Scaffolding New Learning And Setting Writing Goals
According to research, Writing For Pleasure teachers will scaffold new writing projects by setting both process and product oriented writing goals. This happens in a mastery based writing environment which has an atmosphere of inquiry, investigation and experimentation at its heart.
A little note about terminology here before we begin.
- Distant Writing Goals – often the end goal of a writing project. The final writing ‘product’. The purpose and audience for the writing is revealed, considered and discussed at this point.
- Product Writing Goals – often writers will talk about their finished writing being their ‘product’. The thing that is created. Product writing goals then are the intentions we have for the writing. What will we have to do to make this an effective product…? This is very different to success criteria which don’t always attend to the intentions for the writing nor are they always authentically generated with the whole writing community.
- Process Writing Goals – these are goals we often set ourselves as writers. We will often give ourselves mini-deadlines. Rarely do we take on a large project in one go. Rather, we take it a step at a time. For example, ‘We need to try and finish this draft in the next couple of days’. This doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t do two processes at the same time sometimes. For example, some of us, as ‘paragraph pilers,’ will often write a paragraph, read it through, maybe revise it a bit, maybe even proof-read it a little before moving onto our next paragraph. This doesn’t mean we won’t also put time aside to revise and edit it explicitly at a later stage.
Therefore, Writing For Pleasure teachers will in all likelihood:
Set A Distant Writing Goal:
‘Our next writing project is to produce an instructional text about something we are really good at. I was thinking we could write them to share with one another in our class library’? Does anyone have any other ideas?
Setting Product Writing Goals:
Writing For Pleasure teachers will set writing goals for writing projects collaboratively with their apprentice writers. According to research (Ames & Archer 1988; Covington 2000; Rooke 2013), it is important for children’s pleasure in writing that they are afforded some participation and agency in the formation of learning goals for class writing projects. This not only builds the learner’s motivation and engagement in the act of writing, but also helps him or her clarify what has to be undertaken to be successful at it. Children who are motivated and find pleasure in writing may also gain higher levels of self-efficacy as a result (Bandura & Schunk, 1981; Butler & Winnie, 1995; Rooke 2013). Gadd (2014) claims that this might require the teacher to ask questions like:
‘We’ve had a look at a few really good instructional texts from last year’s class. So, what might we have to think about to be successful at writing an excellent instructional text? Let’s write some product goals down on this flip-chart paper together.’
Over The Course Of The Project, Set Process Orientated Writing Goals:
The most effective type of writing goal, this means splitting up the different processes of writing to reduce children’s cognitive load, building their sense of self-efficacy and setting them further writing goals to achieve within these different processes. Writing For Pleasure teachers teach writing processes with a view to children applying them to class and personal projects and for individual mastery of them. This was the subject of our last #WritingRocks talk and you can view more about teaching the writing processes here.
- Over the next couple of writing sessions, you are to have a plan for your instructional text ready.
- OK. Using your plans to aid you, you have the next few writing sessions to draft your instructions.
- I’m giving you this writing session to work with your talk partner on revising your instructional text ready for publication. If you feel you might need another session because you have a lot of revisions to do, let me know.
- If you feel ready, I’ve put aside this writing session (and tomorrow’s if we need it) for us to proof-read and edit our instructional texts so that they are ‘reader-ready’.
- Today is the day! This writing session is for you to publish your instructional texts into the class library.
Writing Goals, Over Time, Create Self-Regulating And Independent Writers
Distant goals (like completing a class writing project e.g. ‘let’s write flash-fiction pieces for the year four classes’) will be sub-divided into more manageable ‘chunks,’ which allows not only for long-term progress to be monitored clearly and regularly, but also for children to feel a sense of satisfaction more frequently by completing these sub-goals (Bandura & Schunk, 1981; Butler & Winnie, 1995; Hmelo-Silver et al 2007). The cognitive load involved in writing is shared out across the writing processes, making the writing project feel more accessible and manageable to children. The ultimate aim is that, over time, these goals become automated and that children negotiate these cognitively challenging writing projects largely independently and using their own preferred writing process (see our last #WritingRocks chat). It also means that they can pursue personal writing projects in much the same way as they do their class ones.
If you set a process goal like ‘over the next three writing sessions, you must complete your revisions,’ why not consider that once children have completed this goal allowing them to pursue their personal writing projects whilst the rest of the class finish? Why not make this the expectation after any class writing goal has been completed?
The Types Of Learning Goals Writing For Pleasure Teachers Will Set:
Gadd (2014) suggests quite an open ended interpretation of writing process goals. They can be:
- Single goals for all learners. We are all going to finish our plans today.
- Multiple writing goals for learners to select from. Publish something entertaining, using any genre you like.
- They can be worked on by learners at varying times or simultaneously. Wherever you find yourself in the writing process, carry on.
- They can be designed to generate one intended outcome or a range of possible outcomes. ‘You must all write a biography of Buzz Aldrin’ or ‘You must all write a biography of someone you know personally’. ‘You have to write an information text about the water cycle’ Or ‘pick a genre and use it to write about the water cycle’.
- They can be designed to include cooperative or interactive writing projects.
- They can also be devised by the teacher and children together or the children alone.
Therefore, once the writing processes are established with the children in the school/class and they are fluent or experienced writers, Writing For Pleasure teachers will allow their learners to work on their writing goals at their own level and at their own pace (Garrett & Moltzen 2011; Paratore & McCormack, 2009; Pollard et al., 1994; Reutzel, 2007; Rubie-Davies 2010; Schumm & Avalos, 2009; Wyse & Torgerson 2017).
They are likely to set learning goals such as: ‘your writing goal is to describe the characters in the stories you write’ as opposed to ‘add a noun phrase to describe your character more’. Or ‘you need take more care when proofreading, use your editing checklist to help you’ rather than ‘you have some capital letters missing in this piece – correct them’.
There are links between the setting of these types of learning goals and how Writing For Pleasure teachers deliver these goals through pupil conferencing and potentially as writer-teachers. This is something we will discuss in future #WritingRocks chats!
Obvious Links To Other Writing For Pleasure Manifesto Principles:
The scaffolding of new learning and the setting of writing goals promotes Writing For Pleasure in a number of ways:
- It promotes the idea of self-efficacy because it helps apprentice writers to accomplish many goals and gives them the feeling that they can manage the writing project.
- It promotes a feeling of agency. Once experienced enough with the different processes and what they involve, children can set and control their own process goals.
- It can increase children’s motivation. They can see where their writing is leading to and they will be better able to set themselves specific writing-process goals which they will know how to achieve.
- It massively supports children’s self-regulation. Over time, apprentice writers will certainly gain a feeling of independence from external intervention and scaffolding and will be able to monitor their own writing projects.
- It will increase their writer-identity. Developing writing processes alongside a feeling of belonging and having an affinity with writing, allows children to feel part of a community where they can talk, craft and undertake the behaviours of a writer in a feeling of safety and understanding.
As an approach, it also reflects other principles outlined in our Writing For Pleasure manifesto including:
- Creating An Environment For Writing because the children will be writing authentically matching the typical talk and behaviours of writers outside of the classroom, the writing environment will have the feeling of an authentic community of writers working together to create great writing. Writer-teacher and apprentice writers will talk together about the intentions for their writing projects, what the purpose and audience for the writing will be, what sorts of things they will have to consider to produce an excellent writing product and they will discuss their writing processes in achieving that goal.
- Every child a writer because children will be undertaking the same kind of behaviours as professional writers they will feel like genuine writers too.
- Purposeful and authentic writing projects because these sorts of projects allow children to negotiate all the different writing processes over a longer period of time and also consider a variety of product goals for different types of writing.
- Reading, sharing and talking about writing because children can begin talking about their own writerly behaviours and their ‘ways of writing’ and tackling certain writing goals.
- Building self-regulation because it encourages teachers to provide resources and scaffolds which help children negotiate the writing processes and ultimately shows apprentice writers how they can take an idea through to publishing largely on their own and at their own pace – completing the many goals involved as they go.
- Personal writing projects allow children time and space to develop their own processes and goals for writing, about things they are motivated to write about and largely at their own pace.
- Balancing composition and transcription by showing children how they can set specific goals which deal with both composition (seeing product related writing goals) and process goals (editing for spelling, punctuation and publishing for handwriting), children are better able to focus on a specific aspect of writing and to achieve certain goals related to produce a finished piece of writing which is both compositionally and transcriptionally sound.
- Being a writer teacher because a writer-teacher will have a better understanding of how the writing processes work and how they set themselves their own writing goals, they will be able to pass on that wisdom to their apprentice writers.
- Pupil conferences As a writer-teacher, you’ll be better able to share feedback and advice about the writing processes as well as the typical products goals for certain types of writing from a position of expertise and understanding.
If you found this article interesting, you should also read:
- Teaching Writing: Research Summaries With Easy Access
- Meeting Children Where They Are: Using Pupil Conferencing
- How We Created Self-Regulating Writers And The Improvements We Have Seen
- Is The Trick In The Publishing? Reflecting On Why The Children Are Writing With Such Care & Attention.
- Planning Authentic & Purposeful Writing Projects
- Building A Writing Community: Children Reading, Sharing And Talking About Writing
- What Teacher Do To Make Every Child Feel Like A Writer
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**By Phil Ferguson**
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