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Writing: Featured Instructional Resources

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Evidence-based Writing Instruction

Standards-based Instruction: Virginia’s state-adopted standards for adult education are the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education (CCRS), which include nine Writing anchor standards and corresponding level-specific standards. The English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) are designed to support English language learners in developing English language proficiency and reaching college and career readiness goals. This VALRC resource page includes links to the standards along with resources and professional development to help educators understand and use them. 

Writing Next by Steven Graham and Dolores Perin: This reader-friendly report analyzes years of writing research and identifies eleven practical strategies found to be effective in helping students improve their writing. Although focusing on K12 research, it is highly relevant for adult education. For a short, two-page summary, see the research-to-practice brief by adult educator Dianna Baycich.

TEAL Just Write! Guide: This guide, designed for adult educators as part of a federally funded initiative, takes an in-depth look at writing instruction. It includes research and fact sheets as well as instructional recommendations, such as increasing the amount of time students spend writing using Quick Writes, teaching sentence combining, and making use of writing frames.

Improving ESL Learners’ Writing Skills by Tom Bello: This digest discusses approaches to writing and activity ideas for teaching writing to adult English language learners.

Writing for an authentic audience engages and empowers learners (and it’s built into the CCRS standards). Writing by fellow adult learners can serve as inspiration and models. 

SPOTLIGHT is an annual publication of writing by Virginia adult learners. Read past issues and find submissions information on the VALRC website.

The Change Agent publishes adult learners from around the country in themed issues and pays student contributors. Change Agent submissions open in February and are due in May. See VALRC resources for more information on accessing The Change Agent and for suggestions for teaching with The Change Agent.

Speak Out with Letters to the Editor: This page from Virginia Organizing gives contact information for state, regional, and local papers across the commonwealth.

Strategy instruction, explicitly and systematically teaching steps for parts of the writing process, has been shown to have the greatest positive impact on learner writing. Self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) combines teaching writing with supporting students in developing a growth mindset and self-monitoring skills. The following links provide more information on strategy instruction and SRSD as well as some examples of strategies for planning, organizing, revising, and editing.

To improve as writers, learners must write. However, many face anxiety when facing a blank page or screen. These resources focus on low-stress approaches that can help learners generate more writing.

Quick Writes: This list of prompt ideas was generated with input from Virginia teachers, but instructors should feel empowered to choose prompts that are relevant to their own learners’ interests and goals.

Language Experience Approach (LEA): Particularly useful for learners who are developing foundational reading and writing skills, this strategy builds from learners’ existing conversation skills. The linked page gives step-by-step instructions and video demonstration, and more resources can be found here

Dialogue Journals: Interactive Writing to Develop Language and Literacy by Joy Kreeft Peyton: Many types of journaling can support learners in developing fluency as writers. 

George Ella Lyons’ “Where I’m From” poem has been a model for developing writers and a way to connect personal history with educational goals; the I Am From Project website collects and publishes a diversity of “I Am From” Poems.

GED® Extended Response Resources from GEDTS: GED® Testing Service offers many resources for educators who are supporting adult learners in developing the skills to perform well on the Reasoning through Language Arts (RLA) GED® subject test. These include suggested instructional strategies from subject matter experts, extended response (argument essay) practice prompts, and scoring tools and examples.

Triple Q Argument Writing lessons from SERP: Although designed for K12 use, these research-based writing units are likely to benefit adult learners. Units teach argument through pro/con article reading; discussing models; targeted QuickWrites; mapping claims and evidence; and drafting, revising, and assessing essays

Fillable Graphic Organizers: The Both Sides Now Graphic Organizer and What – Why – How organizers both help learners analyze evidence when reading and writing arguments.

They Say, I Say Templates: These templates or sentence frames can support writers in using academic language and taking their writing, especially their argument writing, to a higher level. Adapted from the paradigmatic book, this collection of templates is hosted by Tusculum University.

Logical Fallacies from GCF Global: This short tutorial on identifying and avoiding logical fallacies includes colorful visuals and a three-minute video introduction.

The Never-fail Writing Method by Kate Nonesuch: Canadian adult educator Kate Nonesuch shares a teacher-friendly guide to her "never-fail" approach to writing instruction, which builds learners' confidence and skills by leveraging appreciative teacher and peer feedback.

The Paragraph Hamburger: Reading Rockets explains this visual approach to explaining paragraph structure.

Contextualized Grammar: “Traditional” grammar instruction has not been, but teaching grammar in the context of relevant written texts and of the writing process can have a powerful impact. This explainer from the National College Transition Network defines contextualized grammar, giving examples of types of activities instructors can use. 

Grammar Bytes! This colorful website includes a glossary of grammar terms as well as exercise and presentation materials related to specific issues of grammar and mechanics.

Transition Words List from English Language Smart Words: Explicitly teaching transition words can improve writers’ organization, analysis, and editing skills.


For more resources on writing instruction, please search VALRC’s resource bank. For resources focusing on teaching English language learners, see our ESOL featured resources.