6 Steps for Teaching Types of Writing

By on October 14, 2014

Earlier this year, we published a Three Step Process for Writing. The process is simple and transferable to a wide range of writing tasks across subject areas. Students can confidently follow the process when writing poems, essays, lab reports, analysis of primary documents, etc. In the Writing Process section under the Skill Library, students and teachers can find resources to support each step in the process.

Although the process walks students through a CCR-aligned approach to writing (W5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach), classroom teachers still need some tips and strategies for teaching writing types. Here are 6 steps that can help.

  • Step 1: Introduce a type of writing
  • Step 2: Analyze the assessment tool (or grading criteria)
  • Step 3: Develop a writing prompt/performance task
  • Step 4: Assign a baseline writing task
  • Step 5: Get students involved in the learning
  • Step 6: Explicitly teach the writing process (with Play-Doh)

When teaching timed (in-class) writing, consider assigning times for each task so that they can use the 40-60 minutes wisely. In our Writing Situations section, we offer a Timed Writing Process that identifies tasks for a 60 minute timed writing assignment.

Here are some best practices to consider when teaching students how to write.

Step 1: Introduce a Type of Writing

Begin with a discussion about two common writing situations in school: in-class (or timed) writing tasks and take-home (or process) writing tasks. The process and expectations are different for both writing situations. Students need to learn to recognize and adapt their writing skills in order to successfully respond to a writing/performance task. 

Read and analyze a sample (model) text that closely aligns to the type of writing you want your students to do. We want students to ask questions like...

  • How is the type of writing generally organized and constructed?
  • What types of features are present in this type of writing? Does it have paragraphs, visuals, titles, subtitles, footnotes, captions, and other reading aids that are used to support the comprehension of the main ideas?
  • How are the sentences constructed?
  • What type of language or diction does the writer use? Is the writing full of jargon and technical terms? 
  • Does this type of writing use personal pronouns or is it written in the third person?
  • How are ideas in the text supported?
  • What type of evidence is used in this type of writing?

Step 2: Analyze the Grading Criteria

Go over grading criteria with students. Have them interpret and summarize the rubric or score sheet in their own words. We want students to understand the expectation for the writing task and understand how their writing will be evaluated. For more information on how to analyze a rubric, refer to an eCoach I wrote in February 2013, Rubrics Require Explicit Instruction, Too.

Step 3: Develop a Writing Prompt/Performance Task

Develop a writing prompt that guides students to write for a specific purpose and audience. The prompt should reflect the type of writing you want your students to produce. Because prompt writing can be a challenge, taking hours of our time to construct, I recommend starting with our Writing Prompt Builder. The prompt builder offers over 160 CCR-aligned prompt templates that can be combined and edited to fit specific writing needs. 

Step 4: Assign a Baseline Writing Task

We recommend assigning an in-class baseline assessment so that students can demonstrate all that they know without outside help. The baseline task should be similar if not exactly the same as the formal writing task you will eventually ask your students to complete. You can ask students to write parts of a writing task or ask them to produce a complete sample. Remember, your prompt should guide students to produce a written product that matches in structure and style the sample (or model) text you had them analyze. You should also use the same grading criteria you had them analyze.

Now that you have a baseline, evaluate your students' writing and create a list of writing skills to target with explicit instruction. For example, students might need specific lessons on...

  • sentence types and structure.
  • paragraphing and arrangement.
  • citing sources.
  • writing with clear and concise language.

Step 5: Get Students Involved in the Learning

As part of the learning experience, have students Peer Review their baseline or sample writing. Ask them to score their own writing based on the rubric or score sheet and ask them to explain their score at the bottom of the rubric or score sheet.

Teach key elements (or features) typically found in the type of writing they are learning. Then, ask them to revise portions of their baseline.

Step 6: Explicitly Teach the Writing Process (with Play-Doh)

A creative way to teach the writing process is to use Play-Doh. Give each student a container of Play-Doh (the smaller the better) and ask them to create an object/creature. Before they touch the Play-Doh, have them discuss with a partner what they intend to make. Give them 3 minutes to talk, and 10 minutes to create. Once students have had time to create their object/creature, have them share their creations with another partner. Students should offer ways to make the object/creature better. Maybe it needs more details. Maybe it can be clearer. Maybe the student needs to rethink the creation and start over. Give students another 3 minutes to improve their creation. At the end, ask students to summarize the process they just went through to make their object/creation. Then, ask them to comment on how each step in the process helped them improve their creation. Make a connection between what they did with the Play-Doh and the purpose of a writing process. Do this activity once a year. You can always reference the activity when teaching the individual steps in the writing process.

Now, students are ready to use LiteracyTA's Three Step Writing Process to practice writing. Practice the writing type multiple times a year so that student have an opportunity to learn the writing type and show growth. Use a mix of formative and summative writing assessments in order to assess learning and provide valuable feedback. 

The 6 Steps for Teaching Types of Writing may take a few weeks for each type you introduce, but the time is well spent. Much of our success with young learners comes from the set up. The more time we spend setting something up, the more students remember and can do on their own.

Join the conversation below and share your experience with us. What is your process? How do you teach writing? Let's grow together.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
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