Composing / Writing

Learning to write is a significant part of becoming literate. Research of the past two decades has focused heavily on how children, as well as adults, learn to write (Dyson & Freedman, 1991; Graves, 1975; Hillocks, 1984, 1987). What this research reveals is that children learn to write by writing (Graves, 1975, 1983).

Most young children start to "write" by drawing and scribbling spontaneously; with experience, their writing assumes more mature forms. This development may be fostered through using a flexible process that involves the steps of selecting a topic, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing (Hillocks, 1984, 1987). These various steps are often given different labels by different researchers (Cooper, 1993).

The process should be modeled by the teacher through shared writing and group and individual conferences (Cooper, 1993). It is in part through this process of writing that children learn to use the grammar and usage elements of the language (Hillocks, 1984, 1987). This flexible process of writing provides students with a framework for many meaningful and purposeful writing experiences. It is through revision that students improve their writing and learn the conventions of writing (Hillocks & Smith, 1991). Revision, however, is not a natural process for young children; they must be supported in learning to do this (Graves, 1984). Children also need extensive experience with writing; for maximum learning, they need to write at least four days per week (Graves, 1991).

See also Emergent Literacy/Beginning Reading

Influence of Literature on Writing

In an integrated language arts program, students have many opportunities to hear and read quality literature. Research shows that these experiences influence the types of writing students do (Dressel, 1990). For example, if students hear or read good descriptions in literature and are made aware of descriptions through discussions and other activities, they begin to incorporate similar types of descriptions into their own writings.

Thematic units that focus on a particular type of literature (stories, informational texts, and so forth) can serve as models for instructing students in the same type of writing (stories, reports/informational text, and so forth); within the type of writing, students should select their own topics (Graves, 1983).

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