+ Writing: Teach Strategies and Self Monitoring Directly

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A great article in IDA Perspectives (Summer 2009) by Linda H Mason.  Here are some highlights of “Effective Instruction for Written Expression.”

Mason bases the advice on the instructional approach called S. R. S. D.: Self-Regulated Strategy Development.

Researchers have established that explicit instruction is necessary for  teaching strategies to students with learning challenges. 

They need direct  instruction and modeling in ways of generating ideas, organizing those ideas, and regulating writing behavior (self-regulation).

The stages for strategy acquisition are

  1. Develop/assess background knowledge relating to the writing content
  2. Discuss the strategy to be used (see below)
  3. Model it
  4. Memorize it
  5. Practice it with guidance
  6. Perform it independently

Include these steps in every strategy session.

The one Universal Strategy is called P O W  —

  • P (pick an idea
  • O (organize notes)  
  • W (write and say more).

Here are some specific strategies for three types of writing  (make charts): 

Story and Narrative Writing — think “W – W – W, What 2, How 2”

  • W……..Who is the main character?
  • W……..Where does the story take place?
  • W……..When does the story take place?
  • What…What does the main character do /want to do?
  • What…What happens next?
  • How….How does the story end?
  • How….How do the characters feel?

Persuasive Writingthink “TREE”

  • T……..Topic sentence: Tell what you believe!
  • R……..Reasons (3+): Why do I believe it; will my readers, too?
  • E……..Explain reasons:  Say more about each reason.
  • E……..Ending: Wrap it up right!

Informative Writingthink “PLAN then WRITE”

  • P………Pay attention to the writing prompt.
  • L………List main ideas to develop the essay.
  • A………Add supporting ideas (details, examples, etc).
  • N………Number major points in the order you will use them.


  • W………Work from your plan to develop thesis statement.
  • R……….Remember your goals.
  • I………..Include transition words for each paragraph.
  • T……….Try to use different kinds of sentences.
  • E……….Exciting, interesting, “$1,000” words.

Teaching Self-Regulation

 Explicit instruction in self-regulation should be embedded in every session. 

The four self-regulatory procedures are

  • goal setting
  • self monitoring
  • self instruction
  • self reinforcement

Goal Setting

First, students should be taught how to set personal, individual and specific goals for learning, using and maintaining the use of the strategy.

Use a learning contract to support goal setting: for example, “Today I will write a story with 7 parts.”  Do this every day.


Students self-monitor by counting the number of strategy parts they have written.  Use a chart or graphic organizer, and have the student count off what he has done.  When finished, have the students count to make sure all parts have been used.

Encourage the student to revise the papers to include any missing parts.  They might graph the number of strategy parts on a graphing sheet.

Students need to understand that self-monitoring is a process to use at every stage of their work.

Self Instruction

You should model self-instructions for problem definition.  For example, “I need to write a story with 7 parts.”  Focus on attention and planning (“First, I need to pick an idea“); strategy implementation (“I know what to do, I do the first strategy step“);  self evaluation (“Did I include all the strategy parts?“) coping (“I can do this, I know this strategy!”); and self reinforcement (“Wow, I can write a good story!”)

Self Reinforcement

After modeling, then  support the student in developing a listing of personal self-statement he can use before, during and after writing.  These personal self-statements are written out, so he can see them at any time.

Finally, teach your student to recognize his own successes in writing.  Often, the graphing sheet serves as an excellent self-reinforcement.  Here again, make a list and write out positive self-reinforcing statements: “I did it!”

sole source: Linda H Mason’s article “Effective Instruction for Written Expression” in the Summer 2009 “Perspectives on Lanuage and Literacy” magazine of the International Dyslexia Association.  See the entire article for detailed instructions on how to implement this approach.  IDA’s Web site is www.interdys.org

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com



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