SRSD Deep Dive
Dr. Karen Harris’ videos provide a wealth of background and introductory information. They do not have be watched in the order presented. We do recommend watching all of the videos before delving deeper into the course and learning about the 6 Stages of SRSD. Although we believe, Dr. Harris’ videos are best when watched as an introduction to SRSD, they are also beneficial as a review after participants have completed the 6 stages.
Dr. Karen R. Harris, creator of SRSD, Self-Regulated Strategy Development for Reading and Writing, talks about why it is important to put teachers and students in charge of powerful instruction strategies.
Writing is the neglected ‘R’ according to the National Commission on Writing (2003). The NCW reported that writing is how students connect the dots in their knowledge and that, after third grade, writing is the most common way students demonstrate what they know. In K-12 the most powerful predictors of academic success are writing and reading. Writing is also a powerful tool for self-reflection and participation in civil life within our global society.
Writing matters. According to the National Commission on Writing (2005) more than 90% of white-collar and 80% of blue-collar jobs involve writing. Writing is a critical skill in the workforce. According to Berman (2009) high-level literacy skills are required for most jobs that pay a living wage. According to the Business Roundtable (2009) Jobs today require a higher level of literacy skill than entry-level jobs 10-20 years ago and the trend is accelerating. According to Graham and Perin (2007) Lack of competence in writing puts students at-risk for school failure and the consequences extend beyond the school years.
The U.S. is not doing well in student writing. Two out of three students, grades 4, 8 and 12, do not score at the proficient level. Also, writing performance has remained stagnant for decades (National Association of Education Progress, 2012). Furthermore, students with disabilities (5%) and ELL (1%)are even lower. The class of 2012 SAT results were the lowest since 2006 (488 on the writing).
We spending $2 billion annually on remedial writing courses for postsecondary students (Fulton 2010) and businesses spend 3.1 billion annually to remediate writing skills in workers (National Commission on Writing, 2004). 20% of first year college students require a remedial writing class. 50% are unable to write an error-free paper (ICAS, 2002).
Why is all of this happening? How did we get here? Only 27% of our K-12 students are proficient in writing. To start with, skilled writing is complex. It requires extensive self-regulation of a flexible, goal directed, problem solving activity. You need knowledge about writing, genre knowledge, strategies for planning, text production, editing, and revising. Teaching writing is similarly demanding and most of our teachers report being very poorly prepared to teach writing while having a lower efficacy for teaching writing than for any other subject they teach (Applebee 2012, Brindle, Graham, Harris, 2015). The lower a teacher’s efficacy the less time that teacher spends teaching writing (Brindle, 2015).
Classroom after classroom we hear the same thing from teachers, “when something has to go, it’s writing”. Kellogg said, “Writing is the mental equivalent of digging ditches.” Fox, a famous sports writer once said, “Writing is simple, just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.” Dr. Suess said, “Every sentence is like pains of birth.”
Today when I talk about writing demands of our children, adolescents and even of adults, I think a lot about conducting an orchestra. The writer has to understand ones self as a writer. What skills, abilities, and strategies do I have at my command? What don’t I know yet? What’s emerging for me? I have to understand the writing test, the genre, I need to be the master of mechanics, forms, skills, and strategies. I need to understand my own affect for writing. How do I persevere when I’m tired of it? What do I do when my motivation is low? I have to evaluate the writing task, I have to determine my goals for writing. I need to consider my reader, what emotional impact do I want to have on my reader? What characteristics of text do I want to use? I have to identify the environmental conditions that can be addressed to make writing conducive.
I have to manage cognitive load. I have to manage my working memory and my long term memory, and finally I do have to manage my affective responses to writing, intentional control, time management, and the desire to quit.
It might seem like regulating the writing process and regulating yourself as the writer can’t be that hard, or aren’t that difficult. It turns out that research has shown us this is core to effective writing. It is difficult, and our children and our adolescents, and even adults need assistance developing critical self-regulation skills to use during the writing process.
We’ve established that learning to write is difficult, and writing is difficult. I think we can safely say today based on the research base we have, and without equivocation that writing does not develop naturally, but it can be taught.
One of the myths that we have been exposed to for the last twenty to thirty years is that writing should develop like talking, that talking develops naturally with little instruction, just a rich environment. There could be nothing further from the truth about talking either.
I want you to stop and think about it, anytime a baby is around, look at the people around that baby and look at how they interact with that child. Whether it’s a parent, a stranger, or a sibling, they coo at the baby, they make sounds at the baby for the baby to imitate. If a baby tries to say a word they support it, they re-pronounce it, they help the baby make that word. When the young child starts putting words together and making sentences, there’s someone there always supporting, helping, keying, scaffolding, helping that child make language.
In fact, I think you would be hard put to come up with a single more scaffolded learning experience in your life than the way you learned to talk.
In writing instruction, a lot of wonderful things have happened in the last couple of decades. There’s so much that we do support. A shift from a product oriented model to a model that emphasizes interactive learning among teachers and students, not just what can you get on paper but learning together what is good writing, exploring models of good writing together, a focus on the meaning of writing, not simply marking papers up in red ink and showing the student everything they’ve done wrong but rather helping the students learn form and structure but also focus on content and meaning. Student involvement in the selection of topic and genre is critical to motivation but there are times when we don’t get to choose our topic and genre. It’s important that students be able to respond to both environments.
Creation of a writing community is incredibly important in the classroom. This is something that the writing workshop approach to writing has shown us can make a big difference to students. They learn how to work with each other. They learn how to support each other. Integrating writing with the rest of the curriculum is incredibly important. Writing doesn’t take place in isolation. We use writing to learn math. We use writing to learn science. We use writing to show what we know in science, in social studies, in math. We use writing as a tool for learning and for showing what we know.
Developing the knowledge, strategies, skills and mechanics that we need for effective writing in the context of meaningful writing activities is also clearly important for our students. This doesn’t mean that at times there isn’t a place for drill and practice. We need to learn to spell. We need for our handwriting to become fluent. We need time for those skills to become automatic for us so that we can pay less attention to them while we conduct that orchestra for writing.
Let’s take moment to reflect further on the Writer’s Workshop or Process Approach to teaching writing and let’s look at the research base. We now have a very thorough look at 30 years of research on Writer’s Workshop and the Process Approach. The Process Approach alone is not very effective for children in general, unless teachers receive considerable professional development. With strong professional development, the kind offered by the National Writing Project for example, even then the effect sizes are small. For struggling writers, Writer’s Workshop and the Process Approach to Writing has little to no effect, meaning that they show very little improvement in these classrooms. Because this has been one of the most predominant approaches to teaching writing for the last 30 years, we have the number of students we have reaching high school, reaching college, without the skills and strategies that they need instruction for. We also have to consider writing as a process, writing as a product, and writing as a way of knowing, to inform both development and instruction.
Let’s go back to SRSD or Self-Regulated Strategy Development. I’m only here talking to you about it today because it is an evidence-based practice. What does that mean? It means that there are experimental randomized studies, not just in the United States but now in over ten countries, that have shown that when teachers use SRSD as one part of teaching writing in their classrooms, students make impressive gains.
There are several organizations that have looked at the research base for SRSD, including over 100 studies, and have determined that SRSD deserves the label evidence-based from grades 2 through 12 and for adults. I’ll share just two of them here. SRSD received a rating of “strong evidence”, the highest rating possible, defined as “consistent evidence that the recommended strategies, programs, or practices improve student outcomes for a wide population of students. In other words, there is strong causal and generalizable evidence.” In the “Institute for Education Students Practice Guide: Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writing.” The same finding occurred in the “Practice Guide for Teaching Adolescents to be Effective Writers.”
A second group I’ll mention here is the panel that put together the report “Writing Next: Effective strategies to improve the writing of adolescents in middle and high schools” commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation. This is separated from the IES Practice Guide for Adolescents. This group also determined that SRSD has the strongest impact of any researched instructional approach in writing.
With over 100 studies, what can I tell you in a nutshell about SRSD, what it does, and what you can expect if you use it with your students? First of all, SRSD significantly and meaningfully changes how students with writing problems and their typically achieving peers write. SRSD significantly and meaningfully changes what students with writing problems and their peers write. Self-efficacy for writing, or belief in the self as a capable writer who will only get better. Attitudes towards writing and attributions for why I’m doing better at writing, primarily being, “I know a set of strategies I can use. I have skills that I need, and I’m going to put forth the effort to use them.” Those attributions for effective writing improve greatly throughout SRSD instruction. That supports students throughout the writing process.
We typically achieve short-term maintenance. Students don’t forget what they’ve learned. Over time, they may need a booster session, and that’s just normal in any learning that children do. Further, in a time when most people talk about difficult it is to get children to generalize what they’ve learned in the classroom, to use it outside of the classroom with this task, to use it with that task, to get kids to generalize what they’ve learned, it can be hard, yet SRSD instruction includes a gateway to generalization as well as components to reinforce maintenance. We get generalization as well as maintenance when it’s reasonable to get it.
SRSD though is only part of what we need to change writing achievement and writing instruction in our country. SRSD is not a total writing program. It is not a stand-alone. It is not a curriculum. It is an instructional approach that will make a big difference as part of the overall writing curriculum. Furthermore, don’t believe what anybody tells you about SRSD being totally incompatible with Writer’s Workshop, Whole Language, or the Process Approach to writing. 30 years of research shows us clearly and emphatically that that is not true. Most of our research and much of other people’s research has been done in classrooms using the Writing Process approach, and it has integrated well into the Writer’s Workshop. It has meant changes in how Writer’s Workshop is perceived, but the two put together have worked beautifully.
SRSD does not address many of those skills we talked about. It does not directly address handwriting, keyboarding, spelling, and grammar. Time is still needed to address all of these, but all of these should be addressed within the context of writing for meaningful purposes.
Let’s take a look at some before and after. Let’s look at Sarah. Sarah’s a typical second grade writer. Sarah’s not a struggling writer. Given this prompt, should parents give their children money for having good grades on their report cards, Sarah wrote the following: “No because parents aren’t supposed to give money for their report cards and their grades. Okay, she answered the question. You need to know that in this classroom they had spent time reading persuasive letters, they had spent time talking about what it meant to persuade someone, but when Sarah was given the opportunity to write to persuade she simply answered the question with her belief.
After SRSD instruction class-wide, Sarah’s essay is typical of what the majority of her classmates writing looked like. Please remember that she’s only seven years old. Through the stages of SRSD instruction, that I’ll share with you in a minute, which took only about 12 30-40 minute lessons, Sarah wrote this totally independently at the end. She was asked should teachers give students grades? “Yes. I think teachers should give students grades. First kids need it so they can see if they got 100. Second it would be much more easy if you give students a grade. Finally teachers would be proud of themselves if they give kids a grade. That’s why teachers should give students grades. The End.” She needed to tell you that she has all her parts.
One of the things Sarah learned is that to be persuasive, we have to have reasons. When we introduce our reasons to persuade, we need to give the reader cue words that tell us a reason is coming, linking words like first and next and finally. She also learned to think about the reader, what would the reader find persuasive, not just what Sarah believes but what would get to her reader. She’s only seven, but look at the beginning we have. We have plenty of places to go from here. We can edit and revise this piece and make it even better. We can teach her those powerful editing and revising strategies. We can work on commas and sentence structure. We have somewhere to go. She is on the playing field as a writer.
Now, let’s take a look at Paige in fourth grade. She’s a student with a learning disability. She received whole class SRSD lead by her teacher and assisted by the special education teacher. This is her pretest for simple opinion essay writing. Should children have to go outside for recess? This is what Paige wrote and I bet you can think of children in your classrooms who would sound a lot like this. “No, because kids need to be inside in storms and icky wet weather. Also to stay warm and cozy. Yes because it might be really hot. Also it might not be too cold.” If you can find one single opinion in this essay, I will be impressed. This was common not just for students with learning disabilities in Paige’s classroom but for many of the typically achieving writers as well. We don’t see clear reasons, we don’t see careful consideration of the reader and what might convince the reader, and at fourth grade we also would like to see exclamations for reasons, we’d like to see the writer say even more in support of each reason.
After SRSD instruction, this is what Paige wrote totally independently. Should kids be paid to go to school? “Listen up! Kids should get paid for going to school. My first reason is that they’ll do their work better because if kids don’t get paid, they won’t do their work. Another reason is that kids work hard to learn. If kids really work hard to learn, they’ve earned cash. My last reason is that if kids are paid to go to school they can use the money to buy things that will help them learn better. They can buy pencils, paper, crayons, books, calculators, and even more. This will be great for teachers too because they won’t have to buy kids supplies like they do now. Now you know why kids need to be paid to go to school.”
Paige’s teacher thought that ideation was a problem for Paige, that structure and organization were huge problems for Paige, but what we found in 12 to 14 30-40 minute lessons is that ideation wasn’t the issue. Structure was a bit of a challenge, but once Paige understood the basics of persuasive writing and the structure persuasive writers bring to a persuasive piece, she was able to build on that structure. This is formulaic. It has voice. As we go on, let me show you how we help our students find their voices and rewrite their own narratives about writing. Paige is a student who believed that she would never be a writer, that she was born this way and she would always be a poor writer. Within three weeks, Paige’s attitude and beliefs about writing had turned around dramatically.
All right, so how did we get here? What is SRSD? I hope I’ve got you hooked now. First of all, SRSD always begins with reading. We don’t begin with writing. We begin with reading. One of the things that’s distinctive about SRSD is it’s not the use of mentor text or model text. That’s been around for a good while. One of the things that is distinctive about SRSD is the use of mentor or model text that is clearly written at the child’s writing level.
One of the things that we see happening in classrooms is children being given mentor and model texts that are at their reading level but they’re nowhere near their writing level. Because I can read it doesn’t mean I can write like that. We’ve work hard to come up with, from children, sometimes writing them ourselves, from teachers, come up with mentor model texts that children can read and say, “Oh, that’s not that different from me. That’s a good model for me. If I use my strategies, if I use my tricks, if I use my skills, I can write like that,” and that has been key to our success with children and it simply leans on everything we know about good and effective modeling. Good, effective models are models that anyone can see themselves being able to be like, and for children this is really critical.
SRSD also focuses on the development of knowledge, such as vocabulary, background knowledge, and understanding of the characteristics of good writing which, by the way, is no big mystery. We do know what the characteristics of good writing are needed to use the strategies you own. Interactive explicit learning of strategies for genre-specific and general writing is inherent in SRSD, and SRSD leans on and is rich in discussion and cognitive modeling and collaborative modeling and peer work as major vehicles for achieving these goals. SRSD is child centered, SRSD is student centered, but SRSD is teacher driven. Teachers know what they’re doing, they know why they’re doing it, they know how to do it, and both teachers and students are in charge of learning powerful reading and writing strategies.
We explicitly develop self-regulation of strategy use and the writing process. How do we do that? We teach, practice, and reinforce goalsetting, self-assessment, self speech, and self reinforcement. There’s more, but that’s enough for today. We deliberately work to develop self-efficacy for writing. The belief, “Look, I can do this. I can write.” We develop attributions through discussion and tracking progress to strategy use and the student’s own effort in using those strategies and making them work and making them theirs. We develop attitudes, more positive feelings about writing, and we develop and support motivation to write, and all of these things are tailored to the needs of the individual students in teachers’ classrooms.
SRSD is many more things as well. It’s differentiated to meet the differing needs among students. When teachers are working with a classroom of 20, 25, 28, 30 students, there will be many levels of writers in that classroom. By the fourth grade teacher will have students still writing at around second grade level all the way through students who are able to write at more of a sixth-grade level. Although talking about grade levels of writing is misleading, you get the picture. Therefore, the basic goals for all students, the goals we’ve been talking about, need to be combined with specific goals for individual students based on their current writing performance, their own strengths, and their own needs.
Another critical characteristic of SRSD is that it’s criterion-based. What do we mean about this? It means simply that if children have to be able to do it, and they do, we’ve already established that, our children must be able to write narrative, persuasive, and informative text. Giving students the time they need to own strategies, to master skills, to become writers, means that children need to proceed at their individual paces and that we need to privilege writing in the curriculum to allow the development of these powerful writing abilities across the grades, from kindergarten through 12th.
SRSD is also a problem-solving method of instruction. It is not a scripted method of instructions. Teachers are the core. Teachers are the heart of SRSD. Teachers must be in charge. Only the teacher knows her or his students well enough to know when to push this, when to back off that, how to bring this through, how to take what you learned in writing this morning and use it in social studies this afternoon, so teachers are in charge. We believe in and have great faith in our teachers. They simply need to be provided with the knowledge and the materials and the skills that can make a difference in their classrooms.
SRSD is framed within six flexible, recursive, and highly interactive teacher student, student student, whole class stages that serve as a meta-plan for instruction. We won’t go through all six stages in depth today. They are called develop it. We’re working on background knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. Discuss it. We begin to introduce characteristics of effective writing and aspects of genres that need to be understood. Modeling it. We do a great deal of collaborative modeling. We memorize the mnemonics that stand for the core elements of a strategy in a genre.
We support writing. That means that before children write alone, they write together and/or with the teacher, making sure all the parts are there. This is the stage where we gradually reduce support. We gradually reduce prompts and working memory aids and so forth, and the student becomes an independent writer who owns the strategies.
Let’s talk a little bit more about exactly what it was that Sarah, and Paige, and other students learned in 2nd grade and 4th grade about opinion essay writing. First of all, they learned a lot about the writing process. We used the mnemonic POW to stand for some parts of the writing process. We talk about how knowing POW gives you power for everything you write, because no matter what you write, you have to do P-O and W. P stands for pick my idea. O stands for organize my notes, and W stands for write and say more.
We talk and work together on making good notes, as children are collaboratively writing with the teacher and with each other. This turns out to be no surprise to many of you. One of the more difficult challenges of instruction. Struggling writers don’t want to make notes at all. They simply want to write whole sentences, and when they’ve made their notes, they’re done, they just copy it over onto clean paper. You’ve all seen it. Even typically achieving writers aren’t making effective notes. They write far more than they need to and because of that they’re very bound to what’s in their notes when they write their final draft. We want children to make notes that are effective and efficient, but that are flexible, and that allow them to write and say more once they’re writing final product. This is something that takes a great deal of modeling and a great deal of work.
Let’s take a moment here to distinguish between these two terms. Usually, an opinion essay relies on what you pull out of your own mind, your thoughts, your beliefs, and maybe some facts that you know. It’s what you believe, and why you believe it, and what you think could persuade your reader to agree with you. Persuasive essay writing has many levels of sophistication, but critical to persuasive writing is the recognition of at least one counter opinion, and the rebutting of that position or counterargument. In 2nd grade and 4th grade, we rarely ask for true persuasive writing. Further, true persuasive writing also relies on facts and not just opinion or personal experience.
Let’s stick with 2nd and 4th grade for right now, and let’s look at what I would call more opinion essay writing than persuasive, but some of your state or other standards might refer to as persuasive writing. We use the mnemonic tree to stand for the basic elements of a good opinion or persuasive essay. T, topic sentence, tell what you believe, be clear, make a strong statement. Reasons, at least three or more. If you don’t have at least three, or maybe more reasons, you don’t have a very good chance of persuading your reader. Think about “why do I believe this,” think about “will my readers believe this.” E, explain each reason. Say more, add details, add information that will help persuade the reader. Add an emotional appeal that might help persuade your reader. And then an ending, wrap it up right.
This is what Paige learned. Sarah learned a similar form of tree: Topic sentence, Reasons, three or more, Ending, and Examine my essay and make sure I have all the parts. We did not ask 2nd graders to add explanations to their reasons. Well, we may have been foolish. We have 2nd grade teachers who have moved their students into explanations with reasons. Once again, the teacher is in charge. The teacher knows what their students are capable of doing and what they need next.
There are no formulas here. What there is: deep development of understanding of the writing process and the characteristics of good writing. That, once developed, belongs to the writer. There is deep development of genre knowledge. Again, once that genre knowledge is there, it belongs to the writer and over time and over the grades, it will only get deeper. It will only get broader. It will only empower the writer more. Development of belief in self as a good growing writer, who knows the effort and use of powerful strategies are critical. I’ve repeated this several times now, haven’t I? The students hear it a lot too. As you are beginning to see how it fits together, they see how it fits together. Our students learn effectively and explicitly how to self regulate the writing process and themselves as a writer.
SRSD isn’t just for writing. I’ve mentioned reading and writing as we’ve gone a long and now I want to show you an example. SRSD strategies have been validated in reading comprehension but they’ve also been validated in reading and writing to learn. We’re going to look at 2 student examples here. Let’s start with Randy. Randy was a 10-year old who described himself as not good at writing. His teacher described him as struggling in the classroom and as a student who didn’t like writing and would go out of his way not to start and not to have to write for long. His instruction in writing had primarily been through a whole language approach in the school. Given an informational text to read, Randy was asked to write an essay persuading readers to save water.
Now Randy is 10 years old, he’s 4th or 5th grade. Working from informational text to write persuasively or working from text to write informationally, these are pretty new demands for 8, 9 and 10 year olds. They are demands that exist in state standards or in common core standards and they are demands that we are finding with appropriate instruction and support, even young children can meet. Without that instruction, on Randy’s pre-test, he used very little information from the text he read. Although he could read it, it was read out loud with him and he had it there to lean on while he wrote. He provided very few reasons and explanations and the quality of his text was poor.
Now Randy is a typically achieving, typically developing student in the classroom. Randy learnt POW and TREE which you’re already familiar with. Now Randy stopped learning just about writing and began learning about being a strategic reader. He learned a strategy we call TWA, developed by Linda Mason and her colleagues, which is a reading comprehension strategy. TWA stands for Think Before Reading, Think While Reading, Think After Reading. TWA was modified to target writing persuasively or writing an opinion essay with 2 sub-questions under each component. Think before reading. Think about your own ideas for good reasons and explanations. Students are given a prompt, they know they’re going to have to write persuasively, they’re going to write an opinion or persuasive essay and they’re going to have this text to read 1st.
Think before you read. What’s in your head? Your own ideas are just as important as what you learn from reading. Now, think about the author’s purpose for the text you’re reading. “I’m reading informational text on water. Oh, the author wants me to know about water. Oh, while I’m reading, I’m learning the author is giving me all these reasons that water is scarce and is telling me a lot about why water should be saved. She is making the argument that we’re not very knowledgeable about water and how we use water and we should be. Okay, I get it.”
While reading think about 2 things. Your reading speed. This is here because research has show that young children in particular ages and grades 2 through 6-ish, either read way too fast or way too slow. They need to read at a speed that lets them comprehend and lets them stop and think about what they’re reading. We teach students to be careful about the speed they read at and to give the text the time it needs for them to comprehend it. We teach students already be thinking about and start marking up text for possible reasons and explanations for reasons as you find them in this text. Then think after reading. Think about, “Out of my possible ideas from my own head, from what I’ve read, what are the best reasons and explanations? What is most likely to persuade my reader? Who is my reader after all? What will work?” Then think about and make notes for powerful reasons and explanations that you will write about.
Now here’s an example writing prompt, “Write an essay convincing your classmates that it’s important to save the rainforest.” All right, you’re given informational text about rainforest. Embedded in that text might be some information about why we need to save it but the text itself is not all about saving the rainforest. It’s informational text. Now let’s take a look at something else that was in Randy’s writing folder. These are things that Randy decided would help him if he said them to himself, to think of good ideas while he worked and to check his work. Some of these statements were modeled by the teacher, many were not. Some were contributed by other students and Randy liked them well enough to modify them and make them his own. Some came only from Randy. To think of good ideas. Catch someone’s attention. Always use tree when you persuade someone. While writing, while working, what should I say to myself? Take time, use tree of persuading, use your brain always. Then what will I say to myself to check my work? Read it again. You used your brain! Okay, that’s a self-reinforcement. Use TWA, check your planning sheet.
This is the actual text Randy was working from. It was read aloud in the classroom, students read along and then had it there to mark up just as they did it pre-test on the topic of saving water. What you’ll see here is Randy has made several passes through this text. He’s doing what we call “Close Reading”. It’s not 1 read, it’s several. As he reads he underlines or marks things that might be reasons. He just puts R and E to begin with. He’d not ordering them at 1st. Then he goes back and he begins to find the things he likes best and he puts stars by them. Remember that part about think of what are your best reasons and your best explanations? You can see Randy doing that. Then he thinks about order, “What should be my 1st reason? What will be a good strong lead in? What would I like to be my second reason? I’m going to have at least 3, so what should I have for my 3rd reason? Do I maybe see more than 3? Well, look here, I’ve gotten R4.”
Randy identified 4 possible reasons. He may or may not use all of them. Some kids identified 5 or 6 possible reasons. You can see the Es, E1, E2, E3. These means explanation 1 goes with reason 1 and so on. Now Randy initially wrote using a graphic organizer that we gave him which had T-R-E-R-E-R-E-E, down 1 side and boxes to make notes in. We win the kids off these graphic organizers fairly early in instruction and some teachers including Randy’s teacher never use our graphic organizer. They teach from the beginning. “Make your own note organizer on your own scratch paper.” Let’s look here, all of what Randy did as planning before he wrote. We have Randy’s planning sheet from his pre-test. You want to bet what was on it? Little to nothing. No structure, no organization and just a couple of ideas jotted down.
Let’s look now. 1st, it’s not required to put POW at the top but many students do. It’s also not required to put TWA and check off that you’ve done each piece of the T, the W and the A. It is recommended and many students do do that. Then he has done what is required, a T and make notes for your topic sense. Reason, explanation, reason, explanation, reason, explanation, and ending. A box for each of these. As you can see, Randy has found more than 1 explanation for each of his reasons. He’s decided to stay with 3 but he has 2 explanations for each reason. He also has made some notes for his ending, he summarized his key reasons. On the left you’ll see his linking words.
This is what Randy wrote totally independently after having had SRSD instruction on POW and TREE and TWA. That means that they collaboratively have read and marked texted together. They have collaboratively read, marked text and then written persuasively as a whole class, in small groups, in teams of 2 or one-on-one with the teacher. Now Randy is writing alone and this is what he wrote at post-test. “Hey everybody!” Now look, he was told to write an essay to persuade his classmates. That is voice. “Hey everybody!” With an exclamation mark, is appropriate for your classmates but that’s not how he would have written if he was writing to his principle or writing to the newspaper. He was able to clearly and concisely tell us why he started with “Hey everybody!” Do you see what Randy has learned? There’s so much here.
“Hey everybody! I think it’s important to save the rainforest. My 1st reason is the rainforests are being cut down and the rainforest used to cover 14% of the earth. Now it is only covering 6% of the earth.” Wow, powerful facts. Randy gets it. “Now you know I think we should stop cutting down trees, it’s important and we need medicines.” Look, this was about 15 to 18, 30 to 40-minute lessons, as a group, in small groups, with the support needed, with the writing folder there. Then eventually all of that withdrawn and Randy writing with just scratch paper and on his own. Is he done? No, he’s not done developing as a writer. One of the most important things to understand about SRSD is it’s a beginning, not an ending. It puts kids on the playing field. There’s a bunch of teachers here. You already see at least 1/2 a dozen things you’ll work on now. Look at what you have to work with.
Now, let’s look at Kelly. Kelly’s a different story from Randy. Kelly’s pretest was like Randy’s, brief, but it was all one sentence. Here’s Kelley’s pretest. Now, she’s nine years old. She’s a struggling writer. She’s scoring below the 33rd percentile on a norm-referenced writing test. This has been corrected for spelling only. She got to read text on being a fit kid. She was asked to write to persuade her classmates that it’s important to be a fit kid. This is what she wrote.
“How to be a fit kid is to run, drink water instead of soda, go out for a few hours, and to be active instead of the twelve hours you watch TV, go exercise, start eating stuff like whole grain, oats, carrots, fruits and vegetables, instead of junk food.”
One sentence. Now you can see some use of text. Most of these ideas did come from the text. You can see that Kelly is thinking at pretest, and Kelly is making use of text. You could also see that Kelly doesn’t know what it means to persuade a reader, doesn’t know the conventions of opinion and persuasive writing, and doesn’t have what she needs to put together a persuasive piece. As she received the same instruction that Randy received, here’s where she was when she reached independent performance not long after Randy did.
She is not as far along as Randy, but let’s look at the gain she’s made, and think about where you would go next. Kelly was given informational text about wearing bike helmets. This time, she was asked to write to persuade adults or parents that their children should wear helmets when they ride a bike. Here’s what she wrote.
“Have you ever thought that your kid needs a good helmet? Well, if you have never thought that, and you think this is not true, then read my text. I believe that when you ride a bike, you should keep a helmet on you at all times when riding. My first reason is you could break a lot of bones if you don’t wear padding. You can fall and break your arm, your leg, or other bones. My second reason is over 10 million kids get injured. Some have to stay longer than others in the hospital. Some don’t even have to go, but it is still important.
My next reason, is over 400,000 kids ride their bikes to school. At a school, 45% of kids wear helmets with their bikes. My last reason is fashion. If you don’t wear a bike helmet because it is not cute enough, well, you will look worse if you have scars all over and brain injuries from falling with no helmet. Now you know why I believe wearing a helmet is safe, and you need it anytime you go on a bike ride. Breaking bones, percentage, how many, and fashion.
Kelly is definitely not done, but Kelly is on the playing field. Ideation is not her problem, nor was her ability to read text. Where would you go next with Kelly? You now have the opportunity to teach Kelly powerful editing and revising strategies. You can use peer planning and peer revising strategies to help her keep going, and to let her help others. You can begin to work on paragraph use. Kelly told us how much fun writing is now, and she was so proud of her essay having four linking words, and eleven parts. Kelly is on board. We have a long way to go. What would you do next? Not too much at once, but I know that you would figure out how to take Kelly step-by-step to even higher ground.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the data from POW plus TREE plus TWA. We’re not just teaching mnemonics. We’re teaching writing, and we’re teaching reading and writing to learn. Planning went up dramatically in these classrooms. You can see at pre-test there was very little planning going on. At mid-test, midpoint in instruction, after collaborative writing, there was more planning, but still not very much among the kids who were getting SRSD and no improvement in planning among the control classrooms. By post test the planning that our kids were doing after SRSD instruction was impressive, and planning had actually gone down in the control classrooms, probably because they were sick and tired of writing. They didn’t have the strategies to use to be persistent, and so they simply did less.
Quality of writing went up at midpoint for kids in treatment, but not for kids in control classrooms. That is after collaborative modeling. Once again, the biggest improvements in quality don’t come until the end of instruction, until after all that collaborative writing, that supported, that group conducting of that orchestra, the training wheels on the bike. When all of that has happened, then our students are able to write alone and be in charge of the writing strategies they’ve learned. Genre knowledge, SRSD imparts important genre knowledge to students. Here you see pre and post, control, and instruction.
Let’s just take a moment to recognize that SRSD is complicated, too. Learning the components, the characteristics, the stages, and coming to own the SRSD instructional approach takes time for teachers. All teachers are already doing part of SRSD, but we’ve rarely met a teacher who’s doing all of it.
We do hands on, practice-based professional development with teachers using Deborah Ball’s model for guidance and inspiration. It takes us 12 to 14 hours split up across a couple of weeks with homework in between in small groups, focusing on those teacher, students, the learning in their classroom, the writing demands in their schools, and planning for their own students.
This instruction doesn’t all have to be face-to-face. We are seeing success with instruction that is done online, we are seeing success with coaching even that is done online, with teachers videotaping their instruction and sharing it with remote coaches.
The point is that to learn to use SRSD effectively is demanding. While many teachers can do it on their own, it’s probably more efficient and more effective to learn to use SRSD through effective professional development, whatever form of professional development is available to you, because, after all, teachers are also conducting an orchestra.
I am begging you, please don’t PEE in the classroom. This is the number one mistake that we see teachers make when they study SRSD a little bit, but don’t truly understand it. They focus on the mnemonics. How many times have I told you SRSD isn’t about teaching mnemonics, it’s about teaching process, genre, characteristics of good writing, and getting students in control of powerful strategies for writing.
What some teachers do is focus on the mnemonics. They post them in the classroom. They explain each part of POW, each part of TREE. They even model writing at least once. Then they expect. That’s what I’ve been telling you throughout doesn’t work. Our data shows it, teachers rediscover it over and over again. They post, they explain, they discuss, they model, they say, “Go write,” and they get very little improvement, except from the best writers in their classrooms.
The scaffolded practice, the collaborative writing, the peer writing, the further discussion, the further evaluation, the revising together, the editing together, all of these is critical so that students can write independently as well as with others and conduct that entire orchestra.
What is the cause benefit of SRSD or how long does it take? In the elementary grades, teaching POW & TREE takes 8 to 12 lessons lasting 20 to 40 minutes. Some kids need some additional lessons beyond that, some kids are done sooner and given more challenging goals to move onto. That’s not an unreasonable investment in a genre. Now imagine, if POW & TREE was taught in 2nd grade and these kids came to 3rd grade already understanding the process and understanding the genre, and understanding reasons and explanations, imagine how much more sophisticated you could help them be in 3rd grade.
Then in 4th grade or in 3rd grade, you’re using the more sophisticated version of TREE. Maybe now you’re even introducing counter argument and rebuttal, because these kids are ready for it, because they didn’t just start learning about how to write persuasively. In 4th grade, they began learning even in kindergarten and 1st grade. We know from our work and from watching teachers that students learn a second set of strategies quicker than the first. Because you already know about effort and strategy use, everything comes together much more quickly for you, but you still need, please trust me, you still need collaborative writing, peer writing, gradual reduction of scaffold supports.
We have clearly seen that teachers can get better maintenance and generalization than researchers, of course. We see teachers integrating what children have learned about persuasive writing or informational writing during reading time. We see them integrating it in science and social studies. Of course they can do more than we can. There is a family of strategies that have been validated for all three genres, narrative, persuasive, and informative across grades 2 through 12 at your disposal and we want to make these strategies accessible to you as well as help you understand that you can’t teach the strategies just by mnemonics or in a vacuum. Once you understand how SRSD instruction works, you can teach any of the validated strategies using the same components, characteristics, and stages that we’ve talked about today.
Finally, let’s close with some comments from our students. We asked them what they would like to share.
- “This is a really good thing you taught us.”
- “It was super duper fun.”
One of the things that we hear most from teachers and kids after SRSD is that kids are enjoying writing, is that they’re not sitting there for ten minutes before they start. They sit down with purpose. They’re thinking. They’re planning. They don’t hate to write. In fact, they ask if writing class could last longer.
- One student wants you to know that if you use the strategies, you will definitely improve.
- You hear a little attribution training going on there.
- One student wants you to know that it makes writing easier.
- One student says, “This should be taught to all the children in the world.”
I kind of like that one myself. Actually, now that SRSD research is being done in over a dozen countries, it is moving across the world.
It’s simply good instruction, using what we know about sound instruction and combining that with what we know about genres and what we know about writing. I love this one.
- “Of course, I can write now. Someone taught me how.” – The tone of voice this little boy said this with, I wish you could hear. It was like, “If you just teach it to us, of course we could do it.”
- My favorite of all, which is one we got from a student just recently. She didn’t want to quit. She didn’t want to go on to the next subject. She said, “If I could just make a clone of myself, I could write all day long.”
SRSD is not a panacea. It won’t solve all the problems and issues you face in developing effective writers, but it will help. Thank you.
1000’s of teachers are experiencing unprecedented writing and excelled learning results using Self-Regulation Strategy Development (SRSD). Additionally, SRSD success is cumulative and achieves generalization to other disciplines. Here are just a handful of our SRSD stories.