Academic Writing Education Linguistics

Final Project: Designing Writing Instruction

Written for an Applied Linguistics Master’s Course: Writing Theories in Second Language Instruction


Introduction: Developing the Writing Task

     The Student Body. The writing task will take place in a Grade One classroom of mixed-ability learners. The student body is made up of approximately twenty-one students – ten males and eleven females – ranging from six to seven years of age. Students in this classroom are fluent or near-fluent speakers of English. However, half of the students speak different native languages at home (i.e. Spanish, Arabic, Tamil and Urdu). The writing task will be for learners who have some experience with the writing task genre. Students in this classroom have learned about the stages of the writing process prior to this writing task (i.e. choosing a topic, brainstorming, writing a first draft, etc.), but it is important to note that they have not gone through the writing process with specific genres outside of fictional story writing. As such, the students will engage within the writing process while they learn about writing personal, non-fiction narratives in more depth. This genre was specifically chosen for this student group as, taking their developmental age groups into account, writing about their personal experiences will be an effective bridge into exploring genre writing. The initial introduction to narrative writing through personal experiences was attended to in this way to accommodate the typical developmental levels of students within this age range. According to Christie & Derewianka (2008), as they acknowledge Bernstein’s (1975) concepts of “commonsense” and “uncommonsense” knowledge, it is likely that students ranging from six to seven years of age will still be working within “simple commonsense” and/or “Commonsense” phases, where their everyday community knowledge of “[themselves], [their] family and [their] peer group” is still the central focus of the student’s everyday life (Christie & Derewianka, 2008, p. 218). Additionally, their account of the linguistic changes taking place in the written work from early childhood to late adolescence played an integral part in the chosen writing task as, based on their understanding of the interpersonal and textual resources of writers ranging from six to eight years of age, the student body for which my writing task is designed will habitually focus on the use of first person (Christie & Derewianka, 2008, p. 221).

     The Syllabus. In the initial proposal, the syllabus that influenced the design of the writing task focused solely on a process-driven approach to writing. This was the initial plan as the stages of the writing process and a student writer’s experiences within it are an integral aspect of building confident, creative and engaged writers (e.g. Tobin, 2001; Zamel, 1982; etc.). However, while creating the lesson plans for the writing task, it became more evident that a clear focus on genre would also be integral to the learning experience. As such, the ideal syllabus for this writing task would be one that integrated both process and genre in the overall curriculum, where Badger & White’s (2000) process-genre model served as the main influence to the development of the writing task and the syllabus that best correlates to it. A detailed account of how the theoretical influences connected to the writing task changed during its development and design is explained in the next section of this paper.

Explanation of the Writing Task

     The Lesson Plan (See Appendix III for Details). Because students will be expected to effectively engage in all stages of the writing process while also attending to the demands of writing within a specific genre, the writing task will extend over several sessions so that students have the appropriate amount of time to meet these expectations. The goal of the writing task will be pedagogic in nature as students develop their genre knowledge and composing skills related to grammar, punctuation, content, audience as well as the main stages of the writing process centered around pre-writing, writing, revision, etc. (Hyland, 2003, p. 113). The genre for this writing task will be a personal, non-fiction narrative, where students will write a story of a special memory (i.e. finding a stray cat in the playground, making food with their parents/grandparents at home, etc.) connected to the initial input introduced in Session 1 of the writing task.

     Photographs of places with which the students are familiar (i.e. images of places at school and rooms in a house, See Appendix IV) will be used as the initial input for the writing task. These images will be placed around the room during Session 1 of the lesson plan (See Appendix III) so that students can to tap into their prior knowledge and experiences related to the expectations of the writing task. Students will answer general questions about the photographs they see during Session 1 (i.e. What are they pictures of?, What kinds of things do people do in these places/rooms?, etc.) before they then choose one photograph to serve as the setting for their story. The writing prompt for this task (See Appendix I), is most closely related to Kroll & Reid’s (1994) first prompt type in that the instructions for the task “state the entire task” as clearly and simply as possible. To accommodate the additional writing process expectations of the writing task, a comprehensive list of expectations following the writing prompt was also provided.

     The physical setting of the writing task will take place mostly in the classroom. However, during the “Writing” and “Revising” stages of the writing process, students will be allowed to continue their writing for homework if they need more time to write outside of the time provided during each session. The physical setting for learning is extended to the home so that students can actively engage with a task requiring multiple drafts of writing without feeling pressed for time (Hyland, 2003, p. 117). Regarding the social setting, the students will mainly work individually to write their personal, non-fiction narratives. However, they will also work with a “Writing Buddy” for the “Sharing” stage of the writing process as well as with the teacher for the “Conferencing” stage of the writing process. A combination of individual writing and paired writing will allow students to “develop their decision-making and reflective skills” and to develop a better understanding of a “diverse audience from a variety of perspectives” (Bargiela-Chiappini & Nickerson, 1999, as cited by Hyland, 2003, p. 118).

     The teacher’s role for this writing task will be mainly as a facilitator and resource so that students have a more active role in their writing (Hyland, 2003). Students will be able to utilize the teacher for additional help throughout each session of the writing task. However, the teacher will mainly monitor and facilitate during most stages of the writing process as the students construct their narratives. During the latter stages of the writing process for this task, the teacher may have to take on the role of assessor, organizer and resource, in response to the content of the students’ work, specifically as it relates to lower level writers who may need more teacher-provided stimuli in order to write more purposefully and affectively (Hyland, 2003). For writers who are meeting the core expectations and/or exceeding them, the teacher may simply take on the role of assessor and resource for the latter stages of the writing process for this specific writing task. Students will take on similar roles to the teacher during the “Sharing” (i.e. Peer-Editing) stage of the writing process. However, for the most part, the students will be working on their narratives on an individual basis and will need to be controllers, organizers and assessors of their own work.

     The writing task activities will focus mainly on composing a piece of writing. In the previous lessons within the writing syllabus for this classroom, the students will have already engaged in activities related to graphology and scaffolding (Hyland, 2003, pp. 120-125) for them to have the appropriate skills necessary to construct a personal narrative that is organized. As such, students will have been familiarized with the genre for this writing task and will therefore be academically ready to meet the expectations of the task on an individual basis.

     The Assessments (See Appendix II and III for Detail). In general, the assessments for each session of the writing task are informal in nature and based on observations made while students interact with each other and on observations made while students work on their own. The formal assessments integrated into the writing task will happen during three separate activities. The first formal assessment will take place in Session 3 (See Appendix II & III) as the students work with their “Writing Buddy” to assess and give feedback to each other on their first drafts. The students will focus solely on form as capitalization and punctuation are concepts the students will have been taught how to understand and use prior to the implementation of this writing task. The purpose of peer assessment for this writing task is to allow students the ability to practice and develop the skills needed to become critical readers and more self-reliant writers (Rollinson, 2005). However, the focus for peer feedback for this writing task is limited to sentence structure so as not to engage young writers in a task that is too time consuming or complex. The second formal assessment will take place in Session 4 (See Appendix II & III) during the teacher-student conferences. Students will reflect with the teacher on their use of capitalization, punctuation and content (story organization, descriptive language and audience) to make their final story edits before publishing their work. The third and final formal assessment will be conducted solely by the teacher. A rubric (See Appendix II) will be used to assess how well students met the expectations for the final product of their writing. The assessment will focus on form and content as the students will have already been assessed on how well they engaged with the stages of the writing process during the lessons.

     Connected Theory. Tobin (2001) was the predominant influence for the theory that drove the development of this writing task. Like Tobin (2001), I take a firm stance on the importance of engaging student writers in the overall process of writing as opposed to a sole focus on form. Acknowledging that “students actually have something important and original to say” (Tobin, 2001, p. 5) so that student writers understand that they “actually [have] agency, authority, an authentic voice, and a unified self” (Tobin, 2001, p. 15) laid the overall foundation to the development of my writing task. However, as Tobin (2001) also acknowledges in his text, I had to also take into consideration the age group for which the writing task was designed and the learning needs they would have as emerging and beginning writers. The students for which I designed my lesson plan would be developmentally at stages where basic literacy development, for both L1 and L2 English-speakers, was still a critical aspect of the writing curriculum (i.e. building phonemic awareness, building phonics skills, building basic handwriting skills, learning the foundational aspects of writing as they relate to vocabulary and sentence structure, etc.). As such, Badger & White’s (2000) process-genre model for writing became another significant aspect of the theoretical foundation driving the development of my writing task as they acknowledge the integral aspects of both genre and process in the writing classroom, where the “writing class recognizes that writing involves knowledge about language, knowledge of the context in which writing happens and…the purpose for the writing, and skills in using language” (Badger & White, 2000, pp. 157-158).

     In terms of practical application, Zamel (1982) was influential to the development of my writing task, as her work illustrates how the process of writing, with purposeful teacher intervention during the writing process as opposed to a sole focus on product, can better aid students in discovering meaning in their writing. Particularly influential to the development of my writing task was her conclusion that engaging students in process writing does not disregard the development of a student’s linguistic competence (i.e. syntax, vocabulary, etc.); rather, a focus on process would teach students how to use their linguistic competence “as a means with which to better express one’s meaning” as opposed to simply teaching syntax, vocabulary and rhetorical form as ends in and of themselves (Zamel, 1982, p. 207).

Conclusion

     Reflection on the Design Process. Designing the writing task illustrated to me the complex nature of syllabus, lesson and assessment development. Most of my teaching experience thus far has focused on developing units of learning in response to a developed and established curriculum. In this respect, outside of referencing these established curriculum standards in my planning and assessment, I did not have to think too critically about the writing syllabus. Having the freedom in this project and in my current teaching post to change and adapt the writing syllabus my writing task followed allowed me to also understand in more depth the complex relationship between syllabus, planning and assessment. It was an enriching experience for me to better understand how theory drives the practical application of teaching and assessment. With this knowledge, as I progressed further into the development of my writing task, I was driven to adapt the underlying syllabus from a solely process-based curriculum to one that addressed both process and genre in the writing curriculum.

     Further Reflections. Unfortunately, because the development of my writing task did not correlate effectively with the timeline of the writing curriculum in which I am currently teaching, I was not able to implement the writing task with actual students, thus, preventing me from fully critiquing and analyzing the effectiveness of the design. With that said, I did design this writing task for the type of student body I am currently teaching and do plan to implement this writing task in the future to fully understand how and where the writing task is effective and how and where it can be modified and improved. When I am able implement this writing task, my main points for critique and analysis will focus mainly on the advantages and disadvantages of a process-genre driven syllabus for emerging and beginning writers within this age range and on how to better develop teacher and/or peer assessment to attend to the developmental levels of the writers. Additionally, I would like to analyze how the writing task attended to students’ general developmental levels: are there any expectations that are unrealistic for the age group? Are there any expectations that are too simplistic?

References:

Badger, R. & White, G. (2000). A process genre approach to teaching writing. ELT Journal, 54(2), 153-160.

Christie, F. & Derewianka, B. (2008). School discourse: Learning to write across the years of schooling. London & NY: Continuum. Chapter 8: The developmental trajectory of writing (212-244).

Hyland, K. (2003). Second language writing. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Kroll, B. & Reid, J. (1994). Guidelines for designing writing prompts. Journal of Second Language Writing, 3(3), 231-255.

Rollinson, P. (2005). Using peer feedback in the ESL writing class. ELT Journal, 59(1), 23-30.

Tobin, L. (2001). Process pedagogy. In G. Tate, A. Rupiper & K. Schick (Eds.), A guide to composition pedagogies (pp. 1-18). NY & Oxford: OUP.

Zamel, V. (1982). Writing: The process of discovering meaning. TESOL Quarterly, 16(2), 195-209.


Appendix I: The Writing Task

My Special Memory

Look at the photos around the room. They are pictures of different places in our school and pictures of different rooms you have in your house. Choose one of these photos that makes you think of a special story about something that has happened in your life. Use that memory to write your non-fiction story!

How do I write my story?

  • Choose: Choose a photo that shows the setting of your story
  • Think: Brainstorm ideas for how you will write your story by drawing pictures
  • Write: Use your brainstorming pictures to write your story
  • Share: Share your story with your writing buddy and give feedback to each other
  • Revise: Use your writing buddy’s feedback to edit your story
  • Conference: Share your edited draft with the teacher
  • Revise: Use the teacher’s feedback to edit your
  • Reflect: Talk about the problems you faced while writing your story and how you solved them
  • Publish: Re-write your story in your best handwriting with all of your final edits and add it to our “Students’ Stories” Folder


Appendix II: Evaluation Rubrics

Session 1
Teacher Observation Checklist (Informal, Formative Assessment) – Edit & Print as Needed

Student Name

Selects a Topic

Generates Ideas for Story

Abdul Rehman

Anika

Anna

Alina

Arnav

Dilara

Diya

Eman

Eva

Gabriel

Hamed

James

Joshua

Juan

Laura

Maja

Njord

Rafa

Sara

Shivaane

Yaren

Session 2
Teacher Observation Checklist (Informal, Formative Assessment) – Edit & Print as Needed

Student Name

Uses outline to write first draft

Abdul Rehman

Anika

Anna

Alina

Arnav

Dilara

Diya

Eman

Eva

Gabriel

Hamed

James

Joshua

Juan

Laura

Maja

Njord

Rafa

Sara

Shivaane

Yaren

Session 3
Teacher Observation Checklist (Informal, Formative Assessment) – Edit & Print as Needed

Student Name

Provides feedback to writing buddy

Uses feedback from writing buddy to revise first draft

Abdul Rehman

Anika

Anna

Alina

Arnav

Dilara

Diya

Eman

Eva

Gabriel

Hamed

James

Joshua

Juan

Laura

Maja

Njord

Rafa

Sara

Shivaane

Yaren

Peer Editing Checklist (Informal, Formative Assessment) – Edit & Print as Needed

I read my partner’s story.

I checked that all sentences

begin with a capital letter.

I checked that all sentences have the right punctuation mark.

Session 4
Teacher-Student Conference Checklist (Informal, Formative Assessment) – Edit & Print as Needed

We checked to make sure that all of my sentences begin with capital letters.

We checked to make sure that all of my sentences end with the right punctuation mark.

We reflected on the order of my story to make sure that it makes sense to my reading audience.

We reflected on the language I used in my story to make sure that it creates a clear mental picture for my reading audience.

We reflected on ideas to make my story as interesting as possible for my reading audience.

Session 5
Evaluation Rubric for Final Draft – Edit & Print as Needed

Working Towards Expectations

Meeting Expectations

Exceeding Expectationss

Form:

  • The student was not able to consistently use capital letters to start sentences.
  • The student was not able to consistently and/or accurately use punctuation marks to end sentences.

Content:

  • The student showed a limited understanding of how to organize a story in an understandable way.
  • The student provided little to no detail in the story.

Form:

  • The student consistently used capital letters to start sentences.
  • The student consistently and accurately used punctuation marks to end sentences.

Content:

  • The student showed clear understanding of how to organize a story in an understandable way.
  • The student provided clear and interesting details in the story.

Form:

  • The student used capital letters to start sentences with no errors.
  • The student used punctuation marks accurately with no errors.

Content:

  • The student showed clear understanding of how to organize a story.
  • The student provided clear and interesting details in the story and used an extensive amount of interesting and new vocabulary to tell his/her story.

Additional Comments:


Appendix III: Lesson Plans

Session 1

Title: “My Special Memory”

Topic: Writing a personal, nonfiction narrative that illustrates a special moment

Grade Level: First Grade

Time: 45 minutes (Session 1 of 5)

Overview/Background
The students will be prompted to write about a personal experience they’ve had with the aid of photographic input of places they are familiar with at home and at school. Prior to this, students have had prior lessons about the different stages of the writing process. The writing prompt will be used to introduce a new genre of writing to the students (personal, non-fiction narratives) and to continue to engage students in the stages of the writing process.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will select a topic to write a personal, non-fiction narrative
  • Students will brainstorm ideas for their personal, non-fiction narrative by creating a story outline

Materials (See Appendix IV)

  • Photos for input (places around the school, places in a home)
  • Brainstorming/Story Outline Worksheet
  • Pencils, Erasers, Markers, Crayons

Procedure

Introduction

  • Have students explore photos displayed around the room. Circulate and ask students to talk about what they see.
  • Whole Class Discussion: Students will share ideas/stories about things that happened them.

“Choose” (Selecting a Setting)

  • Tell students that they will choose one photo to be the setting of the story they will write about a real-life event.
  • Show students the Brainstorming/Story Outline Worksheet and model how they will use it to outline the beginning, middle and end of their personal narratives.
    • Students will write down the setting they’ve chosen
    • In each column, students will draw detailed pictures and/or write down notes for what they want to include in the beginning, middle and end of their story

“Think” (Brainstorming Ideas)

  • Students will have the remainder of this session to brainstorm their ideas on the worksheet.
  • Students who need more time can take their worksheets home to finish for homework

Evaluation

Observation Checklist (See Appendix II)

  • Use the checklist to informally assess whether or not students are able to (1) select a topic on their own and (2) generate ideas for their story
    • Students who are not able to perform the actions listed above on their own will receive additional support (one-to-one or in small groups) during the brainstorming stage of this lesson plan

Session 2

Title: “My Special Memory”

Topic: Writing a personal, nonfiction narrative that illustrates a special moment

Grade Level: First Grade

Time: 45 minutes (Session 2 of 5)

Overview/Background
The students will be prompted to write about a personal experience they’ve had with the aid of photographic input of places they are familiar with at home and at school. Prior to this, students have had prior lessons about the different stages of the writing process. The writing prompt will be used to introduce a new genre of writing to the students (personal, non-fiction narratives) and to continue to engage students in the stages of the writing process.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will share and reflect on their story plans
  • Students will write first drafts for their story

Materials (See Appendix IV)

  • Brainstorming/Story Outlining Worksheet (From Session 1)
  • Handwriting paper (for first draft writing)
  • Pencils, Erasers

Procedure

Review

  • Have students share their brainstorming work and talk about how it will help them write their stories today
  • Tell students they will work on writing their stories today. They should make sure to use their outline to write their stories and encourage them to write with as much detail as possible to tell their stories.

“Write” (Composing First Drafts)

  • Students will have the remainder of this session to write their first drafts.
  • Circulate and provide support where needed and to check that students are using their plans to help them write their first drafts.
  • Students who need more time to write their first drafts may finish them for homework

Evaluation

Observation Checklist (See Appendix II)

  • Use the checklist to informally assess whether or not students are able to  write a first draft that follows their outlines
    • Students who are not able to perform the actions listed above on their own will receive additional support (one-to-one or in small groups) during the writing stage of this lesson plan

Session 3

Title: “My Special Memory”

Topic: Writing a personal, nonfiction narrative that illustrates a special moment

Grade Level: First Grade

Time: 45 minutes (Session 3 of 5)

Overview/Background
The students will be prompted to write about a personal experience they’ve had with the aid of photographic input of places they are familiar with at home and at school. Prior to this, students have had prior lessons about the different stages of the writing process. The writing prompt will be used to introduce a new genre of writing to the students (personal, non-fiction narratives) and to continue to engage students in the stages of the writing process.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will provide feedback to a writing partner during peer-editing
  • Students will use feedback for their stories to edit/revise their stories

Materials (See Appendix IV)

  • Students’ first drafts (From Session 2)
  • Editing Poster
  • Pencils, Erasers, etc.

Procedure

Review: Editing Others’ Stories

  • Focus students’ attention on the editing marks for capitalization and punctuation.
  • Have students tell you what these editing marks mean.

“Share” (Peer-Editing)

  • Show students the peer-editing checklist and review each component with them.
  • Break students into pairs and allow them to work on providing feedback for their partner’s story.
  • Circulate and help writing buddy pairs where needed.

“Revise” (Editing First Drafts)

  • Students who are finished with the “Sharing” stage can move on to “Revising” their work on their own, using their writing buddy’s feedback.
  • Students who need more time to revise their first drafts may finish them for homework

Evaluation

Observation Checklist (See Appendix II)

  • Use the checklist to informally assess whether or not students are able to  provide effective feedback to their writing buddy and use feedback to edit their first drafts
    • Students who are not able to perform the actions listed above on their own will receive additional support from the teacher as s/he circulates during the sharing and/or revising stages of this lesson plan

Peer Editing Checklist (See Appendix II)

  • Students will use the checklist to formally assess how they are giving feedback to their writing buddy

Session 4

Title: “My Special Memory”

Topic: Writing a personal, nonfiction narrative that illustrates a special moment

Grade Level: First Grade

Time: 45 minutes (Session 1 of 5)

Overview/Background
The students will be prompted to write about a personal experience they’ve had with the aid of photographic input of places they are familiar with at home and at school. Prior to this, students have had prior lessons about the different stages of the writing process. The writing prompt will be used to introduce a new genre of writing to the students (personal, non-fiction narratives) and to continue to engage students in the stages of the writing process.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will engage in one-to-one conferences with the teacher to reflect on their stories
  • Students will use conference feedback to make final revisions to their stories

Materials

  • Writing Center Games/Activities (as it is structured in your classroom)
  • Students’ first drafts (From Session 3, with peer feedback edits attended to)
  • Handwriting Paper (For Final Draft Writing)
  • Pencils, Erasers, etc.

Procedure

Introduction

  • Tell students that they will have one-to-one conferences with you to talk about (1) the edits they’ve already done, (2) additional ways they can edit/revise their stories

“Conference” (Revise)

  • Students will meet with the teacher one-to-one to discuss revisions for capitalization, punctuation and content (story organization, descriptive language used, audience)
  • Students who are waiting for their conference time will play writing games while they wait

“Revise” (Final Draft Writing)

  • After students meet with the teacher for conferences, they can go straight into making their final revisions to get their stories ready for publishing
  • Students who need more time to write their final drafts may finish them for homework

Evaluation

Student-Teacher Conference Checklist (See Appendix II)

  • Use the checklist to formally capitalization, punctuation and content with the student writer

Session 5

Title: “My Special Memory”

Topic: Writing a personal, nonfiction narrative that illustrates a special moment

Grade Level: First Grade

Time: 45 minutes (Session 5 of 5)

Overview/Background
The students will be prompted to write about a personal experience they’ve had with the aid of photographic input of places they are familiar with at home and at school. Prior to this, students have had prior lessons about the different stages of the writing process. The writing prompt will be used to introduce a new genre of writing to the students (personal, non-fiction narratives) and to continue to engage students in the stages of the writing process.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will reflect on their experiences with the writing process this week.
  • Students will publish their personal, non-fiction narratives

Materials

  • Students’ final drafts (From Session 4)
  • Pencils, Erasers, Markers, Crayons
  • “Students’ Stories” Folder (For displaying published stories)

Procedure

“Reflect” (Evaluation of Writing Process)

  • Whole Class Discussion (“Think, Pair, Share” Activity)
    • Think: Ask students to think about one problem they faced while writing their stories and how they solved it. Given them 1-2 minutes to think about the question.
    • Pair: Students will find a partner to share their answer to the question.
    • Share: Have a few student volunteers to share their answers with the whole class.

“Publish” (Displaying student work)

  • Students will use the rest of this session to (1) finish writing their final drafts if needed, (2) draw illustrations for their stories, (3) Submit their final drafts for entry into the “Students’ Stories” Folder

Evaluation

Final Draft Rubric

  • Use the rubric to formally assess how well students went through the writing process and how well students were able to write within the given genre (personal, non-fiction narrative)


Appendix IV: Lesson Plan Materials

Session 1
Photos for Input (places around the school, places in a home) – Edit, Print & Add Other Photos as Needed

Suggested Photos taken from free images provided by Creative Commons https://search.creativecommons.org/

Brainstorming/Story Outline Worksheet (Copy, Paste, Edit & Print as Needed)

Name: ______________________________                      Date: ___________________________

Let’s Think!

Use the outline below to brainstorm ideas for the beginning, middle and end of your story. You can draw pictures and write notes down for what you would like to write for the beginning, middle and end of your story.

Setting of Story (The Photo You Chose): ________________________________________

Beginning

Middle

End

Sessions 2 – 5
Not applicable for these lessons

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