identify the characteristics of effective writing. After completing the read-around activity, ask your students to reconsider those papers which were voted as excellent by the entire class and to write down features that made each paper outstanding. Write their comments on the board, asking for elaboration and probing vague generalities. In pairs, the students discuss the comments on the board and try to put them into categories such as organization, awareness of audience, thoroughness of detail, etc. You might need to help your students arrange the characteristics into meaningful categories.

The Strategies, Ideas and Recommendations Here Come Primarily From:

Gross Davis, B. Tools for Teaching . San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1993.

And These Additional Sources…

Boris, E. Z. "Classroom Minutes: A Valuable Teaching Device." Improving College and

University Teaching, 1983,31(2), 70-73.

Elbow, P. "Using Writing to Teach Something Else." Unpublished paper, 1987.

Hawisher, G. E., and Selfe, C. L. (eds.). Critical Perspectives on Computers and

Composition Instruction.  New York:  Teachers College Press, 1989.

Holdstein, D. H., and Selfe, C. L. (eds.). Computers and Writing: Theory, Research,

Practice. New York: Modern Language Association, 1990.

Lowman, J. Mastering the Techniques of Teaching . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.

Petersen, B. T. "Additional Resources in the Practice of Writing Across the Disciplines."

In C. W. Griffin (ed.), Teaching Writing in All Disciplines . New Directions in Teaching and Learning, no. 12. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1982.

Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education.

Bright Idea Network , 1989. (For information contact David Graf, Iowa State University, Ames.)

Pytlik, B. P. "Teaching Teachers of Writing: Workshops on Writing as a Collaborative

Process." College Teaching , 1989, 37(1), 12-14.

Tollefson, S. K. Encouraging Student Writing . Berkeley: Office of Educational

Development, University of California, 1988.

Walvoord, B. F. Helping Students Write Well: A Guide for Teachers in All Disciplines.

(2nd ed.) New York: Modern Language Association, 1986.

Watkins, B. T. "More and More Professors in Many Academic Disciplines Routinely

Require Students to Do Extensive Writing." Chronicle of Higher Education, 1990, 36(44), pp. A13-14, A16.

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Eberly Center

Teaching excellence & educational innovation, why are students coming into college poorly prepared to write.

Writing is a complex intellectual task involving many component skills, some of which students may lack completely, some of which they may have only partially mastered. These skills involve, among other things:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Analytical skills
  • writing mechanics: grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc.
  • planning a writing strategy
  • communicating ideas clearly and concisely
  • constructing a reasoned, demonstrable argument
  • effectively marshaling evidence and using sources appropriately
  • organizing ideas effectively

When students lack skills in these areas, their writing may be unsatisfactory in multiple ways – from poor grammar and syntax to unclear organization to weak reasoning and arguments. Complicating matters is the fact that many students’ reading skills are also poor. For example, if they cannot recognize the main point of an argument in their reading, they obviously cannot respond to this point in their writing. In addition, students often lack the meta-cognitive skills to recognize the areas in which their prior knowledge and skills are insufficient – and thus which skills they need to work to improve.

During their high school careers, most of our students were not writing with the frequency we might expect, nor were they doing the types of writing that we will require of them in their college years. In a study at George Washington University (2007), first-year undergraduates reported that the most frequently assigned high school writing tasks required them to offer and support opinions, with a secondary emphasis on summarizing and synthesizing information. Students were rarely required to criticize an argument, define a problem and propose a solution, shape their writing to meet their readers’ needs, or revise based on feedback. Furthermore, according to a survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education (2006), 61% of high school teachers said their students have never written a paper that was more than five pages. As a result, students have not had enough practice to develop a set of sophisticated writing skills. When students lack skills in these areas, their writing may be unsatisfactory in multiple ways – from poor grammar and syntax to unclear organization to weak reasoning and arguments.

Moreover, students may have learned bad habits in high school that they need to un-learn. For example, some students were taught in high school to avoid the first person and thus may use awkward grammatical constructions to avoid it rather than learn the contexts when its use is appropriate.

Recognition of students’ prior experience with writing and the complex nature of writing can help us to more effectively design assignments and provide support as students continue to hone their skills.

creative commons image

How to Make Students Care About Writing

Pirette McKamey, a veteran English teacher, spent 30 years investigating what helps young people to view themselves as writers.

the student were writing

“I want to say something important about writing,” Pirette McKamey told 25 seniors in her English class at San Francisco’s Mission High School one fall afternoon in 2012. It’s incredibly hard, and always incomplete, she explained. “I’ve reread some of my essays 20 times and I still go, ‘I can’t believe I made this mistake or that mistake.’”

“I’m going to read a powerful essay as a model today,” said McKamey, who frequently shares her students’ work at the beginning of class as a way to showcase examples of effective and creative approaches to writing. She appreciated the student’s paper for “the heft of its content,” she told the class. “It also feels real. It was written with real engagement and honesty.”

In his essay, one of McKamey’s students wrote about his life ambitions, including his desire to become a musician. He compared his goals with those of two other individuals, chosen from the many real and fictional people the students had studied earlier that year in a five-week-long unit titled “Quests.” The vision behind this unit was rooted in McKamey’s observation that as teenagers approach adulthood, they want to examine how people from different eras and cultures have defined values such as success, goodness, and courage.

After McKamey finished reading the essay, students discussed what made it work—and which approaches they could employ in their own writing. As the discussion winded down, McKamey passed out a grammar worksheet.

Today, there is a growing consensus that students need strong writing skills to succeed in the workplace and to fully participate in society, but educators passionately disagree on the best ways to teach those skills. Some call for greater focus on the fundamentals of grammar: building vocabulary, identifying parts of speech, and mastering punctuation. Others believe that students need more opportunities to develop their writerly voice through creative expression and work that allows them to make connections between great literature and their personal lives.

Meanwhile, it appears that many of the methods seem to be falling short: Results from the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress suggest that only one in four 12th- and eighth-graders is meeting grade-level expectations in writing. In both tested grades, Latino and African American students scored lower than their peers in other racial and ethnic subgroups.

[ The best writing teachers are writers themselves ]

McKamey spent 29 years teaching in majority black and Latino schools. Over the years, she observed that many of her students came into her classroom believing that they “don’t like writing” or are “bad writers.” Since McKamey first started teaching at San Francisco’s Luther Burbank Middle School in 1989, she has been refining her own methods to help dispel these self-perceptions.

In McKamey’s classes, this means that students must feel compelled to write every day. But rather than prioritizing the mechanics of sentence structure or writing rooted in personal experiences, McKamey’s students work on a variety of exercises, including punctuation worksheets, argumentative and narrative essays, poetry, fiction, and long research papers. And while McKamey’s methods have evolved significantly since she first started teaching, her goal has remained the same: help every student develop a portfolio of high-quality work, which will serve as irrefutable evidence that they are capable of writing.

McKamey’s approach to writing instruction was shaped in part by her own experiences as a high-school student. One of just a handful of African American students at a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania, she noticed that most of her teachers would return papers with feedback that focused on what she did wrong. Whenever McKamey’s teachers praised her in the classroom, their feedback usually centered on her personality—rather than her intellectual contributions. Fran Bradley, McKamey’s high-school economics teacher, was an exception. When McKamey asked a question or made a comment, Bradley would engage in an enthusiastic discussion about McKamey’s ideas. He often read passages from her work in front of the class.

Even though McKamey’s parents always told her that she was intelligent and a good writer—despite her uneven grades—Bradley made an effort to cite evidence showing the benefits of McKamey’s intellectual contributions in her writing. When McKamey felt valued for her intellect, she explained, she was more willing to engage with the classwork—and she produced some of her strongest academic writing.

McKamey’s years as a teacher were deeply influenced by the research of the social psychologist Claude Steele . Best known for his studies on what researchers call the “ stereotype threat ,” Steele uncovered a unique form of distress that suppresses academic achievement in certain situations—during tests for African American students or math classes for women, for example—when an individual has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about his or her social group. Steele’s research found that certain actions by teachers or mentors can dispel these crippling anxieties—they can signal in their feedback that they hold a student to high standards while also citing spots in the work where the student meets the challenge, for example.

Pablo Rodriguez—a former student of McKamey’s, who moved to the United States from Guatemala in 2009—still remembers McKamey’s feedback on his first essay in her class. He recalls the stars dotting the paper next to specific passages, and comments such as, “This is so interesting. I never thought of it this way,” or “I’m so intrigued by the point you are making here. Could you tell me more what you mean by that?”

In the past, most of Rodriguez’s writing earned D’s and C’s, and his papers would come back with a lot of grammar corrections, Rodriguez, who is now 23 and works as a youth counselor, told me. This made him feel hopeless about his ability to write. “Ms. McKamey taught me skills to deal with my weaknesses,” Rodriguez explained. “But she saw my strengths and it made me feel motivated. I wanted to write essays that would make Ms. McKamey love it more than anything she’s ever read, and I started spending hours at the library rewriting my papers.”

McKamey argues that the most important skill for a teacher is his or her ability to build trust with a student, which develops when students can sense that the educator is willing to hear their ideas, thoughts, and musings despite their challenges with grammar, low grades, or test scores in previous classes. This doesn’t mean that teachers need to cushion their feedback with fake praise, but it does mean, she thinks, that schools should help teachers develop skills to recognize what all students, including those who might be considered “low achieving,” do in their classrooms—instead of focusing mostly on what they don’t do or know.

[ A educator witnessed school desegregation—and resegregation ]

“Just because I struggle with some grammar rules doesn’t mean I can’t think deeply,” says one of McKamey’s former students, Ajanee Greene, who’s now 23 and a student at Jackson State University. In 2012, McKamey says, Greene wrote one of the strongest research papers McKamey had read in her classes, even though she had received a D in English at another school. Her 12-page final paper explored how the long history of racial exclusion contributed to violence in black communities—and affected her own family in San Francisco.

“The newspapers talk about the violence, but they don’t talk about a much bigger epidemic—the private pain of families who are left to live with the aftermath” of that violence, Greene, who became the first in her family to graduate from high school, wrote in 2012. “Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone can inflict. The violence stays with families and becomes a part of their lives. Nobody feels the same and family relationships get strained. This causes more pain, and the cycle intensifies … The psychological damage destroys communities more than unemployment and poverty.”

For her paper, Greene had read and analyzed 20 articles and studies, interviewed neighbors, and added her own point of view. Before McKamey’s class, Greene had never written a research paper. “Ms. McKamey believed in me and then pushed me to work really, really hard,” Greene explained. She ultimately got an A- in McKamey’s class.

Drawing on the methods she uses in her English classes, McKamey has been coaching other teachers across all subjects for about a decade now. As part of this process , teachers meet in small groups where they review the work of middle-achieving students who have made a recent shift—went from chronic C’s to an A- in a recent essay, or analyzed passages more deeply, or showed intellectual engagement instead of just trying to get a good grade. Teachers then share practices that contributed to the growth in that student’s skills: verbal or written feedback, more explicit instruction in the components of academic writing, or reading student work in front of the class, among others.

Analyzing the work of middle-achieving students—rather than just failing or thriving ones—can significantly improve teachers’ effectiveness with underachieving students, McKamey argues. When teachers focus on the work of the lowest-achieving students, McKamey has observed that such conversations often turn into a space to blame the students, their parents, or other teachers, or they veer off into emotionally invasive discussions of a student’s private life. Focusing on middle-achieving students who showed recent improvement helps teachers dispel unrecognized stereotypes—and learn how to notice and build on their strengths. (One study found that white teachers graded black and Latino students more harshly for the same performance, accounting for as much as 22 percent of the achievement gap.)

“The task is to educate all students in front of me,” McKamey reflected. “There are so many opportunities to miss certain students: not see them, not hear them, shut them down. Despite years and years of teaching, there are times when the student is communicating something to me and I can’t hear their thinking at the moment, but I can’t ruin it. I have to keep it alive.”

This article is part of our project "On Teaching," which is supported by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Panta Rhea Foundation.

Student Writing in the Digital Age

Essays filled with “LOL” and emojis? College student writing today actually is longer and contains no more errors than it did in 1917.

student using laptop

“Kids these days” laments are nothing new, but the substance of the lament changes. Lately, it has become fashionable to worry that “kids these days” will be unable to write complex, lengthy essays. After all, the logic goes, social media and text messaging reward short, abbreviated expression. Student writing will be similarly staccato, rushed, or even—horror of horrors—filled with LOL abbreviations and emojis.

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In fact, the opposite seems to be the case. Students in first-year composition classes are, on average, writing longer essays (from an average of 162 words in 1917, to 422 words in 1986, to 1,038 words in 2006), using more complex rhetorical techniques, and making no more errors than those committed by freshman in 1917. That’s according to a longitudinal study of student writing by Andrea A. Lunsford and Karen J. Lunsford, “ Mistakes Are a Fact of Life: A National Comparative Study. ”

In 2006, two rhetoric and composition professors, Lunsford and Lunsford, decided, in reaction to government studies worrying that students’ literacy levels were declining, to crunch the numbers and determine if students were making more errors in the digital age.

They began by replicating previous studies of American college student errors. There were four similar studies over the past century. In 1917, a professor analyzed the errors in 198 college student papers; in 1930, researchers completed similar studies of 170 and 20,000 papers, respectively. In 1986, Robert Connors and Andrea Lunsford (of the 2006 study) decided to see if contemporary students were making more or fewer errors than those earlier studies showed, and analyzed 3,000 student papers from 1984. The 2006 study (published in 2008) follows the process of these earlier studies and was based on 877 papers (one of the most interesting sections of “Mistakes Are a Fact of Life” discusses how new IRB regulations forced researchers to work with far fewer papers than they had before.

Remarkably, the number of errors students made in their papers stayed consistent over the past 100 years. Students in 2006 committed roughly the same number of errors as students did in 1917. The average has stayed at about 2 errors per 100 words.

What has changed are the kinds of errors students make. The four 20th-century studies show that, when it came to making mistakes, spelling tripped up students the most. Spelling was by far the most common error in 1986 and 1917, “the most frequent student mistake by some 300 percent.” Going down the list of “top 10 errors,” the patterns shifted: Capitalization was the second most frequent error 1917; in 1986, that spot went to “no comma after introductory element.”

In 2006, spelling lost its prominence, dropping down the list of errors to number five.  Spell-check and similar word-processing tools are the undeniable cause. But spell-check creates new errors, too: The new number-one error in student writing is now “wrong word.” Spell-check, as most of us know, sometimes corrects spelling to a different word than intended; if the writing is not later proof-read, this computer-created error goes unnoticed. The second most common error in 2006 was “incomplete or missing documentation,” a result, the authors theorize, of a shift in college assignments toward research papers and away from personal essays.

Additionally, capitalization errors have increased, perhaps, as Lunsford and Lunsford note, because of neologisms like eBay and iPod. But students have also become much better at punctuation and apostrophes, which were the third and fifth most common errors in 1917. These had dropped off the top 10 list by 2006.

The study found no evidence for claims that kids are increasingly using “text speak” or emojis in their papers. Lunsford and Lunsford did not find a single such instance of this digital-era error. Ironically, they did find such text speak and emoticons in teachers’ comments to students. (Teachers these days?)

The most startling discovery Lunsford and Lunsford made had nothing to do with errors or emojis. They found that college students are writing much more and submitting much longer papers than ever. The average college essay in 2006 was more than double the length of the average 1986 paper, which was itself much longer than the average length of papers written earlier in the century. In 1917, student papers averaged 162 words; in 1930, the average was 231 words. By 1986, the average grew to 422 words. And just 20 years later, in 2006, it jumped to 1,038 words.

Why are 21st-century college students writing so much more? Computers allow students to write faster. (Other advances in writing technology may explain the upticks between 1917, 1930, and 1986. Ballpoint pens and manual and electric typewriters allowed students to write faster than inkwells or fountain pens.) The internet helps, too: Research shows that computers connected to the internet lead K-12 students to “conduct more background research for their writing; they write, revise, and publish more; they get more feedback on their writing; they write in a wider variety of genres and formats; and they produce higher quality writing.”

The digital revolution has been largely text-based. Over the course of an average day, Americans in 2006 wrote more than they did in 1986 (and in 2015 they wrote more than in 2006). New forms of written communication—texting, social media, and email—are often used instead of spoken ones—phone calls, meetings, and face-to-face discussions. With each text and Facebook update, students become more familiar with and adept at written expression. Today’s students have more experience with writing, and they practice it more than any group of college students in history.

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In shifting from texting to writing their English papers, college students must become adept at code-switching, using one form of writing for certain purposes (gossiping with friends) and another for others (summarizing plots). As Kristen Hawley Turner writes in “ Flipping the Switch: Code-Switching from Text Speak to Standard English ,” students do know how to shift from informal to formal discourse, changing their writing as occasions demand. Just as we might speak differently to a supervisor than to a child, so too do students know that they should probably not use “conversely” in a text to a friend or “LOL” in their Shakespeare paper. “As digital natives who have had access to computer technology all of their lives, they often demonstrate in theses arenas proficiencies that the adults in their lives lack,” Turner writes. Instructors should “teach them to negotiate the technology-driven discourse within the confines of school language.”

Responses to Lunsford and Lunsford’s study focused on what the results revealed about mistakes in writing: Error is often in the eye of the beholder . Teachers mark some errors and neglect to mention (or find) others. And, as a pioneering scholar of this field wrote in the 1970s, context is key when analyzing error: Students who make mistakes are not “indifferent…or incapable” but “beginners and must, like all beginners, learn by making mistakes.”

College students are making mistakes, of course, and they have much to learn about writing. But they are not making more mistakes than did their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Since they now use writing to communicate with friends and family, they are more comfortable expressing themselves in words. Plus, most have access to technology that allows them to write faster than ever. If Lunsford and Lunsford’s findings about the average length of student papers stays true, today’s college students will graduate with more pages of completed prose to their name than any other generation.

If we want to worry about college student writing, then perhaps what we should attend to is not clipped, abbreviated writing, but overly verbose, rambling writing. It might be that editing skills—deciding what not to say, and what to delete—may be what most ails the kids these days.

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The One Method That Changes Your—and All Students’—Writing

Science-based writing methods can achieve dramatic results..

Posted May 14, 2024 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan

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I remember spending hours commenting painstakingly on my students’ papers when I was a graduate student teaching in the Expository Writing Program at New York University. My students loved our classes, and they filled my sections and gave me terrific course evaluations. Yet I could see that their writing failed to change significantly over the course of the semester. I ended up feeling as if I should refund their money, haunted by the blunt instruments we had to teach writing.

As I’ve learned from directing five writing programs at three different universities, methods matter. When I reviewed comments on papers from instructors who taught in my programs, I discovered that the quantity and quality of comments on students’ papers made only a slight impact on writing outcomes. For instance, one notoriously lazy instructor took several weeks to return assignments and only used spelling and grammar checkers to automate comments. But his conscientious colleague made dozens of sharp observations about students’ arguments, paragraphs, and sentences. However, Mr. Conscientious’ students improved perhaps only 10% over Mr. Minimalist’s students. Even then, the differences stemmed from basic guidelines Mr. Conscientious insisted his students write to, which included providing context sentences at the outset of their essay introductions.

Educators have also poured resources into teaching writing, with increasing numbers of hours dedicated to teaching writing across primary, secondary, and higher education . Yet studies continue to find writing skills inadequate . In higher education, most universities require at least a year of writing-intensive courses, with many universities also requiring writing across the curriculum or writing in the disciplines to help preserve students’ writing skills. However, writing outcomes have remained mostly unchanged .

While pursuing my doctorate, I dedicated my research to figuring out how writing worked. As a graduate student also teaching part-time, I was an early convert to process writing. I also taught those ancient principles of logos, ethos, and pathos, as well as grammar and punctuation. Nevertheless, these frameworks only created a canvas for students’ writing. What was missing: how writers should handle words, sentence structure, and relationships between sentences.

Yet researchers published the beginnings of a science-based writing method over 30 years ago. George Gopen, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams created a framework for identifying how to maximize the clarity, coherence, and continuity of writing. In particular, Gopen and Swan (1990) created a methodology for making scientific writing readable . This work should have been a revelation to anyone teaching in or directing a writing program. But, weirdly, comparatively few writing programs or faculty embraced this work, despite Williams, Colomb, and Gopen publishing both research and textbooks outlining the method and process.

Peculiarly, this framework—represented by Williams’ Style series of textbooks and Gopen’s reader expectation approach—failed to become standard in writing courses, likely because of two limitations. First, both Gopen and Williams hewed to a relativistic stance on writing methods, noting that rule-flouting often creates a memorable style. This stance created a raft of often-contradictory principles for writing. For example, Williams demonstrated that beginning sentences with There is or There are openings hijacked the clarity of sentences, then argued writers should use There is or There are to shunt important content into sentence emphasis positions, where readers recall content best. Second, these researchers failed to tie this writing framework to the wealth of data in psycholinguistics, cognitive neuroscience , or cognitive psychology on how our reading brains process written English. For instance, textbooks written by these three principal researchers avoid any mention of why emphasis positions exist at the ends of sentences and paragraphs—despite the concept clearly originating in the recency effect. This limitation may stem from the humanities’ long-held antipathy to the idea that writing is a product, rather than a process. Or even that science-based methods can help teachers and programs measure the effectiveness of writing, one reason why university First-Year Writing programs have failed to improve students’ writing in any measurable way.

Nevertheless, when you teach students how our reading brains work, you create a powerful method for rapidly improving their writing—in any course that requires writing and at all levels of education. Students can grasp how writing works as a system and assess the costs and benefits of decisions writers face, even as they choose their first words. This method also works powerfully to help students immediately understand how, for instance, paragraph heads leverage priming effects to shape readers’ understanding of paragraph content.

Using this method, I and my colleagues have helped students use a single writing assignment to secure hundreds of jobs, win millions in grant funding, and advance through the ranks in academia. However, we’ve also used the same method without modifications in elementary and secondary classrooms to bolster students’ writing by as much as three grade levels in a single year.

Perhaps the time has arrived for this well-kept secret to revolutionizing student writing outcomes to begin making inroads into more writing classrooms.

Gopen, G. D. and J. A. Swan (1990). "The Science of Scientific Writing." American Scientist 78(6): 550-558.

Gopen, George. The Sense of Structure: Writing from the Reader’s Perspective . Pearson, 2004.

Gopen, George. Expectations: Teaching Writing from the Reader’s Perspective . Pearson, 2004.

Williams, Joseph. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace . University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Williams, Joseph. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace . Harper Collins, 1994.

Williams, Joseph. Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace . Longman, 2002.

Yellowlees Douglas Ph.D.

Jane Yellowlees Douglas, Ph.D. , is a consultant on writing and organizations. She is also the author, with Maria B. Grant, MD, of The Biomedical Writer: What You Need to Succeed in Academic Medicine .

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Mentor Texts

How Teachers and Students Use Our ‘Authentic, Powerful and Unafraid’ Student Editorials

Twelve teachers and five students tell us how these texts, written by teens, have inspired their own ideas.

the student were writing

By Katherine Schulten

A few weeks ago, we asked how you were using our growing collection of winning student editorials , 100 of which are featured in a new book . We were delighted when both teachers and students weighed in, and together suggested such an interesting variety of essays and ideas that we wanted to find a way to feature them all.

Below, the results, but to help you navigate, here is what you’ll find:

In “Reaching Reluctant Writers With Peer Voices,” we begin with an important story about a student from Tennessee that we hope everyone will read.

After that, we’ve categorized the ideas to help you more easily choose what is most relevant for your classes.

Finally, in case you aren’t aware of our full Argument-Writing Unit , we’ve included a few bullet points for using those resources, too.

Thank you to those who wrote in, and please note that each of the short descriptions below is in the teacher’s or student’s own words, most lightly edited for length and clarity.

Reaching Reluctant Writers With Peer Voices

For an entire semester, Hunter refused to submit any work for English class. No evidence of him actually attending my class existed.

We’ve all heard how difficult virtual teaching during the coronavirus pandemic has been; Hunter proved how even greater a challenge it was to be a hybrid, virtual, synchronous, asynchronous student. By the semester’s culminating task, Hunter’s grade was zero.

As a summative evaluation for our study on “Hamlet,” students wrote character analysis essays. I used modeling introductory paragraphs of editorial essay winners like “ I’m a Disabled Teenager, and Social Media Is My Lifeline .” Upon analyzing one of the model pieces, my students noted the use of fragments, personal pronouns and repetitive sentence structure. Someone asked how an essay with what they saw as “grammar errors” could be award-winning. Authentic discussion of student voice ensued. We came to the conclusion that sometimes to be heard, you might have to break the rules.

The light bulb went off in Hunter’s brain. He flew into the topic, and armed with this information, he not only submitted, but excelled at the task at hand. Realizing that he had something to bring to the table, and uninhibited by traditional strictures, his voice rang loud and clear.

— Dawn Viles, Teacher, Maynardville, Tenn.

Here is Hunter’s essay, which he gave us permission to publish.

The Leech, by Hunter Terry, student Depression. It’s a curse, an infection, a contagion that sucks your life from you. It’s not uncommon for a young adult to suffer from depression, or to have a depressive episode. Depression gradually drains you of your own will, potentially leading to a fatal decision. Causes of depression are as unique as the individual who suffers from its power. Maybe a death in the family, a loss of a best friend, the end of a relationship. And the pain that tags along with depression is excruciating. Personally, depression makes me feel crushing loneliness. I get lost in my head in an endless abyss of bad thoughts; the pain is everlasting and just kills me on the inside. I’ve lost self esteem. I’ve lost interest in all of the things that would make me happy. I’ve distanced myself from my own friends because my depression and my constant mood changes just bum them out too. I want people with depression to hear this message: No matter how trapped you feel, no matter how painful it is to live day by day just wanting the pain to stop, it will get better; life gets so much better. For all the cases of depression that ended in suicide, it fills me with sorrow. I just wish I could’ve been there for any person suffering. For all of you young adults living with this leech. You’re strong, powerful, even, and you have the cure.

Annotating Essays to Observe What’s Working

What I did with my seventh and eighth graders is that we went through and annotated all of the features in several of the winning entries , including in “ Confronting Toxicity in Gaming: Going Beyond ‘Mute.’”

For example, this image shows how we looked carefully at the concluding paragraph of the essay. We noted that this conclusion strategy consisted of finishing with a warning to the reader. We also made sure everyone understood the terms “self-monitor,” “top-down approach,” and the expression “that ship has sailed.” Any conclusion we really like is called a “Mic-drop conclusion,” and we always draw a picture of former President Barack Obama dropping the mic.

— Matt Hamilton, Teacher, Novato, Calif.

(Note: If you are interested in learning more about this strategy, two of our student winners, Ananya Udaygiri and Abel John , have annotated their own work as well, and discuss those annotations on video.)

Understanding Rhetorical Appeals: Ethos, Pathos and Logos

First we did a lesson on ethos, pathos and logos, and we practiced identifying the appeals in commercials and short written works. We also took notes on the structure of an editorial essay, watching Abel John’s video about his essay “ Collar the Cat! ” and breaking down his piece to discuss its structure and note how he included sources. Finally, we identified his use of ethos, pathos and logos.

While analyzing the rhetorical appeals, we also looked at “ Switching Letters, Skipping Lines: Troubled and Dyslexic Minds ” to see how Hayden Miskinis, a 2020 middle school winner, used the appeals and structured the editorial.

After this, students chose an editorial written by a winner from one of the past years to read on their own. In their Writer’s Notebooks, they identified the essay by title and author. They commented on structure by identifying the problem, how the problem is warranted, and the solution. Next, they identified ethos, pathos and logos. Finally, they shared their thoughts on the editorial — what they liked, what they didn’t, how effective they found it and how interesting.

— Natalie McConnell, Teacher, Camden, Tenn.

I analyzed the appeals to logos, ethos and pathos used to persuade the audience in two essays, “ How Animal Crossing Will Save Gen Z ” and “ Collar the Cat! ” Then I modeled my appeals after theirs.

— Artemis Raftopoulos, Student, West Hartford, Conn.

I have used all of the winning editorials from 2018, 2019 and 2020 .

First I introduce my students to the process of a rhetorical analysis by having them identify the diction, syntax and rhetorical appeals used by the student authors in order to sway their intended audience. I allow my students to read all of the winning editorials from the previous year, and then select the one that they believe is the most rhetorically effective. I do this assignment before having my students begin work on their own editorials so that they can think about what they believe makes the winning essays work.

After my students have selected one essay and done an in-depth analysis of it, I have them work in small groups to compare all of the previous year’s winning essays and determine five traits that they believe the pieces have in common. They generally notice that all of them have creative titles, cite reliable evidence, use strong diction and more.

— Ann Dorriety, Teacher, Anderson, S.C.

In my freshman English classes, I let students choose from the previous year’s contest winners which ones they feel are their favorites. Here are some of the ones they’ve chosen:

“ Lessons from Failure ” “ Not American Yet ” “ The Class of 2021 Could Change College Admissions Forever ” “ This Land Was Made for You and Me ” “ How Animal Crossing Will Save Gen Z ”

They then analyze each editorial for writing craft. I try to get them to see what each writer has done well and how they can take those craft moves and use them in their own pieces. Students take notes and share their ideas about each text with the class to create a class set of “writer’s moves” they can all try.

— Whitney Carrier, Teacher, Dover, N.H.

Claim-Hunting and Evidence-Citing: Identifying the Elements of an Argument

We used “ Nothing Gets Between Me and My Sushi … Except Plastic, Maybe ,” “ U.S. Citizens Are Dying and We Can Save Them ” and “ Confronting Toxicity in Gaming: Going Beyond ‘Mute.’”

Students worked in groups to go claim-hunting, thinking about the power of a claim and where it is placed in an editorial. We looked at structure, and noticed how essays in the wild aren’t always five paragraphs. They noticed how these writers appealed to emotion or logic, and how they were able to put themselves in their story — and discussed what impact that has on the reader. We thought about the power of a single word, phrase or sentence being set apart from the rest.

Students love examples of writing that is authentic and powerful and unafraid to have personality. It shows them writing can and should be fun.

— Tiffany Mathes, Teacher, Portland, Ore.

My students are in Hong Kong and China and they are improving their English writing skills. I use two or three of these essays per week during the run of the contest. At first I assign them to read each editorial and identify the claim, the evidence cited, the call to action and the counterclaim, if there is one.

As the weeks go on, I ask them to notice the structure of the essay. Does it start with a personal anecdote? Does the call to action appear in the beginning or at the end? It helps them to decide how they will structure their own editorial for the contest.

— Ann Nordby, Teacher, Saint Paul, Minn.

I’m a student teacher at Kensington Health Sciences Academy in Philadelphia. We’re just starting an op-ed unit with my ninth graders, and it’s been a struggle doing this in online school. We used Pear Deck, and I started the lesson with a “This or That?” activity where students had to choose the best option out of the two (i.e., similar to “Coke or Pepsi?” questions). Then I kicked it up a notch by adding more critical thinking opinion questions, such as, “Do you think college athletes should be paid?”

Next we talked about the assignment and jumped into what an op-ed is and why we write them. Lastly, I went over the anatomy of an op-ed. The student editorial “ In Three and a Half Hours, an Alarm Will Go Off ” was the closest thing to (student-written) perfection that I could find to help teach the parts of an op-ed (i.e., hook, thesis, arguments and supporting evidence, counterargument, rebuttal, call to action and source list). The kids loved the lesson and it got them really engaged (which is something I am constantly trying to do in virtual school).

— Chelsea Rivera, Student Teacher, Philadelphia

Experimenting With Tone, Style and Voice: Students on the Essays That Helped Them Most

“ How Animal Crossing Will Save Gen Z ” helped me find a balance between using my own voice and still being informative. The result was a well-structured essay that showed aspects of conversational speaking as well as necessary information to support my claim.

— Matheson Spillane, Student, West Hartford, Conn.

I used “ How Animal Crossing Will Save Gen Z ,” “ Collar the Cat! ” and “ Dinner Table Politics. ”

I used them as a building block to edit my own editorial. I also used some of their elements to improve my own, such as tone and prompting.

— Morgan Trudeau, Student, West Hartford, Conn.

I used “ Collar the Cat! ” and “ Dinner Table Politics ” to get a sense of the style and tone good editorials should be written in, and how they could be structured. It was nice to see an editorial fully fledged out line by line in the annotated ones to really get a sense of the purpose behind decisions.

— Avery Allen, Student, West Hartford, Conn.

Learning Moves that Matter in Speaking Out

The student editorials are special, and I use them every year.

Every middle schooler completes an action project for a unit called “Speaking Out.” This used to be your run-of-the-mill persuasive speech project, and year after year students chose the same tired topics and delivered the same tired arguments. Little by little, this unit has been modernizing and expanding, largely with the help of student written media from The Learning Network and other sources like YR Media and TED .

By reading student-written persuasive writing about gaming culture, fashion, pineapple pizza, and important political and lifestyle issues that matter to them, students are getting much more creative in what they choose to look into, and much more original and passionate in how they write about it.

We typically begin the unit with journals based on the prompts for persuasive writing provided by the Learning Network, just to get them going and thinking. Then, we listen to speeches by Lupita N’yongo, Oprah, Jamal Cole, Martin Luther King, and many others to see things in a different mode. Then, we get down to choosing topics and researching them, while reading student-written editorials as models. Finally, students craft their own editorials and then either deliver speeches or record podcasts based on them.

— Benjamin Levy, Teacher, Amherst, Mass.

Telling Stories: Narrative Elements in Argument Essays

For many years, I taught argumentative writing by teaching logic, how to have a strong thesis statement, and how to add evidence to prove your point. My students composed well-written essays, but it was only a few students a year whose work would truly stand out. The reason: Those students had included narrative techniques in their writing that made the reader connect with them. After reading Liz Prather’s book, “ Story Matters: Teaching Teens to Use the Tools of Narrative to Argue and Inform ,” I began to see how essential narrative tools are to help convince.

I then looked at all the mentor texts I have used over the years, among them many Times editorials from professional columnists, but also student winners. Sure enough, the majority of them used narrative techniques to strengthen their arguments. I challenge you: Look at argumentative essays that were published by a renowned newspaper or magazine. Look at advertisements. Look at speeches that are recognized as successful and well written. Look at the winners of The New York Times Student Editorial Contest. While you are reading these texts, take note of the frequency of narrative techniques — stories of the author’s own personal experience and/or the personal experiences of others, used to make a point. I’m confident you’ll find many.

I ask students to choose a narrative structure for their own editorials, telling them that the structure may change during the writing process, and that is fine. I meet with everyone individually to make sure they are on the right track. Many of my students will choose the “circle” structure Ms. Prather identifies in her book. “ Lessons from Failure ” by Sophie S. Ding is a great example of that structure. She chooses herself as the protagonist of her editorial who is devastated about getting a 37 out of 100. It isn’t until the end of her editorial that she comes back to her narrative, concluding that the 37 has taught her more than all of the 100s ever did, accepting failure as something good.

A student example: One of the girls in my class wants to write about how social media helps teenagers with depression. She chose one of her friends as the main character. She chose the “circle” structure, starting her editorial by describing her friend’s misery and devastation and ending her editorial by depicting how her friend has changed and feels better due to using and interacting with other people on social media.

Whether you teach Common Core or not, throughout most students’ school careers, they are taught to view informative, argumentative and narrative writing as three separate writing genres. However, that is not the reality of professional writing. I concede that keeping writing genres separate up until sixth grade makes sense; students need a solid foundation in each writing genre. However, it is my hope that starting in sixth grade, students start entering the “grey zone” — what I’d like to rename the “multi-perspective zone” — where they learn to mix writing genres, purposefully using narrative techniques to argue and inform.

— Lea Maryanow, Teacher, Visalia, Calif.

Pairing Student Essays With Literature

With Shakespeare:

For every eighth grader who has seen a production at our local Shakespeare theater and loved it, I teach a room full of their peers who approach a first dive into the Bard with nothing but trepidation.

Starting our “Romeo and Juliet” unit off with Angela Chen’s “ Shakespeare: Friend, Not Foe ” was the perfect way to open their eyes and minds. Ms. Chen wrote this essay when she was 15, a year older than the students I teach, so far be it for me to convince them that Shakespeare is cool when someone their age can do the job much better.

After we read the essay, we went back over Ms. Chen’s technique, and students listened for all of the phrases she wove into her opening — all snatched from Shakespeare, all still used today. “I wear my heart upon my sleeve.” “Good riddance.” What do those mean? I ask my class. The hands go flying up. Evidently, my enthusiasm — and the comical use of plastic sword — go a long way toward getting a room full of teens to give Shakespeare a chance. Yet it sure doesn’t hurt to have a 15-year-old teaching assistant on Day 1, inviting her peers to “pick up a play, and you will find within it a dish fit for gods.”

— Andrea Sarvady, Teacher, Atlanta, Ga.

With Sophocles:

In the fall of 2020, as I gasped my way through planning and teaching “Antigone” during the Great Hybrid Learning Experiment, I had a breakthrough. I knew that I wanted to build argumentative writing into my “Antigone” unit, but I felt overwhelmed by — well, by just about everything that 2020 had to offer. Like many of my fellow educators, I was working harder than I ever had as an English teacher, instructing remotely while some of my students were back on campus and some were still learning from home.

But I also knew that “Antigone” was as relevant as ever to our world today, so with the help of the new Learning Network books, “ Student Voice: 100 Argument Essays by Teens on Issues that Matter to Them ” and the Teacher’s Companion, “ Raising Student Voice ,” I constructed my unit plan.

Over the 2020 fall semester, I met my students synchronously for an hour, twice a week over Zoom. Trying to hold an open-ended discussion about the text felt inordinately difficult: My students (like students everywhere that semester), understandably, were loath to speak up in the electronic sphere. And, ultimately, focusing on the play’s tragedy felt ill-judged: It seemed we were living with enough tragedy already as the coronavirus numbers surged, as the election cycle rushed toward Super Tuesday, and as the impossible situations of hybrid learning were resulting in concrete, negative consequences in the lives of my students and colleagues. I sensed that asking my students to analyze one of the play’s elements, characters, motifs or — omg — one of those glorious Odes, would decrease morale faster than Creon falls from his place of pride.

Instead, I decided to capitalize on the energy of Antigone and Haemon’s ability to speak truth to power. I used the Learning Network books to help me transition my students toward taking a stand and raising their own voices about issues that mattered to them .

First, I turned my students toward a rhetorical analysis of ethos, pathos and logos in the speeches by Creon, Haemon and Antigone, which are basically master classes for these Classical moves.

Then we started to connect with the rhetorical energy of not only Antigone and Haemon, but also of 10 student essays that the Teacher’s Companion recommends for showcasing ethos, pathos and logos. My students’ spirits soared. Here are the essays we used (those linked are available online):

“ Breaking the Blue Wall of Silence: Changing the Social Narrative about Policing in America ”

“ In Three and a Half Hours, an Alarm Will Go Off ”

“The Unspoken Alphabet Problem”

“We Need Music in Our Schools”

“ Civil Obedience ”

“ The Red Stain on Society ”

“ Will the Future of American Manufacturing be Printed? ”

“ How Ableism Lives On ”

“ Confronting Toxicity in Gaming: Going Beyond ‘Mute’”

“It’s Time to Legalize the World’s Oldest Profession”

I put these essays together in one PDF, and I required my students to choose three of them to read purposefully. In small groups, they next discussed the craft moves they noticed. Unlike when I assigned “Antigone” (from 460 BCE), this time I had no doubt that my students would actually read these model essays, as the proximity of the anthologized writers’ ages and eras to my students’ own, and the stylistic panache and excellent level of detail within them, were enough to engage my sophomores immediately. Dropping into breakout rooms, I found my kids chattering energetically about what they found funny, interesting, risky and moving.

Finally, after following much of the advice in the Teacher’s Companion to help my students find and explore their own topics, I gave them the Learning Network’s Student Editorial Contest Rubric to use in a peer-editing activity, and I also uploaded this rubric to so that while grading my students’ final drafts within that interface, I could efficiently and effectively give them qualitative feedback on their efforts.

A catharsis happened when I realized that I had almost missed the opportunity to get to know my students personally. Their likes and gripes, their hopes and fears, even their goals and dreams — all of this and more we were able to share with one another through the argument-writing assignment. And it becomes clearer to me everyday that more than anything, sharing our voices and listening — truly listening — to others’ voices is the clearest way to avoiding tragedy.

— Christa Forster, Teacher, Houston

These Essays, Our Contest and the Related Unit

Reflections from winners of the student editorial contest, student winners of our editorial contest discuss the writing and submission process..

In like one of my daily scrolls through the New York Times, I came across this competition. I guess the rest is history. Hi, everyone, My name is Abel John. I’m going to Clements High School in Sugarland, Texas. The title of my essay is “Collar the Cat.” Hi, Eddie Xu, this piece is entitled How Pragmatism is Poisoning the Democratic Will of America’s Youth.” My name is Ananya Udaygiri. I go to Shadow Creek High School. I am the author of “How Animal Crossing Will Save Gen Z.” I’ve always been interested in politics and current events, but sometimes I see that my friends and my peers don’t necessarily have that same background, and they find it harder to enter into the discussion. And I just think that there’s not a lot of opportunities for students to do that. And this is really unique. My strategy starting was to get words on the paper, and I got a lot of words on the paper, and they were bad words, but it gives you something to start off with. I do debate. As part of that. you have to write cases, right? Those are a way that you present your arguments to the audience. And it follows the basic structure of establishing the problem, warranting out the problem, right, saying why it’s bad, and then providing a solution to it. So throughout the editorial, I kind of follow the same structure. I actually started off with. So many drafts where I filled it with, like convoluted analogies and really pretentious wording. And to me, you know, like whenever I write something, I think of it as my baby and I’m like, wow, this is so clever. I showed to my friend and they’re like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. The message is being lost. So I had to go through it multiple times and just check that the clarity was there that I was saying what I need to be said. And that was a really hard process to me and just shaving off things that were unnecessary and reshaping it so that it genuinely was supposed to be accessible. The whole process forced me to concretize all these rants and run-on sentences I had in my head into a succinct piece of writing. I think in the future, I’ll absolutely keep writing, because it’s a great way to convey what you think, like to everybody else, and just raise awareness of important things in our society. I was so convinced that I was a bad writer before this contest and now moving into this, just having that validation, I do feel more confident to explore writing careers. I’m thinking about careers in English, careers in journalism. And so it’s really opened those pathways to me that I thought were closed. This whole process has been so amazing for me. And it’s been one of the best opportunities in my life. And it’s just been such an honor to work with The New York Times.

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As you can see, these essays can become part of a curriculum in many ways, even if they are most commonly used as mentor texts for students participating in our annual Editorial Contest , which runs through April 13 this year.

But to have your students experiment with argument-making any time, you might start here:

300 Questions and Images to Inspire Argument Writing . A list of prompts from our site, each of which invites students to post their thoughts online for others to read.

Our daily writing prompts . We publish nine new ones each week during the school year, so students can almost always find a topic that interests them.

Our full argument-writing unit , which contains lesson plans, mentor texts of many kinds, webinars and more.

  • Israel-Hamas War

My Writing Students Were Arrested at Columbia. Their Voices Have Never Been More Essential

O n April 30, 56 years after Columbia sent the police in to arrest student protesters who had taken over Hamilton Hall in protest of the Vietnam War—protests the school loves to promote—I was walking my 12-year-old daughter home after her choir performance. We had gone an extra stop on the subway because the stop at 116th, Columbia’s stop, was closed. Instead, we had to walk back to our apartment from the 125th stop. When we got within sight of Columbia, a line of dozens of police blocked our path. I asked them to let us through; I pointed to our apartment building and said we lived there. As a Columbia professor, I live in Columbia housing.

“I have my orders,” the cop in charge said.

“I live right there,” I said. “It’s my daughter’s bedtime.”

“I have my orders,” he said again.

“I’m just trying to get home,” I said.

We were forced to walk back the way we came from and circle around from another block. Luckily, our building has an entrance through the bodega in the basement. This is how I took my daughter up to her room and sent her to bed.

Read More: Columbia's Relationship With Student Protesters Has Long Been Fraught

A week earlier, I had brought some food for the students camping out on Columbia’s West Lawn and had met with similar resistance. Security guards asked whether I was really faculty; I had already swiped my faculty badge that should have confirmed my identity. They asked to take my badge, then they said I hadn’t swiped it, which I had, two seconds earlier, as they watched. They said their professors had never brought food to them before. I didn’t know what to say to this—“I’m sorry that your professors never brought you food?” They called someone and told them the number on my badge. Finally, they were forced to let me through. They said again that their professors had never brought them food. “OK,” I said, and walked into campus. I reported their behavior and never received a reply.

On April 30, after I had got my daughter to bed, my partner and I took the dog down to pee. We watched the protesters call, “Shame!” as the police went in and out of the blockade that stretched 10 blocks around campus. Earlier that day, we had seen police collecting barricades—it seemed like there would be a bit of peace. As soon as it got dark, they must have used those barricades and more to block off the 10 blocks. There were reports on campus that journalists were not allowed out of Pulitzer Hall, including Columbia’s own student journalists and the dean of the School of Journalism, under threat of arrest. Faculty and students who did not live on campus had been forbidden access to campus in the morning. There was no one around to witness. My partner and I had to use social media to see the hundreds of police in full riot gear, guns out, infiltrate Columbia’s Hamilton Hall, where protesters had holed up , mirroring the 1968 protests that had occupied the same building.

In the next few days, I was in meeting after meeting. Internally, we were told that the arrests had been peaceful and careful, with no student injuries. The same thing was repeated by Mayor Adams and CNN . Meanwhile, president Minouche Shafik had violated faculty governance and the university bylaws that she consult the executive committee before calling police onto campus. (The committee voted unanimously against police intervention .)

Read More: Columbia Cancels Main Commencement Following Weeks of Pro-Palestinian Protests

Then, Saturday morning, I got an email from a couple of writing students that they had been released from jail. I hadn’t heard that any of our students had been involved. They told me they hadn’t gotten food or water, or even their meds, for 24 hours. They had watched their friends bleed, kicked in the face by police. They said they had been careful not to damage university property. At least one cop busted into a locked office and fired a gun , threatened by what my students called “unarmed students in pajamas.”

In the mainstream media, the story was very different. The vandalism was blamed on students. Police showed off one of Oxford Press’s Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction . (This series of books offers scholarly introductions that help students prepare for classes, not how-to pamphlets teaching them to do terrorism.)

“I feel like I’m being gaslit,” one of my students said.

I teach creative writing, and I am the author of a book about teaching creative writing and the origins of creative-writing programs in the early 20th century. The oldest MFA program in the country, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, was funded by special-interest groups like the Rockefeller Foundation and, famously, the CIA, and was explicitly described by director Paul Engle as a tool to spread American values.

Read More: 'Why Are Police in Riot Gear?' Inside Columbia and City College's Darkest Night

The way we teach creative writing is essential because it shapes what kinds of narratives will be seen as valuable, pleasurable, and convincing. Today’s writing students will record how our current events become history. One of the strategies Columbia took with its police invasion was to block access of faculty, students, and press to the truth. It didn’t want any witnesses. It wanted to control the story.

For weeks, Columbia administration and the mainstream media has painted student protesters as violent and disruptive—and though there have been incidents of antisemitism, racism, and anti-Muslim hatred, including a chemical attack on pro-Palestine protesters , I visited the encampment multiple times and saw a place of joy, love, and community that included explicit teach-ins on antisemitism and explicit rules against any hateful language and action. Students of different faiths protected each other’s right to prayer. Meanwhile, wary of surveillance and the potential use of facial recognition to identify them, they covered their faces. Faculty have become afraid to use university email addresses to discuss ways to protect their students. At one point, the administration circulated documents they wanted students to sign, agreeing to self-identify their involvement and leave the encampment by a 2 p.m. deadline or face suspension or worse. In the end, student radio WKCR reported that even students who did leave the encampment were suspended.

In a recent statement in the Guardian and an oral history in New York Magazine , and through the remarkable coverage of WKCR, Columbia students have sought to take back the narrative. They have detailed the widespread support on campus for student protesters; the peaceful nature of the demonstrations; widespread student wishes to divest financially from Israel, cancel the Tel Aviv Global Center, and end Columbia’s dual-degree program with Tel Aviv University; and the administration’s lack of good faith in negotiations. As part of the Guardian statement, the student body says that multiple news outlets refused to print it. They emphasize their desire to tell their own story.

In a time of mass misinformation, writers who tell the truth and who are there to witness the truth firsthand are essential and must be protected. My students in Columbia’s writing program who have been arrested and face expulsion for wanting the university to disclose and divest, and the many other student protesters, represent the remarkable energy and skepticism of the younger generation who are committed not only to witnessing but participating in the making of a better world. Truth has power, but only if there are people around to tell the truth. We must protect their right to do so, whether or not the truth serves our beliefs. It is the next generation of writers who understand this best and are fighting for both their right and ours to be heard.

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20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Learning outcomes.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Apply composing processes and tools as a means to discover and reconsider ideas.
  • Reflect on the development and insights of composing processes and how they affect your work.
  • Adapt and apply composing processes for a variety of technologies and modalities.

One of the best ways to reveal who you are as a writer is to show yourself becoming aware of your strengths and weakness. This awareness can help you discover not only new ways of seeing the world but also new insights into yourself. Although such awareness can occur for unexplainable reasons, it usually happens when you encounter new ideas or have experiences that change you in some way. Reflection allows you to begin this journey. To grow as a writer, look back at your previous writing. If you look back at a drawing you did in first grade, you might find it funny or cute. Additionally, and more likely than not, you could do that same drawing now with a lot more detail and skill than you did back then. Think about writing in the same way: as you add to your writing skills and abilities, you become more proficient and can take on more challenging writing tasks. In this section, as you reflect on your writing development during the course, you will find areas of strength and weakness. The weaker areas are the ones you will want to improve.

Before beginning your reflective essay, take some time to review your work from the course. Write a few sentences or paragraphs about specific aspects of each assignment, such as its purpose, your feelings, what you learned, what you did well (and not so well), and where you think you can do significantly better. This prewriting work will be useful later.

Summary of Assignment: Portfolio Reflection and Self-Evaluation

In the form of a letter (e.g., “Dear Reader”), respond to several questions and discuss various topics related to your writing development in this course. For example, you might be asked to identify and discuss your strongest piece of writing. For each claim you make about your strongest assignment, provide reasoning and evidence from your portfolio to support the statement. When you quote directly from your own writing, be sure to state which assignment or draft you are quoting. Within the context of your responses, include commentary on most of the following course topics as well as others that have been significant:

  • Writing processes (organizing graphically, outlining, drafting, conferencing, revising, editing, publishing, recursivity)
  • Rhetorical situation, rhetoric, and persuasion
  • Reasoning strategies, textual and rhetorical analysis
  • Evidentiary strategies: evaluation, research
  • Word choice, leads, transitions
  • Thesis statement, structure and organization, introductions, conclusions
  • Showing, not telling; descriptive writing
  • Voice; feelings, as hindsight or in process

Depending on the nature of your portfolio, you may be able to create a digital or multimodal reflective letter, as mentioned in Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure .

Another Lens. Using reflective organization and strategies, create a fictionalized story for readers. Some fiction writers base their stories on real events, adding material or characters to help readers connect the plot points and make the story more memorable and engaging. For example, consider a school-like setting and a host of characters. Incorporate dialogue, details of setting, and other story elements to develop characters and create tension.

Once Upon a Time

student sample text James sat silently across the room as Rafael read the paper James had worked so hard to write. He could not have been more nervous watching Rafael, the best writer in the class, review his work. No one had ever read James’s work other than a teacher. His heart was racing, and beads of sweat formed on his forehead. end student sample text

student sample text “What do you think?” James asked. end student sample text

student sample text Rafael rolled his eyes before locking eyes with James. end student sample text

student sample text “I’m not finished yet,” Rafael answered and returned to the paper, ignoring James. end student sample text

student sample text James stared at him, contemplating the meaning of every facial wrinkle and twitch of a finger: what did they mean? After several aching minutes, Rafael picked up a pen and wrote for several minutes with a slight smile on his face. He took a long breath, walked over to James, and handed the paper back with a sheet full of notes. end student sample text

student sample text He smiled and said, “It’s a strong paper. I made some notes I hope you find useful. I was confused only a few times, so you could look at where I made suggestions for when you revise.” James smiled back, and the look on his face showed surprise and relief. end student sample text

student sample text After quickly reviewing the comments, James turned to his close friend Jess and said, “He didn’t destroy my paper and actually gave me some good suggestions.” end student sample text

In this example, James, Rafael, and Jess are not real people, but the characters show how students may react during a peer-review workshop. Of course, you might decide to write about a less-than-ideal experience in which Rafael laughs at James’s work and Jess steps in to help him revise. Or you might set the story in a different time or place and create an entirely different situation. Whatever you decide, use your course experience and some creativity to create scenarios in which a character reflects on their writing in ways that are meaningful and useful not only for you but also for your readers. Then weave these characters into a larger narrative. It might end in a published class book or website of student writing and require James to give a speech about one of his papers, or it might end in another scenario that follows logically from the narrative you have created. Regardless of where you take the story, include realistic elements of reflection as well as how your main character develops across the story, faces a challenge, and finds a way to overcome it.

You can show character development in several different ways. One way is to be inside a character’s mind. To portray a character thinking rather than talking, employ internal monologue by using sentence fragments and other nonacademic writing conventions to show that a person’s thought process doesn’t follow conventional rules of language. For example, a character named Bethany describes her thoughts when revising her first paper. She writes an internal monologue—readers hear her talking to herself while she tries to focus on revision. Note how she provides clues for readers to understand what is going on around her.

student sample text OMG, I cannot believe I wrote that! How could I write about a calligraphy pen when I don’t even own a calligraphy pen? I’m not even sure what one looks like! Bonkers! I wonder if the other people in my class are staring at me right now. I’m afraid to look up. I casually tilt my head up and see no one paying any attention to me whatsoever. Wonderful! I’m just another writer in a writing class. end student sample text

In this example, the character works through a process of reflection based on her experience. She cannot believe she wrote about a calligraphy pen, but perhaps because of her nervousness with writing, this quirk has become a unique aspect of her character. You might create other such quirks in one of your characters, such as a character who always reads aloud, even in the middle of class, or one who taps a pen on their forehead loudly as they read. Then you can use that as a tool to point to another aspect of what you learned in your actual course. When writing this fictionalized piece, be mindful of your focus, which is to reflect on your development as a writer during this course.

Quick Launch: Establishing Criteria for Growth

To get started, you will need to organize your thoughts. After you have reviewed each chapter and its related assignment, reflect on your successes and challenges. Use a graphic organizer similar to Table 20.1 to get started. If the information already filled in for Chapter 1 works for you, use it. If it doesn’t, change it accordingly. If you skipped the suggested review of your assignments, do it now. Otherwise, use your notes as you complete the chapter reflection table below. Skip any rows related to chapters that you did not cover in class.

Once you have completed your own version of the table, use it to guide you as you begin writing. Take each assignment and stay focused on its goal. In doing so, you may notice a pattern in the assignments that helped you learn. If you do, incorporate that pattern into your reflective essay, and use it to create a theme.

Drafting: Getting Started and Following Through

As you work through the task of reflecting, consider the purpose of each assignment and your approach to it, in addition to the information you have included in the chapter reflection table. Also, read some models to help stimulate your reflective thinking: Final Reflective Essay by Andrew Duffy ; Final Reflection by Anthony Roco ; E-Portfolio Reflection by Sean Porter ; or this Portfolio Summative Reflection . Then, use the template below as a way to create your own unique reflection on yourself as a developing writer. Focus on the larger impact of what you have learned. Also offer some insight on what you still need to work on, and explain why. Each aspect that you write about will show a level of progress and awareness toward improvement. Just as important, it will help you focus on future writing assignments and allow you to recognize your growth as a writer.

Structuring Your Responses

As you respond to each of the questions above, use a paragraph planner such as this one.

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Young Writers Need Structure to Learn the Craft. How Much Is Enough?

the student were writing

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There’s a lot one could write about Galileo, the Italian astronomer and physicist.

But on a snowy Friday morning in December, during a lesson helping students draft essays about outer space, teacher Julie Alexander was focused on just one specific piece of the scientist’s legacy: his study of the moon.

Projected on a smart board at the front of the room was a sample paragraph’s topic sentence: “Galileo used a telescope to observe the moon.” Alexander wanted her 3rd graders to evaluate whether the evidence in the paragraph supported its main idea. What facts from the book they’d read about Galileo would fit here, and which wouldn’t make sense?

“Are we going to talk about how Galileo ended up in lockdown?” Alexander questioned, referencing his imprisonment by Catholic officials. “No, we’re not, are we? It doesn’t match our topic statement.”

The exercise required students to analyze the paragraph in painstaking detail. Students pored over their own copies of the excerpt, heads bent, highlighting sentences in different colors to demarcate different parts of the paragraph structure—the thesis and supporting details.

But the intense focus was in service of an often-elusive goal: to make explicit how good writing works—and to equip students with the tools to do it themselves.

Mackenzie Weber, a student in Julie Alexander’s 3rd grade class highlights the topic sentence in a sample paragraph in front of the class at Kegonsa Elementary School in Stoughton, Wis. The school takes a structured approach to writing, teaching students frameworks that help them craft strong paragraphs and essays.

At Kegonsa Elementary School here, where Alexander teaches, teachers try to demystify how different styles of writing are structured, down to the sentence level. They work with students on mastering the building blocks of paragraphs and essays, and they introduce tools students use to craft their own writing.

All the while, kids are writing about the texts that they’re reading—linking together these two core components of English/language arts instruction.

These components are hallmarks of a specific approach to writing instruction, one that favors explicit instruction and lots of modeling. The method, and curricula that feature them, stand in contrast to the “process writing” techniques that have dominated classrooms for the past few decades: exercises like free writing or journaling about personal experiences.

Teaching students the rules of writing—things like how to write complex sentences or structure different types of text—can help them become better at the craft, said Steve Graham, a professor who studies writing instruction at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

“Explicit instruction helps kids acquire the skills, the processes, and the knowledge they need to be successful as writers. There’s no doubt about that,” he said.

But he cautioned that it’s important for students to have the opportunity to practice these skills in context—that they’re not just filling in worksheets. “That would be like practicing basketball skills all the time and never playing a game,” he said.

The connection of writing and structured literacy

Kegonsa is among the schools that have adopted this more structured approach to writing as they’ve moved toward the “science of reading.”

The phrase refers to the evidence base behind how students learn to read. Many refer to instruction based on this research as “structured literacy”—an approach that t eaches the building blocks of reading in an explicit, systematic way .

What Is the 'Science of Reading'?

In a science of reading framework, teachers start by teaching beginning readers the foundations of language in a structured progression—like how individual letters represent sounds and how those sounds combine to make words. ...

At the same time, teachers are helping students build their vocabulary and their knowledge about the world through read-alouds and conversations. Eventually, teachers help students weave these skills together like strands in a rope, allowing them to read more and more complex texts.

Most teachers in the United States weren’t trained in this framework. Instead, the majority say that they practice balanced literacy, a less structured approach that relies heavily on teacher choice and professional judgment. While the majority of students in balanced literacy classrooms receive some phonics instruction, it may not be taught in the explicit, systematic way that researchers have found to be most effective for developing foundational reading skills.

Students are generally “reading” short books of their choice very early on, even if they can’t sound out all the words. Teachers encourage kids to use multiple sources of information—including pictures and context clues—to guess at what the text might say.

Kegonsa began to adopt the approach in 2019, and the shift prompted Principal Erin Conrad and her district colleagues to examine their writing instruction, too. If explicit instruction had a place in reading, did it have a place in writing as well?

For some aspects of writing, the answer is a definitive yes, said Graham. Explicitly teaching handwriting and spelling can lead to improvements in those skills—but also to writing ability overall. That’s because making those processes automatic “frees up cognitive resources” for students as they’re composing, he said.

Teaching other skills leads to stronger writing, too: Studies have shown that teaching students how to construct complex sentences helps them apply that knowledge to their writing. A similar effect has been found for lessons on text structure. Evidence also shows that it’s helpful to teach students strategies for planning, revising, and editing their own pieces.

“It’s about opening up the black box and making the processes that expert writers do explicit,” said Leslie Laud, a researcher with thinkSRSD, which offers professional development for teachers in its structured-writing strategies.

Expert writers aren’t born knowing how to use these structures and skills—they’re taught them, internalize them, and grow their abilities over time, said Diana Leddy, a co-founder of the Vermont Writing Collaborative, a group that provides professional development and teacher resources for another structured writing approach.

“The problem with leaving students to internalize these on their own is that only some of them will,” she said.

Balancing explicit teaching with time to ‘create text’

Still, some skills don’t always improve through explicit instruction. Grammar is one of them.

Graham and colleagues found in a 2012 review that teaching grammar didn’t improve students’ use of it in their writing. But a forthcoming meta-analysis, also by Graham, finds that it does. He thinks this could have to do with context: In most of the papers in the earlier analysis, grammar instruction was decontextualized. Students weren’t practicing it in their writing—instead, their teachers used unrelated examples.

The finding underscores dual imperatives. Kids need to be taught the structures of writing, Graham said. But also, “we need students to create text.”

“At the elementary level, when you engage students, you ask them to write more, there’s a small positive effect on improving the overall quality of their writing. It’s not enough to move kids forward strongly as writers, but it’s not nothing,” he said.

At Kegonsa Elementary, teachers are trying to do both. The curriculum they use aims to build students’ skills systematically, progressing from paragraphs to longer pieces. As they learn, though, students write their own compositions.

In one 2nd grade classroom at the school last month, students worked on a matching assignment, putting the pieces of a paragraph in order.

They drew supporting points from the story, working from an “evidence organizer” that the class had put together as a group. Spread throughout the room, clustered at desks, and sprawled on the rug, they drew lines between details on one side of the page to the spot on the other side of the page where they would fit into the paragraph structure.

the student were writing

Others who had already finished the organizer were writing out their paragraphs, modifying and adding to the sentences from the evidence organizer to put their own spin on the piece.

As these students progress through this year and the next, they are expected to take on more of the organizing and planning work themselves—and eventually, write longer, multiparagraph pieces in 3rd grade.

Kegonsa doesn’t only do this work with expository writing. In 4th grade, for example, students learn how to structure a narrative story, sketching out the rise and fall of the plot and filling in organizers with details about their characters and setting.

Overall, the approach is much more regimented than what teachers at the school had previously done, said Alexander, the 3rd grade teacher. But more structure has helped students be more confident writers, she said.

“Years ago when we were teaching, you’d have the kids go, ‘I’m not writing. I don’t know what to write, I don’t know how to write. I’m not doing it,’” she said. “The last couple of years, [that’s been] very minimal. There might be a kiddo who has a tricky day, but the next day, they’re picking right up where they left off—and they’ll write.”

How structured approaches differ

Kegonsa’s approach is based on strategies from the Vermont Writing Collaborative, the organization that Leddy co-founded.

The group takes what Leddy calls a “whole to part” approach—identifying the end product that students should be able to create, whether that’s a paragraph or an essay, and then teaching students how to master the component pieces so that they can write a “whole” themselves.

the student were writing

The goal is for students to learn how to structure their writing but also to develop a deeper understanding of the subject they’re writing about. The connection between reading and writing is key, Leddy said.

Teachers have to make sure that students have the background knowledge and vocabulary they need to write well. And they need to teach students how to pull out relevant pieces of the texts they read—rather than just regurgitating the whole thing in an essay format.

Other structured-writing approaches differ somewhat.

There’s Self-Regulated Strategy Development, or SRSD, a technique developed by writing researcher Karen Harris and Graham. It also explicitly teaches writing structures and centers writing to text.

In addition, the program aims to teach skills like goal-setting and self-monitoring, designed to help students apply these strategies on their own. Multiple studies of the approach have found that it’s effective in improving students’ writing . Other researchers and educators, including Laud, provide professional development and implementation support for schools to apply versions of the method.

And then there’s The Writing Revolution.

The system was developed by educator Judith Hochman to support students with language-based learning disabilities. It’s since spread to a national audience, with one state—Louisiana—embedding the strategies into its homegrown materials for English/language arts.

If the Vermont Writing Collaborative takes a whole-to-part approach, The Writing Revolution takes a part-to-whole approach. It starts with the sentence.

“You don’t build a house starting with the roof. You build a house starting with the foundation,” Hochman said. “The sentence level, for us, is where we feel it makes sense for everybody to be beginning.”

Students learn how to use more complex sentence structures, employing words such as “because,” “but,” and “so.” They practice constructions that skilled writers use but that don’t usually appear in speech, like appositive phrases: “Stoughton, a city in Wisconsin, is home to Kegonsa Elementary School.”

But even at the sentence level, Hochman said, “the writing is in service of the content, period.”

If students are learning about the Industrial Revolution, for example, they’re writing about it, like this:

  • It was a seminal event because …,
  • It was a seminal event but …,
  • It was a seminal event, so …

The richer sentence structures push students to engage more deeply in the subject—filling in more details and nuances about the topic than they would in a sentence that simply stated, “The Industrial Revolution was a seminal event.”

The program has devoted fans. Serena White, the director of curriculum and instruction for the Monroe City schools, in Louisiana, said using The Writing Revolution has given students the tools they need to tackle challenging assignments—tools they didn’t have before.

“When I would walk around in classrooms and observe when students were given a writing prompt in any content area, you would have so many students sitting there not knowing how to start,” she said. “We very rarely see that anymore.”

ASU’s Graham said research supports the idea that teachers should help students learn how to craft strong sentences. But he worries that starting with sentences exclusively conveys the message that students can’t or shouldn’t be writing longer pieces until they’ve mastered certain skills. This sentence-first approach differs from other structured methods, including SRSD, which Graham helped develop.

Writing instruction shouldn’t focus on just the whole, or just the parts, he said. It needs to integrate skills instruction with opportunities to apply those skills at length.

‘Flexing’ the framework

For her part, Hochman said The Writing Revolution does just that. Students also learn how to outline, take notes, and write full pieces at the same time as they’re drilling down into sentences. “They don’t have to finish all the sentence work before they move to longer pieces of writing,” she said.

Writing, as most teachers acknowledge, is tough, and challenges still emerge.

At Kegonsa, 3rd graders in Jessica Davis’ class have internalized the reading-writing connection. Ask students where to find the supporting evidence for their paragraphs, and they’ll tell you: “You go into the book.”

But not all paragraphs are structured the same way, even though the paragraph structure Davis teaches says that the first piece of supporting evidence comes after the topic statement. If pieces of the paragraph are out of order, students don’t always pick up on that, she said.

Rachel Boersma, a 2nd grade teacher at Kegonsa, leads her class in a group editing exercise for a sample paragraph.

This is a place where teachers step in to correct misunderstandings, Davis said. They return to definitions—are you sure this is evidence? How do you know? Is it in the text? That kind of questioning puts students back on the right track, she said.

Teachers and school leaders are also still trying to figure out how to help students transfer their knowledge to other contexts—to use the writing structures they’re learning on state tests, for example, said Conrad, Kegonsa’s principal.

Students must come to understand that the structures they’re learning aren’t a rigid formula but a framework whose pieces each have a meaning and a purpose. And sometimes, the framework can be tweaked to enhance that meaning.

It’s a reminder that runs through classes at Kegonsa. In one 2nd grade classroom last month, a teacher showed an exemplar paragraph with five pieces of evidence. You need at least two, she told the students, but it’s also OK to have more. Sometimes, it helps to paint a better picture for the reader.

At heart, the structures are just teaching tools, said Leddy.

“If they’re used correctly, you’re using them to teach basic concepts of writing that they can flex easily,” she said. “If my students can’t do that by the end of the year, then I’ve failed. My instruction has failed.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 2023 edition of Education Week as Young Writers Need Structure To Learn the Craft

On this vocabulary wall, 2nd grade teacher Macey Fleming collects words from the texts that students have read throughout the unit--words that students can use in their writing.

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  • Professional learning

Teach. Learn. Grow.

Teach. learn. grow. the education blog.

Julie Richardson

Anchor your writing instruction in big ideas students can remember

the student were writing

Years later, when one of my journalism students won a Los Angeles Times award for news writing, I thought more deeply about the instructional changes I had made. I also thought about the social and emotional factors that likely enabled this once-timid reporter to tackle tough issues and blossom into an adept writer. What I realized from this exercise is that many of my instructional shifts had more to do with “leaning in” and getting to know my student as a writer, along with “letting go” of some outdated notions about what good writing is.

These are the three most important lessons I learned that I’d like to pass along.

Lesson #1: Writing instruction begins with a shared language for talking about writing and a shared understanding of the purposes for writing

Anchoring your instruction in a few big ideas that students can remember helps simplify the experience for everyone—and writing is always an experience.

As a new English language arts teacher, I often made writing more complicated than it needed to be. In my journalism classes, things were simple: we focused on the 5Ws and H (who? What? When? Where? Why? How?). It was easy for every student to remember and internalize these guiding questions.

If only there were a similar list of questions I could apply to other writing tasks! Over time, I found that there was. And at NWEA, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with current and former teachers to hone that list of essential questions down to the following five.

If anchoring your instruction in big ideas students can remember resonates with you, like it did for me, I encourage you to try incorporating these five essential questions into your writing curriculum.

We’ve even compiled these big ideas for growing writers into a free resource aimed at building a shared language for talking about writing with students. To that end, we’ve created a student version , too.

1. Why am I writing?

This question encourages students to ponder their purpose for writing. Often, their immediate response to this question is, “I’m writing because my teacher assigned me this essay/report/research paper.”

If we can get students to push past the idea of writing as an assignment and toward writing as a form of communication, we may see a dramatic increase in their motivation and writing quality. “What do you want to accomplish with this piece of writing?” becomes the question, not “What kind of writing does your teacher want from you?”

Writing is always the intellectual product of the writer, and the more we can encourage students to see themselves as writers and to take ownership of their writing, the better the results. Before students write, it’s critical they know and understand their purpose for writing, as this purpose informs so many other choices they will make.

2. Who are my readers?

This question forces students to consider their audience . When writers can anticipate the needs of their audience, they increase the effectiveness of their communication.

If the only audience a student ever has for their writing is a teacher, they lose the opportunity to make writerly decisions based on different audiences, such as considering their unique feelings and opinions about a topic, their different vocabularies (e.g., familiarity with code switching, idioms, or jargon), and their varying degrees of background knowledge. This is why giving students authentic writing tasks is so important . Authentic writing engages students in the same cognitive processes they use to write for real-world situations, such as applying for a job, taking civic action, or even communicating with family and friends.

3. What am I writing?

This question gets students to think more deeply about the task , genre , and form for their writing. While some of this information is likely included in the writing assignment, it’s still important for students to work through the task details on their own.

Students will make more informed writing decisions when they are able to clearly articulate the expectations and success criteria for a writing task . The writing genre provides another framework for students to think about their purpose for writing. Each genre’s unique features have developed over time through socially agreed-upon conventions, and experienced writers understand how to use these features to communicate more clearly with their audiences. Finally, form —or format—describes the type of text to be produced, and today’s writers have more forms to choose from—both analog and digital—than ever before.

When students put time and thought into their purpose, audience, and task, they have a greater command over their writing and what they want it to accomplish. And that’s when we get to see students’ communication skills and creativity truly shine through.

4. How am I presenting ideas in my writing?

This question addresses the myriad of choices a writer must make when they embark on a task, including decisions about writing development , organization , style , and conventions . Too often, this is where we ask students to start, and it can be overwhelming to make all these decisions before a student has wrapped their head around what they plan to write and why. In addition, while these writerly decisions are important, we may place too great an emphasis on a student’s final written product when a focus on their writing process may have more instructional utility.

My advice to students is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff when it comes to presenting ideas in your writing.” The ideas themselves are what’s most important. They’ll have numerous opportunities to practice and hone their writing development, organization, style, and conventions with every piece they write and over an entire lifetime.

5. How am I using the writing process?

This question reminds students that writing is both a product and a process . And the writing process is where much of the learning and critical thinking takes place.

Though writing is often taught as a sequence of forward-moving steps, the writing process is recursive and iterative, not linear . For example, writers go back and forth between planning, drafting, translating, reviewing, and revising to meet their writing goals, and writing goals can be self-generated or revised at any time during the writing process.

Writing itself is a work in progress that includes collaboration, self-regulation, and self-evaluation in addition to the other steps students typically learn. The more frequently students engage in and reflect on their own writing process, the more likely they are to develop productive and efficient writing habits, as well as growth mindsets that can help them overcome writing challenges in their school, career, and personal lives.

Lesson #2: Writing instruction is most impactful when it extends through professional learning communities (PLC) that offer students school-wide support for writing

As students move from grade to grade, a strong and coordinated PLC can help them build on what they already know about writing and focus on becoming even more expressive and effective writers.

In my first year of teaching, a colleague and I had an opportunity to attend a professional learning summit on writing. One session led by Harry Noden taught us how his Image Grammar could help students expand, vary, and improve their sentence structures. The majority of our student population was multilingual learners, and we rightly suspected that focused practice on writing, even at the sentence level, could increase language development in English . In part, this is because writing has a slower pace, provides a permanent record, and calls for greater precision in word choice.

We accurately assumed that sentence writing would benefit all our students , too. And once we were satisfied with the results, we leveraged our PLC to encourage a school-wide adoption of teaching grammar with Noden’s “brushstrokes.” We saw students quickly embrace the concept of “brushstrokes” because it positioned them as “artists” painting with words. This artistry was reinforced by the quality of their sentence writing. Often shared aloud, these sentences could be chill inducing they were so beautiful. For many students, this was their first proof they could be excellent writers, once they learned how.

Lesson #3: Writing outcomes can be improved through the use of common assessments and common rubrics at the school, district, or even state level

Common assessments and common rubrics help educators develop a shared understanding of how to evaluate writing. This includes providing students with meaningful feedback and grading writing more consistently across a school, district, or even state.

Coordination among teachers can help establish a school-wide writing community that all students can tap into for peer review. It can also lead to greater consistency in writing instruction and evaluation. Such consistency builds trust between students and teachers, which in turn can strengthen students’ view of themselves as learners and increase their motivation to learn .

When students don’t have to figure out individual teacher preferences for writing—and they feel confident every teacher will grade their writing for substance not style—they can focus their mental energy on becoming better writers. This includes developing their own sense of how to use language(s) effectively for personal, academic, and civic purposes.

One way to foster student-teacher collaboration is to encourage students to enter writing contests . Student writing contests can range from local to national, and it’s worth some extra effort to find ones that are a good fit for your students. Once my journalism students began entering (and winning!) writing contests, these events became an annual tradition. My students also became more willing to work on their digital portfolios throughout the year.

At the district level, common assessments and common rubrics can help leaders identify schools that need more support, such as more professional learning for educators or more high-dosage tutoring for students . They can also identify schools that have model instruction and can serve as resources for others. If you’re looking for a place to start in your district, the Literacy Design Collaborative offers common analytic rubrics for several writing genres , and the New York Performance Standards Consortium provides a robust set of performance-based assessments and rubrics .

Districts that use state rubrics in their common writing assessments help ensure all educators have similar expectations of student writing. If your state assesses writing, check the state department of education website for newly released writing assessments and their accompanying rubrics. And if your state doesn’t assess writing, they may still offer writing materials for teachers to use.

Finally, NWEA is often asked about the connection between MAP® Growth™ and writing. MAP Growth does not include writing prompts, so it can’t take the place of high-quality formative assessment in the classroom ; it simply wasn’t designed to assess students’ writing. But MAP Growth can provide insights into students’ strengths and opportunities for growth, and these insights are especially helpful when educators use an integrated approach to reading and writing instruction.

The MAP Growth instructional areas for reading, for example, offer some information about how well students understand literary text, informational text, and vocabulary. Students who are performing below grade-level for vocabulary would likely benefit from more explicit vocabulary instruction, including more strategic exposure to roots and affixes. This expanded vocabulary knowledge can later be applied to students’ writing. One approach is to have students “speak in synonyms,” a kind of oral rehearsal that can be done with peers or small groups and then integrated into a piece of student writing. Meanwhile, students who struggle to comprehend informational text might benefit from a self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) approach to writing . This method teaches students to recognize, internalize, and utilize important genre features in writing. And since reading and writing are related, SRSD can help improve students’ comprehension of informational texts, too.

A recap of lessons learned

Writing is hard, and teaching writing may be harder still. As educators, we continually learn new lessons about how to help our students (and ourselves) become better writers. I hope the three lessons I’ve shared here are helpful to you and bring you closer to having every student see themselves as a capable writer or, better yet, an artist painting with words.

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The impact of a changed writing environment on students' motivation to write.

\r\nDebra Myhill

  • 1 School of Education, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 2 Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

Introduction: The act of writing is widely acknowledged to be a complex and challenging activity, and in parallel, we know that student motivation to write is a predictor of writing performance. So understanding what characteristics of the writing classroom support or foster motivation remains a salient concern. Research has shown that UK teachers are more likely to see themselves as readers than writers, which may affect how they teach writing.

Methods: This paper reports on student focus group interview data from a study which sought to strengthen teachers' sense of themselves as writers, and to examine the impact of this on students' classroom experience of writing and their writing outcomes. The participant teachers experienced a creative writing residential, which established a writing community led by two professional writers, with the goal of changing teachers' professional practice in their own writing classrooms. The study was mixed methods, comprising a randomized controlled trial and a comprehensive qualitative dataset collating data from both the residential and the classroom. This paper presents the qualitative analysis of 32 interviews with 16 student focus groups, exploring their responses to their teachers' changed practices and how it connected with their motivation to write.

Results: The interview analysis shows how many students responded positively to new teaching practices which gave them greater autonomy and choice, and established a more collaborative way of working. This led to increased confidence in and motivation to write.

Discussion: The study highlights the importance of the classroom environment in supporting and sustaining motivation to write, and underlines that motivation is not simply an internal characteristic of an individual but is situated within the context of a community of writers.

1. Introduction

The act of writing is well-recognized as cognitively and socially complex: indeed, Flower and Hayes argued that a writer is “ a thinker on a full-time cognitive overload” (1980, p. 33) and Kellogg (2008) has likened its cognitive demand to that of playing chess. It is a multidimensional construct, requiring mastery of multiple skills, ranging from transcription and orthography, the management of sentence and text structures; the generation of ideas; understanding the expectations of a genre; and navigating the relationship between reader and writer. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that motivation to write in school can be problematic. Research has suggested that that students' motivation to write appears to decline through schooling ( Boscolo and Gelati, 2019 ; Wright et al., 2020 ) although, of course, it is also the case that students' general motivation in school declines through adolescence (see, for example, Eccles et al., 1997 ; Gottfried et al., 2001 ; Raufelder and Kulakow, 2021 ). Nonetheless, addressing motivation in writing is important both academically, because so much examination success depends on competence in writing, and socially, because writing is a means of personal communication and expression, and ubiquitous in a digital world. The importance of investigating motivation in writing is further emphasized by studies which show positive links between motivational constructs and writing outcomes ( Pajares and Johnson, 1994 ; Troia et al., 2013 ; Graham et al., 2017 ; Camacho et al., 2021 ). In this article, we investigate writing motivation through a specific focus on the classroom environment for writing, considering student responses to changed teachers' pedagogical practices in teaching writing and how this may connect with their motivation to write. We argue that the nature of the classroom environment is an important factor in nurturing motivation to write.

2. Conceptual framework

In line with Wright et al. ( 2020 , p. 153), we define motivation to write as “ the variety of reasons a child may choose to engage in a writing task or decide to take steps to avoid that task.” This involves the beliefs, values, goals and dispositions that students bring to a writing task ( Boscolo and Gelati, 2019 ), and, crucially, how these are dynamically shaped over time through student experiences of the writing classroom. We adopt an interdisciplinary perspective on writing and writing motivation, in line with Graham (2018) who argues for an integration of cognitive and sociocultural perspectives. In particular, we recognize that the act of writing involves both cognitive mental processes and beliefs and behaviors shaped by classroom and broader social contexts. Accordingly, we have synthesized the literature into four themes which reflect this interdisciplinary perspective in different ways: self-efficacy beliefs about writing; autonomy, choice and control; writing as social practice; and the classroom environment for writing.

2.1. Self-efficacy beliefs about writing

The concept of self-efficacy is fundamentally concerned with individuals' personal sense of their capacity to be successful in a task, or as Bandura ( 1997 , p. 3) defined them, they are “ beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to produce given attainments.” These beliefs are powerful because they influence individuals' behavior and affective responses to a task, and the extent to which an individual is willing to engage with a particular task: if we believe we can achieve a task, even though it may be challenging, we are more likely to commit the necessary effort, whereas if we believe we cannot accomplish a task, we are less likely to expend effort. Thus self-efficacy beliefs “ play a central role in the cognitive regulation of motivation ” ( Bandura, 1997 , p. 122). Given that the act of writing is cognitively demanding, as noted above, even for highly competent writers, it is easy to recognize the inter-relationship between the cognitive demands of writing, students' self-efficacy beliefs about writing and being a writer, and motivation to write. In their study investigating motivation for writing in the middle school years, Wright et al. (2020) make the connection between writing motivation and self-efficacy beliefs, maintaining that “ a student with strong self-beliefs as a writer would be more likely to work hard and persevere through a challenging task, knowing he or she has the necessary skills to be successful” (p. 162). Similarly, Pajares and Valiante (2006) argue that students' confidence in their capability to write (their self-efficacy beliefs) contributes to their motivation to write and their writing outcomes. This association between self-efficacy beliefs and writing performance has been well-established (for example, McCarthy et al., 1985 ; Pajares and Johnson, 1994 ; Pajares and Valiante, 1999 ). However, Bruning et al. (2013) note that research has tended to view self-efficacy for writing as a unidimensional construct, when different aspects of the act of writing might generate differing self-efficacy beliefs. They posit and test a three-factor model of self-efficacy in writing, addressing ideation (generating ideas), conventions (mastery of norms of spelling, paragraphing, sentence structure etc), and self-regulation (managing decisions and behaviors while writing). Their study found that students did indeed hold different levels of self-efficacy beliefs on these three factors. This included finding stronger relationships between enjoying writing, and self-efficacy for ideation and self-regulation which may “ hint at the possibility of greater affect associated with writers” confidence for thinking of good ideas (ideation) and managing the writing process (self-regulation) than with believing they can capably execute writings' conventions' ( Bruning et al., 2013 , p. 35). Given the focus of this article on the classroom environment for writing, and the strong link between self-efficacy and writing motivation discussed here, it seems pertinent to consider whether and which pedagogical practices might support the generation of high self-efficacy beliefs. Summarizing substantive research on this, Pajares and Valiante ( 2006 , p. 167) conclude that meaningful writing activities; greater autonomy; choice in writing assignments; collaborative writing; self-regulation development; instruction well-matched to learning need; less competitive writing environments; and effective modeling practices have all been found to positively support writing self-efficacy beliefs.

2.2. Autonomy, choice, and control in writing

One set of influences affecting self-efficacy beliefs for writing noted in Pajares and Valiante's review of self-efficacy and writing (2006), described above, is giving greater autonomy and more choice in writing. Self-determination theory ( Ryan and Deci, 2000 ), one of the major theories of motivation, refers to an individual's sense of whether they are able to make choices and feel in control in a particular domain. One of the core concepts in self-determination theory is autonomy, defined as “ the psychological need to behave according to one's interests and values ” ( Turner et al., 2014 ). Pajares and Valiante (2006) note that control is also a key concept in attribution theory to explain motivation. It seems important, then, to consider the extent to which students in school contexts have autonomy as writers, and whether they feel they do have control and can make their own choices. As students progress through formal schooling, their experience of writing changes, from more typically engaging and expressive writing in the younger phases, through to a widening range of genres and greater emphasis on disciplinary writing. Wright et al. ( 2019 , p. 64) argue that “ by middle school, writing autonomy diminishes as the focus shifts and students are required to produce discipline-specific texts” and also that their writing experiences offer “ minimal opportunity for creativity and expression.” Alongside this reduction in choice of what to write about, learning about writing inevitably involves explicit teaching about how to write, in terms of the genre conventions of different texts and mastering the norms of writing in terms of spelling, punctuation, paragraphing and so on. This can decrease motivation for writing, according to Boscolo and Gelati (2013) because it demands conformity, rather than freedom for self-expression. The study of De Smedt et al. (2020) , looking at motivation for reading and writing, found that autonomous motivation decreased with age, and this may correspond to a parallel increase in controlled motivation as the teaching of writing becomes more oriented toward specific outcomes. At the heart of this is a dilemma for teachers: in order to become capable, confident writers, students need to develop proficiency with writing in an increasing range of genres and contexts, but the consequence of this appears to be a demotivating reduction in autonomy and choice.

There are, however, teaching strategies or practices which teachers can adopt which appear to support autonomy. For example, teaching self-regulation skills for writing has been argued to increase student control of the writing process ( Hidi and Boscolo, 2006 ; Pajares and Valiante, 2006 ; Graham et al., 2017 ; Wright et al., 2019 ). In effect, self-regulation shifts control from the teacher to the student, helping them to reflect on and understand how they manage the writing process, and use strategic behaviors to cope with problems or enable writing success. In addition to teaching self-regulation practices, Pajares and Valiante (2006) note that giving greater choice in writing tasks is important for motivation because the increased autonomy generates greater self-efficacy. In England, the experience of school closures during the COVID pandemic has provided unexpected evidence that greater autonomy and choice can affect motivation and enjoyment of writing. The National Literacy Trust's survey ( Clarke and Picton, 2020 ) of 4,140 students in 2020 found that students' enjoyment of writing had increased on previous years, with one in six students reporting that they were writing more during the pandemic lockdowns than previously. Respondents said that lockdown had inspired their writing, given them access to digital formats for writing, and created time and space for thinking and generating ideas. The report authors argue that “ having more time to write freely has contributed to their increased enjoyment of writing. Looking ahead, it seems that providing time for free writing once back in the classroom could help to sustain this positive outcome” (2020, p. 12). A key point here, however, is not simply about time, but that students were choosing of their own volition to write in this time, reflecting autonomy in their decision-making.

2.3. Writing as social practice

Although, in general, motivation research is typically investigated from a psychological perspective, there is also recognition that writing is not only about cognitive processes but also about social and cultural practices. Indeed, the students in Clark and Picton's survey reported writing for social purposes to help them cope with experience of lockdown, and to connect with others. Students learn to write not only through gradual mastery of transcription and composition, but also through situated learning in the “ contexts in which those practices and activities take their functions and meanings” ( Hidi and Boscolo, 2006 , p. 152). Contexts for writing are multi-layered, including (national) curriculum contexts, out-of-school and family contexts for writing, and digital contexts for writing. But for many students, the classroom is one of the most powerful contexts for shaping understandings about writing. The writer(s)-within-community model of writing, proposed by Graham (2018) , acknowledges the salience of sociocultural perspectives and integrates them with cognitive perspectives. The two core structures of the writers-within-community model are the writing community, representing the social and cultural contexts in which writing occurs, and writers and their collaborators, representing what individuals and groups bring to the act of writing. A writing community is a community of practice ( Lave and Wenger, 1991 ), bringing together people with a shared purpose, and engaging in “ a process of collective learning in a shared domain” ( Wenger-Trayner and Wenger-Trayner, 2015 ). From a sociocultural perspective, writing communities are characterized by collaboration and learning together, involving discussion and dialogic processes ( Moore, 2003 ; Hidi and Boscolo, 2006 ; Prior, 2006 ).

A social practice view positions writing as fundamentally about meaning-making, not just about text production, and frequently advocates authentic writing tasks (see for example, Behizadeh, 2014 , and Rodesiler and Kelley, 2017 ). This connects directly with research on writing motivation where meaningful authentic writing tasks are seen to enhance motivation ( Bruning and Horn, 2000 ; Hidi and Boscolo, 2006 ). The increase of enjoyment of writing during lockdown, reported in survey Clarke and Picton (2020) may, in part be attributable to the meaningfulness of the self-chosen writing as the students believed that writing during lockdown made them feel better emotionally.

2.4. The classroom environment for writing

The notion of writing as social practice occurring within a community of writers points to the significance of considering how the classroom context may shape student motivation for writing. This shifts the focus away from individual characteristics to a more complex, situated perspective ( Eccles and Wigfield, 2020 ; Nolen, 2020 ) which acknowledges the multiple and laminated systems of meaning constructed in a classroom environment. It creates space for consideration of the motivational climate, defined by Robinson ( 2023 ) as the “ characteristics of the educational setting that contribute to shaping motivational beliefs among students in that environment” (p. 5). Robinson argues that the motivational climate is not simply about observable teaching practices but about how students feel about their teaching and the meanings they create from it. She draws on achievement goal theory which brings together both achievement goals—the mastery or performance goals held by individuals, and goal structures—the teachers' policies and practices in the learning environment and the explicit goal-related messages they convey ( Wolters and Taylor, 2012 ; Bardach et al., 2020 ). Yet writing research has had surprisingly little to say about how the classroom writing environment might influence student motivation to write, other than frequent references to the technological “environment” for online and digital writing strategies (see Camacho et al., 2021 ). However, Bruning and Horn (2000) identify four conditions for writing motivation, which draw out the more complex interplay of student, teacher and contextual factors in the classroom:

1) Nurturing functional beliefs about writing .

2) Fostering student engagement through authentic writing goals and contexts .

3) Providing a supportive context for writing .

4) Creating a positive emotional environment (p. 27).

Their elaboration of these four conditions includes multiple references which connect well with the earlier discussion of self-efficacy beliefs about writing, autonomy, choice and control, and writing as social practice (for example, positive experiences of writing to boost self-efficacy; writing from personal interest; authentic tasks which connect with real-world experiences; peer feedback; giving students choice of what to write about; a collaborative writing community; and a safe space for writing).

Thus, as this synthesis of the research shows, there is little research, to our knowledge, which addresses the motivational climate of the writing classroom environment. Camacho, Alves and Boscolo ( 2021 ) systematic review of research on writing motivation in school concluded that there is a need for future research to give more attention to the relationship between teachers' instructional practices and student motivation, but this assumes, perhaps, a linearity between instructional practices and motivation which belies the situated complexity of the writing environment. Graham's (2018) work on writer(s)-within-community is significant in this respect, positioning learning about writing within a social and cognitive perspective. In this article, we seek to build on this work by investigating what students' responses to a changed classroom environment for writing reveal about its impact on their motivation to write.

3. Methodology

The data informing this paper are drawn from focus group interviews with students who were part of a larger study ( Teachers as Writers ). The study set out principally to explore whether a residential writing course, led by professional writers, would change teachers' beliefs about writing and themselves as writers, which would lead to changed teachers' practices in the classroom, and ultimately to improvements in students' writing. In England, teachers of English are more likely to be English Literature graduates ( Shortis and Blake, 2010 ), and more likely to see themselves as readers, rather than writers ( Gannon and Davies, 2007 ). Thus, in classroom practice they are often more expert in teaching reading and literary analysis, than writing. The benefit of teachers being writers themselves is popularly advocated as important in addressing this imbalance, giving teachers both greater confidence as writers and better professional understanding of the writing process: however, robust evidence of this has been limited ( Cremin and Oliver, 2017 ). Moreover, Bruning and Horn ( 2000 , p. 26) maintain that teachers' “ conceptions of writing will provide a model for and shape students' beliefs ” and argue for a strong connection between teachers' beliefs and students' writing motivation.

The study was mixed methods, involving a Randomized Controlled Trial and qualitative data comprising observations of the residential experience and subsequent classroom teaching; interviews with the professional writers, teachers and students involved; and teacher reflective audio-diaries. The project involved 32 teachers from schools in South-West England, teaching classes with students ranging from age 7–14 years old ( n = 711). There were eight primary (age 7–11) and eight secondary (age 12–14) classes in both the intervention and control group. The participating teachers attended a week-long writing residential at one of Arvon's writing centers (in SW England). The residential focussed on creative writing, and was led by two professional writers. Following the residential, each teacher and a professional writer together planned a narrative writing teaching unit which was then taught in school, including two lessons co-taught by the teacher and writer.

The findings are reported fully elsewhere ( Cremin et al., 2020 ; Myhill et al., 2021 ), but, in a nutshell, the “teachers as writers” experience impacted teachers' identities as writers, and led to changes in their classroom practice, but it did not lead to an improvement in student writing quality. However, it did have a positive impact on students' motivation and confidence as writers. It is this latter finding which this paper explores, drawing on the qualitative data from student focus group interviews, and addressing the research question—how do students respond to a changed classroom environment for writing, and how does this connect with their motivation to write?

3.1. The intervention

Because this paper is primarily concerned with students' perceptions of the changed teaching practices and writing environment following the writing residential, it is important here to consider how the intervention was anticipated to impact on teachers' practices in teaching writing and the writing environment the students would experience. A full overview of the residential programme is provided in Appendix A . In summary, the residential had a daily pattern of writing workshops as a group, one-to-one tutorials with a professional writer, and individual time and space for writing, making use of the natural environment of the residential center. In the workshops, tutors emphasized the recursivity or messiness of the writing process, sharing their own experiences as writers and the value of drawing from personal experience as a source of ideas. They used freewriting repeatedly in the workshop sessions to generate a flow of writing, and used a variety of prompts for writing, such as using artifacts, pictures or personal memories. However, teachers always had freedom to choose what to write about, and what form the writing took—and in the individual time and space for writing, they had autonomy about whether to write, or what pieces of writing to work on. Throughout the residential, the professional writers explicitly emphasized a collaborative writing environment establishing a community of writers, with teachers routinely sharing their writing drafts, and support and feedback from peers actively fostered. The week ended with shared publication of an anthology produced by the teachers and a presentation of writing, intended to give them autonomy, choice and control over what was included or not; to be a final act of collaboration and sharing as a writing community; and overall to boost their sense of self-efficacy as writers. The intention was that this experience would lead to changed classroom practices and ultimately to improved student outcomes in writing. The Theory of Change model is represented in Figure 1 .

Figure 1 . The theory of change model.

3.2. Data collection and data analysis process

The data drawn on for this paper derive from 16 student focus groups, each interviewed twice. Focus group interviews were chosen because the participants were children, and the group context is less intimidating than individual interviews, and in education, they are viewed as empowering participants, giving primacy to their voices ( Bourne and Winstone, 2021 ). They also allow for participants to respond to and explore the contributions of others, rather than being wholly interviewer-led: “ they involve the interaction of group participants with each other as well as with the researcher-moderator ” ( Wilkinson, 2006 , p. 223), and thus, they are seen as generating rich, in-depth data, capable of making visible where agreements and disagreements exist ( Gill and Baillie, 2018 ). In planning for and conducting the focus group interviews, we adopted the method recommended by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) because of their understanding of researching in classrooms, and because of its acceptability to both schools and researchers in the UK context. They recommended five steps: (1) Develop the questions; (2) Identify the sample; (3) Conduct the interviews; (4) Draw together and analyse the data; and (5) Report the findings ( National Foundation for Educational Research, 2013 , p. 3).

The first step, therefore, involved designing a semi-structured interview for each of the two interviews. The first interview sought to explore five constructs: their perceptions of writing; their perceptions of the teaching of writing; their understanding of the writing process; their enjoyment of and motivation to write; and their confidence and perceived skills as writers. The second interview was particularly designed to elicit their responses to any changes in how they were taught writing, or changes in their attitudes toward writing (see Appendix B ). It allowed us to build on the ideas and responses of the first interview, supporting member-checking through the interviewing process ( Harvey, 2015 ). The interview questions were designed avoiding closed questions, and taking care to frame questions to invite open responses and within-group discussion. The second step, identifying the sample, drew on the 16 intervention classes, from each of which a focus group of six students was formed. This offered homogeneity in age, class teacher and experience of the teaching following the teachers' writing residential. The students were selected by the class teacher, stratified by gender and by writing attainment, using national assessment data: this added some heterogeneity to the sample, ensuring greater representativeness of students from each class. In line with Flores and Alonso (1995) , we feel this created a “ balance between the components of uniformity and diversity, achieving groups homogeneous in those characteristics that affect the discussed topic and groups that are heterogeneous in features that are not relevant in relation to it” (p. 89). The interviews were conducted by one of the research team of six (Step 3): each researcher was allocated specific schools throughout the project and managed all project liaison, observed lessons, and built relationships with both the students and the teacher. This mitigated the power relationship between interviewer and participants, and all the interviewers were experienced in interviewing children. Each focus group was interviewed twice: firstly, immediately after the teachers returned from the residential, and 3 months later, after the intervention was complete. The interviews were audio-recorded and subsequently professionally transcribed. Steps 4 and 5 of the NFER focus group method are reported further below.

The analysis of the interviews was principally inductive, following a systematic process of thematic analysis outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006) . This means that themes are “ strongly linked to the data themselves…without trying to fit it into a pre-existing coding frame, or the researcher's analytic preconceptions ” (p. 83). The coding was undertaken by the authors and the first step involved shared reading and initial discussion of the interviews. Then each coder independently coded the same interview and allocated an appropriate descriptive code to the data segments. This initial coding was shared, discussed and refined, then developed iteratively, with constant refinement of code labels and checking of appropriate attribution of data segments to codes as more interviews were coded. These were then clustered into sub-themes of related codes, and finally each sub-theme was grouped thematically under the constructs structuring the interview schedule. Throughout the coding process, the coders met to ensure consistency, particularly through constant comparison, which involved refining the codes, identifying their properties, and exploring their inter-relationships ( Taylor and Bogdan, 1984 , p. 126). When all coding and clustering was complete, a final check of all data segments in each sub-theme was made to ensure consistent application of coding agreements. The final set of themes and sub-themes is outlined in Table 1 .

Table 1 . The final set of themes and sub-themes derived from the analysis of the focus group interviews.

Trustworthiness in qualitative research refers to the confidence of readers that a research study has been conducted and reported in a rigorous manner. It is not concerned with replicability as in quantitative research, it is concerned with trust and transparency. Table 2 provides a summary of trustworthiness in this study.

Table 2 . The trustworthiness of the study.

4. The outcomes of the focus group interview analysis

In order to address the research question ( How do students respond to a changed classroom environment for writing, and how does this connect with their motivation to write?) we will draw on three of the themes—perceptions about the teaching of writing; enjoyment and motivation; and confidence and perceived skills as writers—as these evidence most closely the students' responses to their changed classroom environment for writing and their motivation to write. In presenting the data below, all quotations from the interviews are in italics with speech marks, and we indicate in brackets whether a student was in our primary school sample (aged 7–11) or in our secondary school sample (aged 12–14). The quotations used have been selected to exemplify both typical responses in a theme, and also the diversity of responses.

4.1. Perceptions about the teaching of writing

This theme clustered together comments where students expressed their views about how they were being taught writing, and strategies and approaches which they felt benefitted or hindered their learning as writers. This theme reflects particularly the teaching practices which characterized the classroom environment, and provides a context for later themes, as the students do talk explicitly about changed pedagogical practices which they found helpful. Four sub-themes were generated within this theme, as detailed in Table 3 .

Table 3 . The sub-themes of the perceptions about the teaching of writing theme.

Students identified a range of strategies in their lessons which they found helpful for writing , and which were largely common across both pre- and post-intervention interviews and across all focus groups. These included, for example, teacher scaffolding and modeling of writing; sharing of ideas for writing; the use of exemplar materials and reference resources; one-to-one support when stuck with writing; and teacher feedback and target setting. These reflect typical national practices in the teaching of writing in England at the time, shaped by curriculum guidance and national assessment. However, some aspects were much more prominent in the post-intervention interviews and some new features emerged. For example, there was an increased emphasis on the value of individual support and feedback from both teachers and peers, particularly in relation to editing. Sharing ideas and writing as a class or with partners was also more frequently cited, especially as a resource for “magpie-ing” (borrowing ideas or language choices from others). This included noting the benefit of teachers who wrote alongside and shared their writing, which meant “ we can sometimes use some of the ideas from hers” (Primary). There were new references to freewriting and its affordances, which suggest that students found it eased the problems of starting writing. For some, freewriting appeared to reduce the cognitive load of attending simultaneously to idea generation and accurate transcription: “ it's helpful because while you're writing, it doesn't make you think like, oh, I've got to do punctuation, I've got to do this and that. You can just do it after” (Secondary). For others, it was principally a strategy which enabled idea generation and imaginative engagement: “ it helps you get your ideas flowing” (Secondary); and “ it helps us use our creative thinking…it lets you access your imagination more” (Secondary). The use of artifacts and different environments for writing were also identified as helpful for idea generation and descriptive writing, because, as one student explained, being outside “ helps trigger ideas, whereas before just sitting in the classroom with loads of people talking and things, it was quite hard to think of anything” (Primary) .

Students made far fewer comments about what they felt was unhelpful for writing —a total of just 13 comments across both interviews, compared with 264 comments on what they found helpful. This could be attributable to the absence of a direct question in the interview addressing this, and certainly in future research, it would be useful to explore this more explicitly. What students did comment on linked very directly with common teaching practices in England, which are sometimes very directional and over-scaffolded ( Barrs, 2019 ). Students identified tightly-prescribed tasks or processes (such as obligatory planning) as inhibitors. Sentence starters, paragraph starters or “tight themes” were often perceived as disabling, with one student observing that “ I don't know how to write it if it's not my story” (Secondary).

The post-intervention interview included specific questions about any changes in teaching they had observed since the writing residential. Students in all focus groups observed recent changes in teaching followed teacher attendance at the writing residential, and the majority found the changed practices supportive. A common theme was the perceived relaxation of pressure and prescription:

□ “ (she's) taking the pressure off us ” (Primary);

□ “ she's been a lot more open…(less) precise about what we're going to do” (Primary);

□ “ it's less kind of about rules and it's more about creativity” (Secondary);

□ “ before we were like locked up and we had to do stuff we were told to do, now we've been let out” (Secondary).

Freewriting was again cited, this time as a newly-encountered strategy which offered particular creative license because “ you don't really have any limitations, so it's literally whatever you want it to be… basically you're free to determine your outcome (Secondary) .” Students also noticed “more active” and “interactive” approaches to writing and greater collaboration, identifying talk partners, editing buddies, paired writing and peer feedback as supportive. They also appreciated more time and “ space to think” and “ more space to just write,” without having to “ worry about trying to get bits done right then and there” (Secondary). Some students observed that teaching had become less didactic: their teachers had “ backed off a bit” and were less inclined to “ spoon-feed” (Secondary). Rather than provide detailed guidance, these teachers tended to offer “clues” or prompts, and encourage independent thinking:

□ “ (Before), she just gave us something to write down and we just wrote it. And now it's kind of thinking of our own ideas” (Primary);

□ “ Before…she'd have like specific tasks, whereas now she just gives us an idea and we have to use our brains more (Secondary)” ;

□ “ I think she's helping us more by not helping us as much” (Secondary).

□ “ (The teacher) is now a last resort for us” (Secondary).

These comments regarding a less didactic approach were paralleled by observations that where teachers positioned themselves as co-writers, writing in the classroom, students were more aware of shared learning—“ She can learn at the same time, but then she can teach us what she's learned” (Primary). This included recognition that the teacher as a writer does not know “ what they're doing 100% all the time … they don't really know what they're doing at some points” (Primary).

In the post-intervention interviews, students also discussed the experience of being taught by professional writers . They welcomed writers' specialist expertise: they could provide “ a professional view on writing…like how she plans and how she writes it down and how she sees the work” (Secondary), and “ you trust them” (Secondary). Students noted writers' expert subject knowledge about “ good ways to do it” (Primary), “ what works well” (Secondary) and the “ qualities people look for” (Secondary). This included comments on and growing purposefulness in editing through being advised “ to zoom in on our stories and make them better…like put all the detail in” (Primary) or “ how to cut in, like cropping a picture but you like cut into what you're actually supposed to be writing about, other than like trailing off” (Primary).

Writers' approaches to teaching were widely regarded as both “fun” and “helpful .” In particular, students identified their help with idea generation: “ the way (the writer) teaches it helps you a bit more because he knows how difficult it is to think of the ideas” (Secondary). Their use of “fun scenarios ,” “stories ,” modeled examples and suggested possibilities “ makes your imagination run wild” (Secondary). Writers were perceived as encouraging—“ by saying you can do it” (Primary) and as promoting a sense of ownership—“ he said it doesn't mean that ours is wrong — it's just the way we think of it” (Primary); “ it doesn't matter what other people think, it's about what you think” (Primary). They also provided “inspiring” role models. According to one primary group, having a writer in the classroom: “ gives you ideas”; “gives you a voice”; “gives you an idea of what you want to do when you're older”; “(gives you) a sense of what you need to do (to be a writer)”; “helps us improve stuff”; “sharpens the mind” and “ inspires us.”

However, not all students welcomed all aspects of change in teaching. Some found freewriting stressful and preferred more structure and time to plan: “ I like having a subject to write about more than making up something, because I find it hard (Primary) .” Peer feedback was not always regarded as helpful, often because it was insufficiently critical, and some students preferred to rely on their own judgement. A few students found professional writers “ just a bit over the top” and “ intimidating” : “ having a professional writer, you feel like, oh, this has got to be perfect, and if I read it out and it's not good…he's going to criticize me” (Secondary).

In summary, students' perceptions of the teaching of writing show awareness of the teachers' changed classroom practices after the intervention. In particular, many students enjoyed freewriting because of the freedom it gave them and its support for ideation. They also noted the less didactic teaching with reduced teacher control of the writing tasks and greater student freedom, and they welcomed the expertise of the professional writers. Some students, however, found the greater freedom and reduced teacher direction less helpful.

4.2. Enjoyment and motivation to write

This theme focuses more directly on students' reported enjoyment of their writing lessons, and the established positive connection between enjoyment and motivation to write ( Reeve, 1989 ; Zumbrunn et al., 2019 ). The pre-intervention interviews invited students to consider whether they enjoyed writing or not, and whether they felt pleased with their writing. This was followed up in the post-intervention interviews with more focused questions on their enjoyment of the writing they had been undertaking during the intervention. The sub-themes are presented in Table 4 .

Table 4 . The sub-themes of the enjoyment and motivation to write theme.

Across both sets of interviews and all age groups, enhancers of enjoyment related to creative freedom, autonomy and ownership, and use of imagination—typical comments included:

□ “ I just like being free when I write…I like being in my head when I'm writing. I like writing what I'm thinking, what I like. I just enjoy writing…whatever I want” (Primary);

□ “ The thing I most enjoy about writing is how much you can use your imagination…it really is just something of your mind that will go the reader and say ‘wow'!” (Primary);

□ “ I really, really do like creative writing because I think that I can just kind of like set my mind kind of like free, just like let everything out because it's my piece of writing and like, well obviously, you can criticize it but it's my point of view” (Secondary).

With few exceptions, students favored creative genres such as story writing, poetry, and play scripts, which they associated with greater freedom and personal expression. Approximately one quarter of students claimed to write at home for pleasure either regularly, “ occasionally” or “ when bored,” and invariably chose creative forms. Aside from text messaging, Facebook and snapchat (which they didn't count as “ long” writing), the most frequently cited genres were stories, poems, songs and diaries.

In contrast, detractors from enjoyment included non-fiction writing, notably report writing and essays, which they associated with rules and constraints, such as having to use “PEE” paragraphs (a widely-used paragraphing scaffold in England: Point; Evidence; Example). They also disliked prescribed tasks and topics:

□ “ I don't like the fact that most of the time you just have…to do stuff that the teacher says” (Primary);

□ “ I don't like people telling me ‘you have to write this”' (Primary).

□ “ I don't like doing things I'm told to do” (Secondary).

Some students found inflexible routines such as planning before writing or correcting after writing painful and demotivating:

□ “ I actually hate planning for creative writing…it kind of stops the freedom because if you're sat there planning, say, a mind map…it's just really irritating, especially if you already have the entire story plot in your mind” (Secondary);

□ “ I hated it when I went to [the teacher], because then my dream was just crushed…it's taken me at least two days now to complete two words…she put all the mistakes in and I have to go and correct it now, and it's killing me” (Primary).

One clear message in the post-intervention interviews was the enjoyment students derived from new approaches to classroom writing. Whilst this might be due to a sense that they were supposed to enjoy the post-intervention teaching, the detail in the comments show precise reflections on what enhanced their enjoyment, and did relate specifically to teaching strategies encouraged in the intervention. Many of the students described the changes in teaching approach as liberating and “ fun,” in terms of pleasure: “ It's a lot more free and it's not as strict, because we get to kind of relax and just have fun and just write” (Secondary); and in terms of excitement: “ (writing before) was pretty boring, but this is more exciting…I like it when I can write without having to think about it” (Secondary). They identified increased freedom to create and exercise their imaginations as significant, and freewriting was enjoyed particularly.

Students welcomed the more flexible approaches to generating writing, not only the freewriting which “ really let my ideas flow” (Secondary) but also the greater attention to drafts: “ I've enjoyed doing drafts, because before we didn't do drafts and it's a lot harder to edit it and find every detail. But when you look through it and then you make another draft it's a lot easier” ( Primary). They also enjoyed a greater emphasis on interactive and collaborative approaches, including more sharing of ideas, talk partners, and peer review: “ The whole classroom has become more relaxed—you can share ideas and feedback (Secondary ).” Some students identified more relaxed classroom environments for writing (e.g., shoes off; teacher as co-writer) and different locations for writing as promoting engagement.

The encouragement of teachers and professional writers were felt to impact positively on motivation:

□ “ (the writer) was well enthusiastic…it makes you want to do it more” ( Secondary);

□ “ you want to put your best into it…you want to make an impression to show that you're capable of the same level when you get older” (Secondary);

□ “ if she likes something in your book she tells you to do it at home and like she encourages you to do more writing at home” (Secondary).

Some also felt their attitude to writing had changed or that they were more inclined to engage in writing beyond school as a consequence of the intervention:

□ In September I didn't really like writing, now I do (Primary);

□ I didn't really like writing but now I'm getting into it. I can do more (Secondary);

□ At the start I didn't really enjoy poetry as much, and when (the writer) came up with the “I remember” poem idea, I've written stuff at home and I've used that kind of technique (Secondary).

Some students observed changes in behavior and motivation post-intervention, with one student observing that “ People mucking about has gone down—they enjoy the tasks more so they're putting more into it” (Secondary).

However, enjoyment of intervention activities was not unqualified. A few students disliked the more open writing briefs, preferring a structured approach and greater guidance. Freewriting was sometimes perceived as too pressured:

□ “ These past few weeks have been rushed writing. I like to plan and just pause and think… setting what it should be, the structure, knowing what to do” (Secondary).

□ “ The ‘just write' thing is freeing in some ways but also it pins you down because you know you have to produce a good piece within five minutes of thinking of it…often I don't have ideas straight away” (Secondary).

For some, the emphasis on editing was tedious and stressful: “ (it) takes loads of time” and “ makes you stress, you just want to feel free and do what you want in your stories” (Primary). Less confident writers did not enjoy sharing their writing aloud, because “ I feel like I just can't compete” (Secondary) or because of dissatisfaction with their writing, “ I always think I can do something better” (Secondary). Others disliked peer review and found unhelpful feedback from peers irritating, for example, “ you ignore it because sometimes they just point out all your missing full stops and that's it” (Secondary).

Overall, the students' responses in this theme demonstrate a strong link for many between enjoyment of writing and motivation to write. Greater creative freedom was associated with increased agency and ownership of writing, and greater emotional engagement, whilst the provision of supportive feedback, including peer feedback was welcomed.

4.3. Confidence and perceived skills

The pre- and post-intervention interviews sought to elicit students' confidence in themselves as writers, and their own self-efficacy perceptions, in order to determine whether the intervention had in anyway altered their self-perceptions. The analysis generated six sub-themes, as described in Table 5 .

Table 5 . The sub-themes of the confidence and perceived skills as a writer theme.

In the pre-intervention interviews, the student self-descriptions of themselves as writers divided rather evenly across different proficiency levels. Approximately one third described themselves as “ good” writers who were usually pleased with the writing they produced. A further third claimed they were “ OK ” writers or were “ sometimes good, sometimes bad ,” often depending on the nature of the task or their interest in the topic. A final third considered themselves “ not good” or “ rubbish” and a number felt they couldn't judge: “ I don't know, it kind of depends on whether anybody else says it's good or not” (Secondary). The majority of students also felt their writing had improved gradually over time, with their perceived strengths being accuracy, use of the imagination, and ideas for writing. Nevertheless, when reflecting on perceived weaknesses , half of all responses across the age groups described difficulties with the “ struggle to get started” (Primary) and with idea generation. These comments indicated a sense of personal inadequacy in this area: the inability to “ think of ideas” (Primary), “ to come up with ideas” (Primary), and for one student, the perception that “ I just don't have any ideas” (Secondary). A small number identified weaknesses in vocabulary and the need to “ look in a thesaurus more often” ( Primary) and problems with concentration on the writing task, with one student reflecting that “ After a while I just get a bit distracted” (Secondary).

In the post-intervention interviews, the students made fewer comments about their perceived self-efficacy, but made significantly more comments about their perceived progress, talking about their improvement in relation to the teacher intervention rather than the more general comments about progress over time which featured in the pre-intervention interviews. They also made more comments post-intervention about what supported or diminished their confidence, albeit these numbers are small (see Table 6 ).

Table 6 . Showing the number of data segments coded to each sub-theme.

Some of the comments on perceived progress cited general improvements: for example, one student maintained that “o ver, say, the last six, seven weeks I've improved drastically…it's had a massive impact” (Secondary) whilst another felt “ It's made my levels go higher” (Secondary). However, many of the comments referred directly to the changed teaching strategies introduced after the writing residential, including the use of personal notebooks—“ the orange books [personal notebook] and all the new ways we're being helped have definitely helped me a lot” (Primary). There was particular reference to improved ability to generate good ideas, with students reporting finding “ it easier to think of things to write” (Secondary), being “ better at making stuff up” (Primar y) , and perceiving that “ the teacher likes my stories more now…I've got better ideas” (Primary). At the same time, far fewer students identified generating ideas as a perceived weakness . Other perceived improvements included increased accuracy and control in text structure: “ I've definitely improved on ending and beginning sentences, paragraphs, punctuation, lots of things…all because of (the teacher) and the support she's given us in our story writing” (Primary); the use of greater descriptive detail (“ before I didn't use as much description as I do now”); and vocabulary choice, using “ a wider range of vocabulary” (Secondary).

The students reported high levels of satisfaction with the writing they had produced over the course of the project, with many claiming their confidence had improved:

□ “ I've got more confident with my writing” (Secondary );

□ “ Because we've had the chance to write what we want…it makes you more proud of what you've done because it's more yours” (Secondary);

□ “ Usually I'm not confident…because I don't think I'm very good…but because of this little project I feel a bit more confident with my work because occasionally it's actually quite good and it makes sense” (Secondary);

□ “ I feel a bit more free with my writing…like I feel I could write more…I feel more confident when I'm writing stuff like this” (Secondary).

Students often associated progress and increased confidence with perceived shifts in classroom approach—in particular, the greater emphasis on idea generation; the use of new drafting and revising strategies which had made writing easier; and more opportunities for collaboration and feedback at formative stages of writing. Improvements in idea generation were often attributed to “ warming up” activities and sharing of ideas before writing, which “ helps my mind get going and I'm writing better stuff” (Secondary). Writing activities which encouraged students to draw on their personal experience or memories as a basis for narrative were perceived by some to have strengthened confidence because “ starting with the memories and then making it more imaginary…gave us more confidence in a way” (Secondary). They were also viewed as increasing the sense of ownership and individuality: “ it's highly unlikely as well that someone's going to have written the same sort of story as yours, which is a nice feeling that you've written your own work” (Secondary). The emphasis in project activities, and particular the writers' testimonies, on the value personal experience or observation offered for story-writing appeared to have altered some students' self-regulation of their writing strategies:

□ “ Well [the writer] said he got his inspiration from real life, like, occurrences, like road names, he'd use them…I've started to use my real-life experiences of seeing things and put that in to a story which I'm going to write for my assessment” (Secondary);

□ “ I have used life experiences and all those things, because you can't just make them out of nowhere. But I'm, sort of, looking out for them now” (Secondary).

Students' perceived progress was also linked to improvement in revising/editing skills as a consequence of changed teaching strategies. Younger students claimed to have started editing or were doing “more editing .” This involved re-reading for sense, correcting errors, improving word choice and sometimes more substantive change such as restructuring for reader impact:

“ I read through my story and mine features a ghost. And in the second paragraph it already started about who it was. And then I read through it and actually they could, if I got rid of that bit and put it at the end…then the readers could guess who it is” (Primary).

Some older students described revising their texts in new ways. For some, this related to being more inclined to re-read and “ check ” their work, noting for example, a change from limited attention to revision where “ occasionally I've changed a few sentences…but half the time I didn't” to greater awareness of the value of re-reading—“ now I will always read, I'll try and get through all of it” (Secondary). Other students described paying greater attention to deleting unnecessary material and making every sentence count:

□ “ In the past I used to…just throw everything in there, you know, ramble. But now I think about every sentence I write and if I feel it doesn't fit…I do cross it out — that makes for very messy writing!” (Secondary);

□ “ I used to ramble quite a lot. And now I think about every single sentence I write, like it has to be part of the story…so I'll write a draft, and then I'll think what I don't need…it may work but it's not relevant to the actual story, it doesn't need to be in there.” (Secondary).

A smaller number of students identified which teaching strategies they perceived as helpful for confidence . New drafting strategies such as freewriting were perceived to have helped with fluent idea generation and facilitated a more effective writing process, where planning was conceived more broadly than an outline of the intended text. One student reflected that when “ we have to like plan out our things, sometimes I do the freewriting thing just so I can put it down and it's kind of a draft in itself” (Secondary). Another student, referring to the experience of being co-taught by the professional writers, had learned about a more flexible approach to generating ideas, where “ instead of just putting like one idea and just sticking with it, you can put multiple ideas and then choose whatever one you want, and edit it” (Secondary). Students also noted the more collaborative writing environments, which included sharing of writing, as helpful to “ build confidence.” For some, this way of working was “ less competitive” (Secondary). Younger students in particular seemed to find support in the mutuality of collaborative working because “ I help her with her writing and she helps me with mine” (Primary); and “ if you have a problem you can just ask (your talk partner) and they can help you” (Primary). The collaborative writing environment also built confidence through creating space for positive or “ constructive” feedback—“ we read all our homework out and she said just give positive feedback and it helped and made you feel nice about what you've done” (Secondary). When teachers shared their own writing problems or got emotional reading their work aloud, students identified with them and felt reassured:

□ “ People think, ah, she's an English teacher, she should be confident, proud in her work, but she's not, she has insecurities about her work and obviously we can relate to her” (Secondary );

□ “ When she was reading it, she started turning round because she got emotional… don't be scared when you're reading your work out” (Primary).

However, for a few students the changed teaching strategies were perceived as unhelpful for confidence . Those already less confident writers sometimes found hearing their friends reading their work demoralizing because, as one student expressed it, “ oh I wish I could be like that. They're much more better than me, so I put myself down” (Secondary). For these students, sharing their writing was a fearful experience, making them “ so scared that other people would judge it badly.” Equally, in contrast to the many student observations of the helpfulness of freewriting, a minority found it difficult and felt they had lost confidence or that their writing had deteriorated: “ I think I'm going the opposite way with my creative writing…when I was little, I used to be really creative, but now it's kind of just going” (Secondary).

Comments in this theme show many students were more aware of perceived progress in writing post-intervention than increased self-efficacy, and increased confidence attributed to a more collaborative environment, sharing work with each other.

Overall, the analysis of the focus group interviews shows clear recognition of the changed practices in teaching writing during the intervention, and in general, the students responded with positivity and enjoyment to these changes. Whilst there is always the possibility of a halo effect in their responses, their references to specific strategies or practices with high alignment to those of the teachers' residential experiences suggests they are genuinely commenting on the particular changed writing environment encouraged by the Arvon writing community.

5. Discussion

Before discussing the implications of these findings for our understanding of motivation to write, it is important to be cautious, even parsimonious, in how we interpret these data. Firstly, they are highly context-specific. The Arvon writing residential is founded upon a very definite sense of values and commitment to a particular kind of writing community. The teachers in our study were willing to attend the residential despite its demands on their own free time, so may not be representative of all teachers of writing: certainly some were already keen writers, and others were motivated by a desire to learn more about being a writer in order to help their classroom practice. The writing undertaken was creative writing, thus not reflecting the wider range of writing types student are expected to master as they mature as writers. The focus group interviews are time-specific and closely linked to the intervention, and we cannot be sure that the student responses would be sustained over time. Secondly, the analysis synthesizes the data into themes and sub-themes across the dataset, but this is not generalisable, even within the dataset—for example, not all teachers gave the students notebooks for “messy” writing. As would be expected, the transfer of learning by the teachers from the Arvon writing residential was not uniform, and was mediated by the teachers in different ways. Therefore, in the discussion which follows, we seek to explore the implications of the students' responses through consideration of two over-arching themes, rather than focusing too closely on particular details, and from this suggest fruitful lines of enquiry for further research.

5.1. The importance of autonomy and choice in writing

One over-arching theme running through the students' responses is how they valued the greater autonomy and choice that they experienced in the post-residential intervention. This connects with the emphasis on autonomy and autonomous motivation in the research ( Ryan and Deci, 2000 , 2020 ; Turner et al., 2014 ; Robinson, 2023 ), and particularly with study De Smedt et al. (2020) in the context of reading and writing. The student comments indicate how they value being able to exercise volition when learning to write: they referred especially to freewriting, which supported idea generation and allowed them to follow their own ideas. They also enjoyed having writing notebooks, or “messy” books, which again gave freedom about what to write, but also freedom for teacher intervention and evaluation. For some, the new sense of autonomy was expressed in terms of greater ownership of their work (“my story”; “my point of view” ), and a reduced dependence on the teacher, who for one student had become a “ last resort.”

In parallel to the students' espousal of autonomy in writing as a positive thing, their dislike of being controlled was also evident, particular when they talked about what diminished their enjoyment and motivation to write (the sub-theme, “detractors”). They dislike the teacher telling them what they have to write, having “ to do stuff that the teacher says,” and having “ to stay in the boundaries.” On one level, this relates to the desire for greater choice about topic and what to write, but it also relates to very constrained writing practices. The students noted changes in their teachers' behaviors, such as being less prescriptive about what they were doing, having less emphasis on rules, and less constraint—or as one student pithily expressed it, “ before we were like locked up and we had to do stuff we were told to do, now we've been let out.” The students' reflections regarding a lack of autonomy in the writing classroom echo broader national concerns about a highly-constrained writing curriculum ( Bearne, 2017 ; Barrs, 2019 ; Hardman and Bell, 2019 ). Typical writing practices in England involve a high level of direct instruction, tending to tell students exactly how they must write a particular text, and more oriented toward normative compliance than to fostering understanding of how texts work and how writers' choices can shape reader responses. Of course, teachers themselves do not have full autonomy in teaching writing according to their own interests and values as many are required to teach within the expectations of a specified writing curriculum, or with specific writing assessments in mind.

5.2. The importance of a collaborative writing community

The second over-arching theme emerging from our analysis is the students' recognition of a change in the atmosphere of the writing classroom. They felt that the classroom had become more relaxed, and less pressured, and one where collaboration was actively encouraged. The use of talk partners and writing buddies was received positively, and students seemed to enjoy the opportunity to “ share ideas and feedback.” The sense of a collaborative writing community was strengthened by the visibility of the teachers as writers themselves, sharing their writing, but also sharing their vulnerability, such as becoming emotional when reading aloud their writing, and revealing “ insecurities about her work.” It also involved teachers being positioned as learners within the community, who can “ learn at the same time” as the students, and not necessarily be certain about everything. From a socio-cultural perspective, Prior has argued that “ teachers in schools are always co-authors (often dominant ones) in students writing” ( Prior, 2006 , p. 58) because of their role in the production of student texts through determining what students, when they write, and the changes made through informal and formal feedback. However, what is perhaps more evident in the classrooms in our study is a sense of teachers as co-writers, not from a position of superiority, but from one of shared learning.

Both Hidi and Boscolo (2006) and Pajares and Valiante (2006) refer to collaborative writing as motivational, but the students did not mention collaborative writing, where one text is produced by two or more authors. What the students seem to be discerning is a change to a more collaborative community of practice for writing, bringing together people with a shared purpose, and engaging in “ a process of collective learning in a shared domain” ( Wenger-Trayner and Wenger-Trayner, 2015 ). This collective learning community may also have created a stronger sense of the meaningfulness of the writing. The notion of meaningfulness of a task or domain has been linked with motivation ( Wigfield and Eccles, 2002 ; Behizadeh, 2014 ) and Hidi and Boscolo argue that such meaningfulness is less about the writing tasks themselves but is “ deeply rooted in the context in which writing is a meaningful authentic activity ” (2006, p. 144). The students made no direct reference to meaningfulness, but the comments in Table 6 above may indicate that the changed ways of working together, including the greater autonomy, allowed for more emotional engagement with the writing as intrinsically meaningful to them.

5.3. A motivational climate for writing

The two over-arching themes discussed above are less about specific teaching strategies than they are about the context in which writing occurs. They point to the importance of the environment for writing and how it can be a motivational climate for writing. Robinson ( 2023 ) argues that the motivational climate is not simply about observable teaching practices but about how students feel about their teaching and the meanings they create from it. Certainly, the responses of the students in our study reflect more than the like or dislike of particular teaching strategies. The students may have shown high appreciation of the freewriting strategy, but this might diminish over time if repeatedly used over time: its significance is in the autonomy it offers. Previous research on motivation has often identified constructs or characteristics which lead to higher motivation. For example, Turner et al. (2014) structured an intervention around the principles of autonomy, competence, belongingness and meaningfulness; Linnenbrink-Garcia et al. (2016) focused on the need to support students' feelings of competence, autonomy, use personally relevant and active tasks, emphasize learning and de-emphasize social comparison, and encourage feelings of belonging. Specifically related to writing motivation, Bruning and Horn (2000) synthesized research findings into four constructs: nurture positive beliefs about writing; establish authentic writing goals; generate a supportive context; create a positive emotional environment. However, it may be more valuable to think more specifically about a writing environment, within which these characteristics might be integrated, and to conduct more studies which look more holistically at the environment for writing.

As Camacho et al. (2021) review indicates, research in writing motivation has tended to focus predominantly on self-efficacy. Although there have been studies which have investigated the relationship between particular teaching strategies and motivation, these focus on the strategy not the teacher. However, it may be even more important to consider the role of the teacher in establishing a motivational writing environment. Research has addressed teacher competence or self-efficacy in teaching writing ( Cutler and Graham, 2008 ; Hodges, 2015 ; Wright et al., 2019 ), rather than considering their identity as writers. The writing residential attended by the teachers changed, to varying degrees, their identity as writers and their stance toward writing: it was this change that translated into the way they altered the environment for writing. Further research might focus more on the relationship between a teacher's identity as a writer and how this plays out in the classroom environment. At the same time, it is important to take account of the realities of the classroom and the educational context. Whilst a writing community might ideally involve members being “ mutually engaged in using writing to accomplish a desired purpose” ( Graham, 2018 , p. 259), in many writing classrooms there is limited mutual engagement, and teachers struggle to engage students in writing activities. Although a more constructive writing environment might enable better engagement and motivation to write, in practice, many teachers are juggling with externally-imposed constraints which may conflict with their own espoused beliefs and enacted practices.

6. Conclusion

In this paper, we have highlighted the importance of the classroom environment in supporting and sustaining motivation to write. In particular, we have pointed to students' positive responses to the collaborative environment they experienced, resonating with Bruning and Horn's advocacy of “ a climate of trust, caring, and mutual concern” ( Bruning and Horn, 2000 , p. 34), and their valuing of autonomy and choice. These facets are strongly linked to the nature of the intervention, and further research in different contexts is needed to investigate this further. It is also important to investigate the balance between student autonomy and teacher control, particularly in relation to direct instruction. Given the known importance of explicit teaching of writing ( Graham and Perin, 2007 ), it may be possible to conceive of writing environments where direct instruction is not perceived by students as synonymous with loss of autonomy.

Greater attention to the writing environment would also benefit from more integration of sociocultural and sociological perspectives on writing, which foreground writing as social practice. The Writer(s)-within-Community model ( Graham, 2018 ) is significant in bringing together cognitive and socio-cultural insights, and in emphasizing the notion of a writing community. It conceptualizes the writing community as layers of contextual interactions, including the immediate community of writers, their purposes and collective histories, and also the broader contextual influences from policy, culture and history. Further inter-disciplinary research, ideally with researchers from different disciplines, might usefully expand on this by incorporating sociological thinking about identity, and about structure and agency into existing cognitive perspectives. This has implications for the design of future research, and particularly, writing interventions. Wigfield and Koenka (2020) have suggested that motivation research needs to take a new direction by moving away from interventions focused on individual student motivation toward interventions more attentive to the learning context. Echoing this, we would argue for a more situated perspective on motivation in writing which recognizes that motivation is not simply an internal characteristic of an individual but is situated within the context of a community of writers.

Data availability statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics statement

The studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by the University of Exeter, United Kingdom and the Open University, United Kingdom. Written informed consent from the participants' legal guardian/next of kin was not required to participate in this study in accordance with the national legislation and the institutional requirements.

Author contributions

DM and TC were responsible for the research design, project management, and data analysis. LO led on the data collection and analysis of the student interviews. DM wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the manuscript and approved the submitted version.

The data informing this paper are drawn from focus group interviews with students who were part of a larger study (Teachers as Writers), funded by the Arts Council England, in conjunction with Arvon, a creative writing foundation.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher's note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

Supplementary material

The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at:

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Keywords: writing, writing motivation, writing environment, community of writers, focus groups

Citation: Myhill D, Cremin T and Oliver L (2023) The impact of a changed writing environment on students' motivation to write. Front. Psychol. 14:1212940. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1212940

Received: 27 April 2023; Accepted: 13 September 2023; Published: 30 October 2023.

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Copyright © 2023 Myhill, Cremin and Oliver. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Debra Myhill,

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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4 Ways to Help Student Writers Improve

Guiding students to grow as writers is a long process, and it’s not easy. These strategies can help.

High school students writing in a classroom

As teachers, we often bemoan the fact that “students can’t write anymore” and blame it on everything from texting and social media to the lack of grammar instruction and absence of vocabulary books. The truth is probably closer to the sentiment of David Labaree : “Learning to write is extraordinarily difficult, and teaching people how to write is just as hard.”

Teaching writing is a process—over time and with the right guidance and support our students can grow into better writers. We may feel frustrated that their final pieces aren’t polished to perfection, but if we look closely, within those imperfect final drafts are flickers of insight and bits of mastery.

We need to celebrate these small victories, and be patient as our students gradually master the myriad of skills involved in becoming a writer.

4 Strategies for Supporting Student Writers

1. Emphasize reading: Frank Smith writes in Reading Without Nonsense , “You learn to read by reading and you learn to write by reading.” I tell my students that something magical happens when we read—the words and sentences enter our consciousness, float around, and drift out through our pen or keyboard in our own narrative voice.

When students immerse themselves in John Green, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, or J.K. Rowling, those writers’ language and its wisdom seeps into their thinking and pours out into their writing.

2. Give them permission to take risks: Donald Murray has argued, “Many teachers complain that their students can’t write sentences. I complain that many of my students write sentences. Too early. Following form, forgetting meaning.... Sentences that are like prison sentences.”

In order to free my students from the constraints of correctness, I give them permission to break some of the rules that have been drilled into them since elementary school. As we read, we notice how the stylistic choices that defy convention are often the phrases we love the most. We then make bold attempts to experiment with these techniques in our own writing. We begin sentences with conjunctions, take liberties with rhetorical questions, repetition, and figurative language... even sprinkle ellipses with reckless abandon.

One of my students crafted a beautiful passage that was inspired by both Great Expectations and Sherman Alexie’s “Superman and Me.” She loved Alexie’s short, emphatic sentences: “I was smart. I was arrogant. I was lucky,” and how Dickens wove his title throughout the novel: “So imperfect was the realisation of my great expectations....” In a letter to the late author Paul Kalanithi about his memoir When Breath Becomes Air , composed for the Library of Congress’s Letters About Literature contest, she wrote, “You were determined. You were fierce. And you were unstoppable. You fought until your final breath... until your breath became air.”

3. Make them care: I want my students to understand that their ideas can bring about change, so I work to give them choices to write about topics they feel passionate about. They ask probing questions and devote the time necessary to develop a compelling argument, meticulously craft sentences, and carefully choose their words.

And they need to know their words will be heard by an authentic audience , which is sometimes an audience of their peers reached through shared folders on Google Drive and Padlet, and at other times a wider audience reached through writing contests and publishing opportunities .

4. Feedback, feedback, and more feedback: It would be easy to circle errors in red pen, write a few comments, and return papers with a letter grade, but most teachers don’t do that—the amount of time we spend on grading student writing is staggering. And much of this feedback is not improving their writing.

So in the early stages of the writing process, I dedicate time to conference with each student to offer them personalized feedback they can immediately use. Throughout the writing process, students self-assess based on the assignment rubric as I jump in and out of Google Docs to offer additional targeted feedback. As they get closer to a final product, I offer peer editors specific “look fors” and guidelines to further polish and refine their writing. All of this feedback results in final drafts that are much stronger and grades that are higher. But more importantly, students feel supported and encouraged as they’re learning to write.

When we take the time to refine our thoughts in writing, not in the unrehearsed way they often spout too quickly out of our mouths, our words can impact the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of others. My students understand that writing is power, and they well know that we could all use a little empowering.



A meeting place for a world of reflective writers.

“I Feel Like a Real Writer:” Supporting Gifted Students in Writing

“Lucky you! You’ve got gifted kids.They GET IT.”

You’d think working with gifted students would be a smooth, easy road, like those highways in Nevada whose view is unbroken by anything but horizon.

Let’s get real. Our road has speed bumps – plenty of them. If I had my way, gifted education would be a part of the special education spectrum. That, however, is a different soapbox for a different day. 

We can, however, dispel a key myth. Not all gifted readers are strong writers. Even kids who are great with words are plagued by any number of factors. Some wrestle the many-headed hydra of perfectionism. Others have an abundance of ideas but no clear strategies for wrangling those thoughts into writing. Still others are victims of impostor syndrome, wrongly comparing themselves to others and continually falling short. Writing instruction for gifted students is as affective as it is skill-based.

We had another obstacle, a familiar one: COVID. No longer was I able to work right alongside my “loveies.” Despite our district being in-person since August, I was required to hold classes via Zoom to keep classroom “bubbles” intact. 

If we wanted a writing community, we’d have to move beyond flair pens, clipboards, fancy paper, and flexible seating. We’d need a safe place to share writing, where students could gather articulate feedback, and learn the joy of cultivating a responsive, positive readership. Where kids see themselves as writers and enjoy the craft of it.

In short, I wanted what I had through the Slice of Life community: Joy. Love of craft. Validation. 

Opening the Gates: Establishing Safety and Community

As a class, our first order of business was to create the time and space to craft in the modes and genres we loved most. At the end of each day, students posted screenshots or photos of a passage they felt proud to have written that day, and complemented at least three other writers.

Like cats coaxed from under the bed, most grew more comfortable composing. Once I had them writing, I wanted kids to feel the pride of having others read and appreciate their work.

I started with home-grown mentor text: the comment section on my own blog. We identified types of feedback to share: compliments, encouragement, connections, quotes from text, and literary analysis. They did not disappoint.

the student were writing

We had one hard and fast rule: no critique (yet).

Of course kids wanted to make suggestions. (Did I mention that many gifted students feel strongly about “right” ways to do things?) I steered them in a different direction, once again using Slice of Life as the example.

Consider: In our blogging community, how often do readers leave unsolicited advice or suggestions? Just about…never. We trust one another as writers, which allows us to trust OURSELVES as writers. 

Slowly but surely my kids realized they were writing for a genuine audience of peers. I couldn’t ask for more.

Well…perhaps I could.

Revision: The Elephant in the Room

“If no one offers corrections, how can students improve their work?”

I can’t get around it: students need to develop writing skills. Even some of the most talented writers still have hair-graying spelling and conventions.

I started with a self-paced “Fiction Dojo” on the Schoology app. Kids “leveled up” by revising or editing a single area such as capitalization, dialogue, or balance of narration. Students needing support worked with me in breakout rooms.

the student were writing

I learned quickly the “Dojo” system didn’t translate exactly as hoped. Not every student needed to review every single level, and some needed to complete “belts” out of order in the interest of sense-making. 

It was the universe’s sneaky way of reminding me to TRUST my WRITERS. After each revision, students often asked what they “should do next.” Sometimes I gave that guidance, but mostly I said, “I trust your judgment. What do you think your readers need from you?”

What happened, in turn, was the crafting of stories that were more strongly edited and revised than I ever could have accomplished through individual conferencing and assignments.

As for building critique back in, I’ll confess I’ve never had much luck with peer conferences. My kids have a tough time directing that conversation regardless of structure. No chart or questionnaire has ever fit.

And then it hit me. CROWDSOURCING. 

What wisdom from the “hive mind” did they need? A title? Character names? Help making a scene better or more readable? Putting these questions in the hands of WRITERS, seeking feedback from READERS, made the most sense.

Friends, it was magic. Writers trusted themselves to know what they needed help with, and they trusted their peers enough to support without judgment.

Looking Ahead

I think I’m onto something here. Even my most reluctant writers have more confidence and joy in writing than I’ve ever seen. Throughout the coming weeks and into next year, I’m looking for ways to strengthen self-efficacy and community through shared reading and feedback.

Our next area of exploration follows a “what-if.” What if we use STUDENT writing as mentor text? What if we use students’ writing as a basis for book clubs, for literary analysis? Would that encourage students to further develop their craft? Would it engage them more deeply in reading and conversations about text? My intuition says yes, and I’m anxious to learn more. In a perfect world, I would farm this strategy out to my mainstream classroom colleagues.

Now, there are still places where my lovies fall short on their writing rubrics. I’ve learned I can’t control all of their conversation or revisions. I’ve discovered there are still places I’d love kids to “get to,” but that’s not my journey. 

Sometimes their cars are on that Nevada highway, driving somewhere I never would have imagined, and that destination is quite fabulous. 

I’m just glad to be along for the ride.

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Mom of two, full-time teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and holder of a very full plate View all posts by Lainie Levin

7 thoughts on “ “I Feel Like a Real Writer:” Supporting Gifted Students in Writing ”

I cannot wait for next year to start to try all this out! I can only imagine, though, how much planning and ‘inner thinking’ must’ve gone into this! STUPENDOUS! 👏🏼

Thank you! It’s the result of a lot of evolution as a teacher of writing. What’s exciting to me is knowing how much FURTHER we can go!

I remember your posts on “crowdsourcing” and its effects, all stemming from putting writers in the driver’s seat and fostering trust. Invaluable! This collective magic – transformational. That community-building, that sense of belonging – priceless. I also recognize so many truths here regarding the “myths” and what I love best is seeing a teacher stopping to consider what her students really need and thinking out of the box about how to make this happen. No “oh wells” or “I don’t know hows” or “things are MOSTLY ok, so…” but how can I get them where they need to be (any student, all students, for all have gifts) and to love the learning journey. It is an evolutional journey for the teacher as well – try and try again, asking “more” of students AND self. So well-done. I sense your own joy as well as theirs, Lainie. It’s something we all need more of in education – for if teaching is a chore, so will the learning be. Just – bravo!

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Thank you, Fran! It’s weird, because even though I can acknowledge how far we come, it only makes me realize how much further we CAN go together. As for the stopping to consider my kids, I’m glad we worked so hard to develop community. In years like these, where there is so much NOISE coming at educators, from every direction, the children are always the one to make things worthwhile. They saved me this year, as they’ve done so often in the past. You also make an important point about how teaching and learning should be a joy rather than a chore. A colleague and I were just having that conversation yesterday – that we should ALL be in touch with the things we’re passionate about learning. If we don’t have those things, well…maybe we’re not in the right place. Thanks for your thoughtful feedback, Fran.

Lainie, thank you for a thought-provoking post. As I was reading this, I found myself nodding along and saying, “yes” more than once. I really appreciate how you used the SOL community as a model for what you wanted in your classroom. As I move into a classroom next year after four years out, I’ve been thinking about how I wanted to do the same thing. Your ideas on bringing others into the conversation regarding editing and revising are a definite help as I put together my own plans. Thank you!

Tim, that’s exactly what I hope to do in posts like these – to get readers to nod along and say “Yes!” “Exactly!” It’s my goal to get folks riled up so they’ll want to take an action (little or big) in whatever direction they feel so moved. And Tim, I can’t help but think how lucky your kids are going to be to have you FULL TIME. You get to take those children under your wing, and THAT will be a wonderful thing for this world.

Well, consider me riled! When I think back to the early years of my teaching career, it was books (good books!) that I looked to for inspiration and direction when it came to developing writers. It’s great — beyond great — to have this community and the experience it shares. Thanks for being a part of it!

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Can SVVR Help with Student Engagement in an Online EFL Writing Class? A Chinese Case Study

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  • Published: 13 October 2023

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  • Bin Shen   ORCID: 1 , 2 ,
  • Zhijie Wang   ORCID: 1 ,
  • Xiaowen Zhong 1 , 3 ,
  • Michael Yi-Chao Jiang   ORCID: 4 &
  • Morris Siu-Yung Jong   ORCID: 5 , 6  

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Although research into the educational benefits of Spherical Video-based Virtual Reality (SVVR) has gained popularity in traditional face-to-face English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) class, little is known about whether this immersive, interactive, and imaginative teaching-assisted technology could facilitate learning in online EFL settings in the post-pandemic time. The current study explored how students engaged themselves in an online EFL class facilitated by SVVR. To achieve that, one focus group interview and two semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect in-depth data of students’ perceptions of their engagement under the SVVR-supported online learning. Based on the theoretical framework of engagement, the collected data were thematically coded into three categories, namely, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement. The findings suggested that with SVVR affordances, students engaged behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively in the online EFL writing class, both in an independent and interrelated way. The enhanced emotional engagement of students could then support their behavioral engagement while students’ cognitive engagement could also promote their emotional and behavioral engagement. The present study thereby could not only build our understanding of the dynamic, multifaceted, and interconnected nature of student engagement, but also provide one feasible solution to teachers towards the disengagement issue in online EFL learning in the post-pandemic time.

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We would like to express our gratitude to all the anonymous reviews and the editors for their constructive and insightful comments and suggestions on this paper. We are grateful to the teacher and students who participated in this research. This paper would not have been possible finished without their help. Any errors and omissions that remain are our own responsibility.

This work was funded by 2019 Fujian Provincial Education Sciences “Thirteenth Five-Year Plan” Key Project Fund (Grant no. FJJKCGZ19-349) and Fujian Provincial Social Sciences Fund (Grant no. FJ2023B030).

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43 “If I Were” Writing Prompts

Encouraging students to think about themselves from a different point of view helps fuel their imagination and gives them a chance to decide and understand some of their preferences.

It also gives students a break from the more serious aspects of academic writing, and lets them just focus on writing something that won’t be graded or taken too seriously. 

Below, you’ll find a list of writing prompts that start with “If I were…” that encourages your students to be creative and think outside the box.

Using These Prompts

Our lists of writing prompts can be used in the classroom as part of your ELA curriculum or as assigned homework to do after school.

Here are a few ways you can use this list:

  • Assign a few random prompts to each table or group of students, and rotate the prompts each day or week.
  • Encourage your students to use a few of these prompts in their writing journal every night for a week.
  • Keep these prompts handy for students who finish their work early and need something to work on quietly while the rest of the class finishes up.

The Prompts

  • If I were a type of food, I would be…
  • If I were a color, I would be…
  • If I were suddenly the only person in the room with hair…
  • If I were going to succeed no matter what, I would try…
  • If I were in a snow globe, I would…
  • If I were the president, I…
  • If I were a mythological creature, I would be…
  • If I were to write a book about my life, I would call it…
  • If I were to plan my dream vacation, it would be…
  • If I were to plan a fun carnival to take place at my school, I…
  • If I were to give a speech about a social issue, I would say…
  • If I were a planet, I would be…
  • If I were to be transported into a book suddenly, I would…
  • If I were suddenly transported into the world of my favorite video game…
  • If I were living in a different time period, I would want it to be…
  • If I were stranded alone on a deserted island…
  • If I were on a TV show with my best friends…
  • If I were to wake up one day speaking a different language, I would…
  • If I were the teacher for one day…
  • If I were any type of weather, I would be…
  • If I were a season, I would want to be…
  • If I were a holiday, I would be…
  • If I were a bird…
  • If I were given $1000 today, I would…
  • If I were locked inside my favorite store overnight, I would…
  • If I were a tree, I…
  • If I were to stay one age for the rest of my life, I…
  • If I were eating breakfast when an alien knocked on my kitchen window, I…
  • If I were a flower, I would…
  • If I were part of a professional sports team, I…
  • If I were a haunted house…
  • If I were a type of bread, I would be…
  • If I were any fictional character, I…
  • If I were a creature in the sea, I would be…
  • If I were to have any kind of job in the world, I…
  • If I were to find a hidden door in the attic of my house, I…
  • If I were to only wear one style of clothing for the rest of my life, I…
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'It doesn't matter our age gap': High school seniors become pen pals with senior citizens

H igh school seniors in North Carolina spent this past semester writing letters back and forth to other seniors – senior citizens, that is.

As the semester comes to an end, the students got to meet their pen pals for the first time after months of writing letters back and forth.

It started out as just a project for Davie County High School seniors in Mrs. Snider's English 4 class.

“She started explaining to us the notes and how we were gonna go back in time to writing with pencil and paper, and we're like, OK, so no emails? OK, all right, no typing? It's just pencil and paper," said Tania Arellano, a Davie County High School senior.

It quickly grew to much more than that with each letter written and received.

"We always say, 'Well, did you get your letter? What did your person say?' So we kept up with each other's stories of our new friends," said Anne Gould, a senior citizen at Davie County Senior Services.

Each senior was paired randomly with someone from Davie County Senior Services. Brianna Covington and Allison Brown were one pairing.

“We just, we just felt a connection really, really quickly," Brown said.

Covington, a high school senior, said, "Some of the responses that I would get from her, like, made me emotional, like I would cry in class."

Covington said they were good tears, though, as the two shared information about their lives and advice.

"I honestly think that I can learn a lot from like, a different generation. Learning life experiences from someone who's already, you know, been where I was, and who has done more, I just think that's really interesting," Covington said.

Tania Arellano, a high school senior, and Gould, also became very close, sharing a lot about their lives with one another.

"I was like, 'I'm pretty depressed. I don't have many friends,' and she was like, 'Don't worry, like I've been there,'" Arellano said. "And I had to cope with that and that helped because I was like, 'you know, I finally feel understood.'"

Arellano added: "Not was she only educating me, but I was also educating her, like, what's happening in my generation? What are we doing now? How have women come this far in STEM and engineering? And she was also like, in educating me on life and how, you know, this is just a life experience, and you keep learning.”

The pairs say they don't want their communication to stop here.

"I'm very interested in this next chapter of her life after high school graduation, and hope, you know, I'm not going to smother her or overwhelm her. But I'm just looking forward to watching her path unfold. Because she's a very special young woman," Brown said.

This was the first year Davie County High School has done something like this. They and the seniors at Davie County Senior Services say they hope this project continues for years to come.

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'It doesn't matter our age gap': High school seniors become pen pals with senior citizens


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