High impact instructional strategies are key to modelling the writing process and avoiding major struggles experienced by teachers.
Modelling writing is crucial in enabling students to see writing in action and also for teachers to understand what exactly they’re asking their students to do.
However, literacy experts Phil and Sharon Callen revealed two traps teachers can often find themselves in when modelling.
The first is over modelling and consequentially overwhelming students.
“Sometimes we fall into the trap of over modelling, in that we want to model every detail about something. So, it turns into this big maxi lesson of us doing a lot of the modelling and constructing this whole piece in front of our students,” Sharon said on Episode 43 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy.
“The fallout from that is we’ve got some students who then think, ‘Oh my gosh I’m going to have to remember everything that was done there because that’s what I’m going to have to do’.
“And sometimes it leads to an exact repeat of what we’ve modelled. For our younger ones, modelling something on chart paper and then keeping it up there [can result in] our students just copying that because they don’t know how to have a go at spelling unknown words because we haven’t modelled that.”
The other extreme is not modelling at all, which hinders students’ exploration and development of writing skills and techniques.
“I always say when we don’t model, it actually ends up in tears for everybody because what the teacher has in their head about what they want these students to achieve, if it hasn’t been shown or explored or experimented with, then it’s not going to appear in their writing,” Sharon explained.
“Let’s say it’s a crafting situation and we want our students writing beginnings, and the Year Twos and Threes started everything with ‘once upon a time’. If we don’t do a series of mini lessons around that and we don’t explore and experiment with how we could start, we’re only getting one shot at starting a story when we write something and we might only get two shots in a year.
“So the modelling and the practising and the exploring, we want to be the bulk of it. We want to try it many times. Otherwise, one shot is not enough and doesn’t let us think about, ‘well how well did that work? Or what could I do differently?'”
To avoid these issues, Sharon recommended that during a mini lesson teachers use the four high impact instructional strategies of Modelled Writing, Interactive Writing, Shared Writing and Quick Writing.
Modelled Writing ensures that different writing elements are properly demonstrated to students, rather than teachers approaching the class with the expectation that students will automatically know what to do.
“With instructional strategies, I can start showing students what we were trying to achieve rather than just expecting them to achieve it,” Sharon said.
“In the Australian curriculum, we have the section called creating texts. And within creating texts, it talks about how for beginning school writers, writing is about exploring, reporting and researching things, and then as we move up from about Year Three we’re planning and drafting and creating and publishing.
“They’re all things that need to be modelled. How do we know how to draft? How do we know what to plan with? Yes, I went for the planning template, but what planning strategies have I got that I can choose and use besides filling out a template? We’ve got all of these aspects that fit in to any piece of writing that I’m doing with students, so I want to be modelling something from each of these areas.”
Sharon further explained that by teachers being more interactive during the mini lesson, students will be able to apply these strategies independently.
“We don’t want things to just magically appear out of nowhere because that’s not what’s going to work for the children. So, with modelling we’re creating the text and we’re discussing and demonstrating writing strategies that most students don’t yet apply independently,” she said.
“So that’s the intention of me modelling and revealing to them how it works. And students are watching – so I’m thinking aloud, I’m talking, I’m making it known what my thinking and thought processes are as I’m making decisions about this.”
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