Content-Area Literacy Teaching Writing

A Snapshot of Writing Instruction in Middle Schools and High Schools


This 2011 article describes research which updates earlier work and which addresses the following questions: How much writing do students do? Who reads what students write? What is the effect of high-stakes tests on writing instruction? What kinds of writing instruction do teachers emphasize? How has technology influenced the teaching of writing? From writing tasks and genres to standards-based writing and writing in the disciplines, the authors present readers with reminders that writing can contribute to learning and deepen understanding. Teachers and teacher groups may use this article to spur discussion of ways to go beyond test-focused writing assignments by offering students the chance to develop writings based on their reflections, interests, and contemporary connections to learning.



“The snapshot of writing instruction presented here looks quite different from the picture that emerged in 1979–80. In 1979–80, students were typically provided with a question to be answered in a page or less, with instruction taking place after the fact, in the comments and responses that teachers offered on completed work. In contrast, teachers today report emphasizing a variety of research-based instructional practices (Graham and Perin), including clearly specifying what is required in a particular type of writing, teaching specific strategies for pre-writing, writing, and revision, using models of successful responses for students to analyze, critique, and emulate, and treating computers and word processors as important tools that support students’ learning to write.”