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Instructional Strategies

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Instructional Strategies

Differentiated Instruction

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"Writing organizes and clarifies our thoughts. Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make it our own. Writing enables us to find out what we know—and what we don’t know—about whatever we’re trying to learn." ― William Zinsser, author of Writing to Learn

On this page, you’ll find information about effective strategies for the writing classroom. In addition, several classroom videos capture real adult education teachers and students working to improve writing skills. For practical ideas to encourage quality student writing, also see the Lessons and Web Tools and Differentiated Instruction writing pages.


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Strategy Instruction
Strategy instruction provides explicit, step-by-step tools to help learners approach different aspects of the writing process and improve their writing.

Code-Switching: Supporting the Transition from Home Speech to School-based Writing
Code switching helps students strategically switch between formal, academic writing and informal writing based on home speech or dialect; teaching the switch is more effective than prohibiting informal speech or writing.

Feedback and Revision
Whether it comes from the teacher or through peer review, feedback that is specific, focused, actionable, and timely can help students dramatically improve their writing.

Contextualized Grammar Instruction for College Transition Students
Contextualized grammar instruction is the evidence-based alternative to "drill and kill." This short, reader-friendly guide gives excellent suggestions for somewhat, mostly, and entirely contextualized grammar activities for instruction that will engage students of any level.

Writing Strategies from the TEAL Just Write! Guide
Practical classroom ideas include increasing the amount of student writing with Quick Writes and other activities, combining sentences to make them more clear and complex, and introducing learners to writing frames.

The Discovering Ideas Handbook by John Tagg
This handbook by a California English professor covers the essay writing process, including advice on key tasks such as:

Teaching Writing by Rebekah Martindale
This list of teaching tips from an ESL instructor includes the "hamburger method" of explaining paragraph structure.

What’s Right Rather Than What’s Wrong: Using Journals to Teach Writing and to Build Self Confidence by Rebecca Garland
This article describes a writing teacher’s experience using journals with adult education students, including overcoming anxiety, addressing painful topics, dealing with spelling, and integrating direct instruction.

Journal Writing as an Adult Learning Tool
This ERIC Digest reviews types of journals and benefits for adult learning.

Twelve Tips to Teach the Reading-Writing Connection by Mark Pennington
This blog by a teacher and textbook publisher focuses on strategies for improving writing quality and reading comprehension.

Classroom Videos

ESOL Classroom Lesson: Writing and "Hamburger Paragraphs"
Prince William Adult Education instructor Tanya Conover teaches adult ESOL students to write organized paragraphs; this lesson is aligned with Virginia’s Adult ESOL Content Standards.

Reading Classroom Lesson: Reading and Writing about Langston Hughes
Prince William Adult Education instructor Michelle Nicolai teaches a lesson connecting reading and writing skills to a PreGED class mostly consisting of English language learners. Filmed in 2009, this lesson is aligned with Virginia’s Adult ESOL Content Standards.

Cultivating Writing Skills at the Intermediate Level (ESOL)
This video from New American Horizons features D.C. instructor Sheryl Sherwin working with her ESL class. (You may need to search through the video thumbnails at the bottom of the page to select this video from the series.)

Writing to Learn: Thinking on Paper
In this 2008 video, Vermont adult basic education instructor Doris Plumb encourages her students to write to learn.

Writing: The Five-Paragraph Essay
In this video, Massachusetts adult educator Brenna Kane walks her students through the writing process for a 2002 series GED essay.

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The VALRC, located at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU School of Education), is funded primarily through the VA Department of Education.