50 Ways Children Can Improve Their Writing

I’ve been wanting to write a post like this for a while.

My understanding of pupil conferencing (the process of talking and giving advice to children whilst they are undertaking their writing) has got much better, sharper and focused since I first wrote about it here. The list below takes in the most common  and valuable advice I give to my apprentice writers. Some of the advice here comes too from Gary Provost’s book 100 Ways To Improve Your Writing.  Like any good writer-teacher, everything below is advice I try and enact for myself too.

Anyway – I’ll leave you to read. I hope you find some of it useful.

50 Ways Children Can Improve Their Writing

  1. Read. Read a lot and read all sorts of things.
  2. Set up a writing club.
  3. Ask your teacher to become a writer-teacher so they can teach you how writers really work.
  4. Think about what you’re writing as you go about your day.
  5. Have a particular time in the day where you’ll sit down and write something.
  6. Copy something. Find some writing that you like and copy it, change part of it or re-invent it completely.
  7. Keep a journal but only write in it when you feel the need to.
  8. Talk to people about what you’re writing. Share your writing with people. Ask them what it might need. Importantly, find the bit they think is most interesting and focus on that.
  9. Always dabble and dabble often. Dabble around with little notes, words, phrases, ideas, pictures, lists, plans, descriptions and thoughts before you begin a draft or a plan.
  10. Know who you are writing for. Who might you be giving the writing to?
  11. Only write on ideas or topics you’re interested in. If you’re not enjoying it, abandon it and maybe you’ll come back to it another time or maybe you won’t. Either way, it’s alright.
  12. Find your diamond moment. In your mountain of an idea, find that one special diamond moment – the most important reason for writing what you’re writing and focus on it. Treat it with care, think about it a lot and make it shine.
  13. Don’t start too far upstream. Don’t start your writing too far away from the roar of the waterfall. Your diamond moment is often your waterfall. Don’t mention unnecessary boring things. If you do, make sure you cut it from your final piece.
  14. Try out different openers before picking your favourite one. Story openers can include: question, description, action, shock/surprise or monologue.
  15. Steal. Always be on the look-out for little phrases, characters, ideas you’d like to use as part of your own writing.
  16. If you don’t know what to write next, talk to someone. Tell them what still needs to be said. Otherwise, it’s often because you want to move on in time or place. You can do this by starting a new paragraph or by using a time or place opener. Meanwhile, over the other side of town, or After a few full moons.
  17. Get up out of your seat and perform your writing – act it out. Do this while you’re writing but also perform your writing once it’s finished. 
  18. When describing a setting think about: the weather, time of day and the historical period. What could your setting be compared to? If your setting was a person, what would they be like and how would they behave? What is your character’s mood and feelings towards this setting?
  19. Stop your writing when you have nothing else left to say and don’t feel bad about it.
  20. Stop and listen to what you’ve written so far. Do this all the time! Make sure you read out loud too! Check for ‘sticky bits’. These are bits that don’t come out of your mouth too smoothly. Fix them.
  21. Write with a friend. Write as a team. Write with your writer-teacher. Write with someone at home.
  22. Try to write how you would talk to someone.
  23. Show, don’t tell. Sometimes cut out words like is, was, are and were as these are telling words and replace them by showing your readers what is happening instead. The boy is walking up the hill instead becomes the red-faced boy, heaving, complaining and puffing away, really struggles to get himself to the top of the hill.
  24. Remember, you are often painting a film in your reader’s mind. What do you want them to see on the screen? Use both wide views and close ups.
  25. Pretend you are a mind reader. Listen in to what your characters are thinking and share this with your readers. As the narrator, try not to get involved in the story.
  26. Provide proof by giving your reader tiny little details – little things that only you have noticed about your characters.
  27. The climax to a story should be there to prove something.
  28. Dabble a lot about your main character in a story. Answer some of these questions before you begin writing: What are you disguising your character as?

    What would you compare them to?

    Sight: What do they look like

    Smell: What might they smell like?

    Touch: What is their mood like and what would they feel like to touch?

    Sound: What do they sound like and what might they say?

    Action: What might they do and how they might do it?

    Taste: If your character had a taste, what would they taste like?

    What do they spend their time thinking about?

    What’s their reputation? What do other people think of them?

    How do they live their life?

  29. Write down a couple of potential endings to your story – you don’t have to keep to any of them but it’s good to have an idea of how it could end before you begin. Strong endings include a message, feeling, action, uncertain or happy ending.
  30. Use hyperbole, exaggerate or even bend the truth completely when writing memoirs or prose poems.
  31. Use imagism. This is where you can’t say what you think or feel – you can only describe it.
  32. Be playful and silly with words. Use puns, alliteration and repetition. Don’t count your owls before they are delivered… Don’t cry over spilt potion and Terrible teeth in his terrible jaws? He has knobble knees, and turned-out toes or It rapped. It grated. It snarled. It scarpered. It shrieked. It growled.
  33. Compare a person, place or thing to something else. The teacher was a witch and A sea of chaos or Dark clouds raced across it like wild horses.
  34. Pretend that a place or a thing can behave like a person. The cruel waves screamed and swallowed the boat and Trees are scratching at the sky or I heard a plane threading the clouds high above us.
  35. Write using a variety of senses. What do you notice, hear, taste, taste, touch, smell and think?
  36. Remember, the first draft of anything is usually pretty rubbish.
  37. Think about and sometimes replace your nouns for nouns that pack more meaning into a small space. People becomes strangers, light becomes glare and beach becomes the water’s edge.
  38. Modify only one or two slots in a sentence. [The pilot] [took off] [his helmet] becomes [The battle-weary pilot] [struggled to remove] [his helmet].
  39. Use strong verbs. Sharpen what you actually mean when you use a verb by being utterly precise. Broke becomes shattered, hug becomes clutched and pushed becomes jostled.
  40. Give a specific image of something rather than a general one. Picture a cat. Now picture a black cat. Now picture a black cat with shiny silver paws. You can see the cat more clearly as it becomes more specific.
  41. Spend most of your time focusing and writing about your characters.
  42. Share your opinion. Say what you think. Share how you feel. Talk about what you believe.
  43. Use and share anecdotes. Share stories from your own life. Use these in your poetry, stories and non-fiction writing.
  44. Don’t use words you don’t know the meaning of and don’t use so many big words that your reader has to dash for the dictionary every five minutes!
  45. If you are going to share your opinion or an anecdote in your non-fiction writing – do it at the beginning or at the end.
  46. Spend time thinking about your title. Don’t put the first thing that comes into your head. Use your favourite line or create a title with a sense of intrigue.
  47. Re-read and improve. Some writers will re-read and improve their writing over a 100 times. You should give it at least a day though before you start. Never revise a draft the same day you finished it. Re-reading and improving can mean cutting, adding or replacing words, phrases, paragraphs or even changing the whole thing!
  48. Proofread your work at least four times using the CUPS technique. 1st for Capitalisation, 2nd for Use of vocabulary, 3rd for Punctuation and finally correct your Spellings.
  49. Write for the pleasure it brings you and/or for the pleasure of sharing your writing with others.
  50. Finally, don’t always listen to these tips. Writing is an art, not a science.
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Research Report: What Do Children Think Of A Writing For Pleasure Pedagogy?

This is a summary report of a mixed method action research project. The research looked to ascertain children’s opinions of being taught through a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy. This is then compared to a dominant or otherwise ‘typical’ writing pedagogy. Finally, the merits and limitations of both pedagogies are considered. The research findings are based on a combination of quantitative (questionnaire) and qualitative (interview) data collected from children aged ten to eleven.

Last year, year five pupils at a local authority school in Brighton, UK were taught through what is termed a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy. These children then returned to a ‘typical’ pedagogy in year six. The children were asked to consider their thoughts and opinions on both pedagogies discreetly before being asked what both pedagogies could learn from each other.

You can download our report summary here:

What Do Children Think Of A Writing For Pleasure Pedagogy

writing for pleasure report

Writing For Pleasure CPD Review

Hi dear Writing For Pleasure friends!

This is just a quick post to share the CPD review from our UKLA Writing For Pleasure conference. It was created by the wonderful writer-teacher Sadie Phillips. You can find Sadie on Twitter @SadiePhillips

Sadie also has a blog at: https://literacywithmissp.wordpress.com/

Click on the image below to download her review as a PDF

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National Literacy Trust’s Annual Survey Reveals That A Writing For Pleasure Pedagogy Is Needed Now More Than Ever.

The headline from this year’s National Literacy Trust’s survey into young people’s attitudes towards writing is unsurprising but increasingly concerning.

For a number of years now we have used the trust’s annual survey, which focuses on responses from over 40,000 apprentice writers, to make the case for a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy.

Throughout these years, we have seen that young people have either an indifference or a dislike for writing but this year it has climbed to over 50%. We also have 40% of children who only ever write when they have to. This is quite staggering.

Obviously, the only way you can stop apprentice writers from learning to write and liking it (in this densely verbal and social culture in which we live) is to teach it the way we currently teach it. Imagine for a moment that these statistics were related to talk and that 50% of young people were indifferent about talking and sharing their thoughts and expertise with their teacher and/or peers. This would be cause for a national crisis surely? You would also have to question how children are being put off so dramatically to do what comes quite naturally.

Daily writing levels have been falling since the survey first began and this year they have reached their lowest ever with less than 20% of apprentice writers writing anything that wasn’t directly for school purposes.

  • Again, despite our densely verbal and social culture, over half of apprentice writers are lead to believe that they find it hard to decide what to write.
  • 1/5 young people believe writing to be a difficult task.
  • Only around 40% of apprentice writers believe writing to be a fun activity.
  • Attitudes towards writing have been in decline ever since the release of the new National Curriculum in 2014.

Are pedagogies which are simply ‘schooling’ children and not based on effective practice having an adverse effect on children’s attitudes and educational outcomes?

In response, and working with the National Literacy Trust, we have produced a number of resources to help you build a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy. These can be downloaded from their website here: National Literacy Trust: Writing For Pleasure Resources

Writing For Pleasure is based on 14 research-informed principles which not only cover the very best effective practices but also happen to be the most affective ones too!

You can read our Writing For Pleasure manifesto here: Writing For Pleasure Manifesto

You can also download and read their full report here: Full Report

We invite comments below. Let’s start a conversation.

Please support us by clicking on the ‘Follow’ button in the top-right corner (or if you’re on a tablet or smartphone at the bottom of the screen).

You can also join and contribute to the Writing For Pleasure community by following us at @WritingRocks_17

Join Us For Our FIRST Ever Writing For Pleasure Conference

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Dear Writing For Pleasure friends.

It is with great pleasure to announce our first ever Writing For Pleasure conference. It will take place on Friday the 13th of July at Canterbury Christ Church University. We have a truly unbelievable line-up to. We hope you’re as excited as we are!

We suggest you book your ticket now by visiting –> 

By emailing for a ticket directly here: primaryenglishresearchhub@gmail.com

Alternatively, you can make a phone booking here: 01303257280

Here’s the current line-up with even more wonderful people to be confirmed!

  • Tracy Parvin (UK Literacy Association President) will give an introductory talk.

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  • We will be giving a keynote speech about our Writing For Pleasure manifesto and going into detail about the 14 principles that make a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy affective and effective teaching practice.

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  • Piers Torday will be discussing what Writing For Pleasure means from the perspective of a children’s author.

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  • Our final keynote will be from Michael Rosen. He will be discussing his knowledge and expertise on what Writing For Pleasure can look like in the classroom. This is likely to be informed by his recent publication on the same subject.

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  • We also have workshops from Martin Galway. He will be talking about what we can learn from legendary writer-teacher Donald Graves.

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  • Jamie Evans will be discussing how you can use personal writing journals to promote writing for pleasure with children who may traditionally struggle with being writers in class.

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  • Nicola Izibili from The Writing Web will be doing a workshop on the power of verbal feedback and conducting pupil conferencing as a writer-teacher to improve children as writers.

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  • General Secretary and former president of the UK Literacy Association David Reedy will be doing a workshop on what writing is for and what writing involves. 

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  • We will also be joined by who will be doing a workshop on writing poetry with and amongst children.

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  • We will also be doing our popular workshop on how memoir writing can fabulously transform yourself and your community of apprentice writers.

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This conference has been made possible by our dear friends at the United Kingdom Literacy Association, Primary English Research Hub , Dr Rebecca Austin and Jamie Evans. A big thank you to everyone. Can’t wait to see you all in July!

 

 

Writing For Pleasure Has Had A Research Grant Awarded! Participants Wanted!

Hi #WritingRocks colleagues. We have some really exciting news for you all! Our dear friends at The Goldsmiths Company have recently awarded #WritingRocks a research grant.

The grant means that, as a community, we can begin to explore, document and share teachers’ Writing For Pleasure practices from across the country!

The grant provides us with an amazing opportunity to:

  • Visit you at your school.
  • Talk together about your writing teaching.
  • Team-teach alongside you.
  • Do some CPD with you and your school (to discuss how you could enhance your Writing For Pleasure pedagogy further).
  • Talk with your apprentice writers about their writing and their feelings about being writers.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for any UK based KS1/KS2 teachers who feel that they teach writing in such a way that it reflects some (but not necessarily all!) of the fourteen principles of our Writing For Pleasure manifesto. These principles include:

  1. Creating A Community Of Writers
  2. Every Child A Writer
  3. Reading, Sharing And Talking About Writing
  4. Purposeful & Authentic Writing Projects
  5. Explicitly Teach The Writing Processes
  6. Scaffolding New Learning & Setting Writing Goals
  7. Being Reassuringly Consistent
  8. Personal Writing Projects: Writing Everyday
  9. Balancing Composition With Transcription
  10. Teaching Self-Regulation Strategies
  11. Being A Writer-Teacher
  12. Pupil Conference: Meeting Children Where They Are
  13. Literacy For Pleasure: Reading And Writing Connecting
  14. Successful Interconnection Of These Principles

If you’d like to see a copy of the Writing For Pleasure manifesto, you can download it here.

If you, or a colleague you know, might find this interesting then please do drop us an email at literacyforpleasure@gmail.com

The deadline for applications is 31st July 2018

Please will you all share this post as much as possible on your social networks, we’d really appreciate it!

Many thanks,

Ross Young

UKLA National Committee Member

https://ukla.org/

National Literacy Trust member and contributor

https://literacytrust.org.uk/resources/writing-pleasure/

Explicitly Teaching The Writing Processes And Writing For Pleasure

Explicitly Teaching The Writing Processes And Writing For Pleasure

This week’s #WritingRocks was about explicitly teaching the writing processes to children with a view to them creating and then using their own personalised process independently. This is because research has, for a long time, advocated for such an approach when teaching apprentice writers:

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  • The first thing to state is that Writing For Pleasure teachers are likely to know that there isn’t really a single agreed upon writing process.
  • With this said, Writing For Pleasure teachers will also know that many children are unaware of typical processes involved in writing and they may not, at first, be able to control all aspects of the writing process at once. As a result, Writing For Pleasure teachers will likely teach children how to prioritise writing processes. This strategy can be modelled and involves showing children that when producing a piece of writing not all writing processes have to applied at the same time and in fact this can be too demanding (Locke, 2015, p.162)! Instead focus on one process at a time. For example, when drafting, children can focus on the composition of their manuscript and proof-read and edit it at another time.

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  • Writing For Pleasure teachers will therefore teach the writing processes and the vocabulary surrounding them (generating ideas, planning, drafting, revising, editing, publishing, sharing and performing) explicitly with a view to increasing children’s flexibly and independent use of them. Particular focus will be given to the recursive nature of these processes too (see below):

 

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Any writing classroom that fails to eventually recognise and promote the recursive nature of these processes and instead looks for children to undertake these processes in order and without socialising with other writers and on demand will ultimately run into difficulties.

  • Writing For Pleasure teachers will ensure that their writing environment, direct instruction, resources and displays are always looking to promote self-regulation, self-efficacy and a development and personalisation of these writing processes.

Processes

  • Direct instruction will involve children seeing writer-teachers using a range of practices (including: modelling, coaching, giving expert information and guidance, questioning, and explaining) with the goal being to lead children towards constructing high-quality texts.
  • Once experienced enough and as their repertoire of writing skills enlarges, children will automatically re-read and improve their work as they compose – in a recursive way. They may change their plans as they compose, they might revise as they draft and perhaps they undertake editing on a sentence they’ve just written automatically and unconsciously. Additionally, children will learn to be discerning about their writing and whether a project is worth perusing through to publication or not.
  • A number of studies have recognised the benefits of a process-oriented approach to writing instruction. The writing process approach, with its links to the writing-workshop movement (Graves, 1983; Calkins 1998; Atwell, 2014), focuses on writers and how to do the things that writers really do – just in a classroom. The process writing approach is best defined as being the marriage between the best of ‘writers’ workshop’ with direct instruction and the concept of ‘self-regulating strategy development‘.
  • Process writing ensures children engage in phases of idea generation, planning, drafting, revising, editing, and importantly, publishing, sharing and performing. Publishing will be a particular focus because of its connection with feeling a sense of satisfaction from producing a final written product.

Obvious Links To Other Writing For Pleasure Manifesto Principles:

The explicit teaching of the writing processes promotes Writing For Pleasure in a number of ways:

  1. It promotes the idea of self-efficacy because it helps apprentice writers to picture themselves realising their writing intentions.
  2. It promotes a feeling of agency. Once experienced enough with the different processes and what they involve, children can control their own writing process.
  3. 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.
  4. It massively supports children’s self-regulation. Over time, apprentice writers will certainly gain a feeling of independence from external intervention and scaffolding.
  5. 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:

  • Purposeful and authentic writing projects because these sorts of projects allow children to negotiate all the different writing processes over time.
  • Reading, sharing and talking about writing because children can begin talking about their own writerly behaviours and their ‘ways of writing’.
  • 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.
  • Personal writing projects allow children time and space to develop their own processes for writing, about things they are motivated to write about and largely at their own pace.
  • Setting writing goals allows children to feel a sense of achievement by completing specific process milestones towards the distant goal of publishing a writing product.
  • Balancing composition and transcription because it ensures you are teaching children how to compose with automaticity which frees them up to think about and attend to transcriptional issues.
  • Being a writer teacher because a writer-teacher will have a better understanding of how the writing processes work and how they deal with them themselves.
  • Pupil conferences because, as a writer-teacher, you’ll be better able to share feedback and advice about the writing processes from a position of expertise and understanding.
  • Literacy for pleasure: reading and writing coming together because when apprentice writers are afforded the opportunity to write authentically, through the writing processes, they begin to exhibit sophisticated reading behaviours. Being afforded such opportunities to write results in high levels of pleasure in reading, with children often seeking out texts that are likely to serve and support their needs as writers and lead them to better understanding these texts as a result.

Further Reading:

If you found this article interesting, you should also read:

Please support us by clicking on the ‘Follow’ button in the top-right corner (or if you’re on a tablet or smartphone at the bottom of the screen).

You can also follow us and contribute to the Writing For Pleasure teacher community @WritingRocks_17

References

  • Atwell, N., (2014), In the middle USA: Heinemann
  • Calkins, L. (1998) The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Corden, R. (2007) Developing reading–writing connections: The impact of explicit instruction of literary devices on the quality of children’s narrative writing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education 21: 269–289
  • Danoff, B., Harris, K. R. and Graham, S. (1993) Incorporating strategy instruction within the writing process in the regular classroom: Effects on the writing of students with and without learning disabilities. Journal of Reading Behavior 25: 295–322.
  • Englert, C. S., Raphael, T., Anderson, L. M., Anthony, H. M. and Stevens, D. D. (1991) Making strategies and self-talk visible: Writing instruction in regular and special education classrooms. American Educational Research Journal 28: 337–371
  • Freedman, A. (1993). Show and tell? The role of explicit teaching in the learning of new genres. Research in the Teaching of English, 27(3), 222–251.
  • Graham, S., Harris, K. & Chambers, A. (2016) Evidence-based practice and writing instruction: A review of reviews, in: C. MacArthur, S. Graham & J. Fitzgerald (Eds) Handbook of writing research (2nd edn) (New York, Guilford Press).
  • Graham, S. and Sandmel, K. (2011) The process writing approach: A metaanalysis. Journal of Educational Research. 104: 396–407
  • Graves, D., (1983), Writing: Teachers & Children At Work USA: Heinemann
  • Grossman, P. L., Loeb, S., Cohen, J., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). Measure for measure: The relationship between measures of instructional practice in middle school English Language Arts and teachers’ value-added scores. American Journal of Education, 119(3), 445–470.
  • Harris, K. R. and Graham, S. (1996) Making the Writing Process Work: Strategies for Composition and Self-Regulation. Brookline, Massachusetts: Brookline Books.
  • Harris, K. R., Graham, S. and Mason, L. H. (2006) Improving the writing, knowledge, and motivation of struggling young writers: Effects of self-regulated strategy development with and without peer support. American Educational Research Journal 43: 295–337
  • Hoewisch, A. (2001) “Do I have to have a princess in my story?”: Supporting children’s writing of fairytales. Reading and Writing Quarterly 17: 249–277
  • Jasmine, J., Weiner, W., (2007) The Effects of Writing Workshop on Abilities of First Grade Students to Become Confident and Independent Writers In Early Childhood Education Journal, 35, (2) pp. 131-139
  • Langer, J. A. (2001). Beating the odds: Teaching middle and high school students to read and write well. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 837–880.
  • Larson, J. and Maier, M. (2000) Co-authoring classroom texts: Shifting participant roles in writing activity. Research in the Teaching of English 34: 468–497.
  • Lipson, M., Mosenthal, J., Daniels, P., Woodside-Jiron, H., (2000) Process Writing in the Classrooms of Eleven Fifth-Grade Teachers with Different Orientations to Teaching and Learning In Elementary School Journal. 101, (2), pp. 209-231
  • Locke, T., (2015) Developing Writing Teachers London: Routledge
  • Goldstein, A., Carr, P., (1996) Can Students Benefit From Process Writing In NCES, 1, (3), p.96
  • Peterson, S. S. (2012) An analysis of discourses of writing and writing instruction in curricula across Canada. Curriculum Inquiry 42: 260–284
  • Rooke, J., (2013) Transforming Writing: Final Evaluation Report National Literacy Trust: London
  • Seban, D., Tavsanli, Ö., (2015) Children’s sense of being a writer: identity construction in second grade writers workshop In International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 7(2), 217-234
  • Sexton, M., Harris, K. R. and Graham, S. (1998) Self-regulated strategy development and the writing process: Effects on essay writing and attributions. Exceptional Children 64: 295–311
  • Taylor, M., (2000) Nancie Atwell’s “In the Middle” and the Ongoing Transformation of the Writing Workshop In The English Journal, 90,(1), pp. 46-52
  • Wyse, D., Torgerson, C., (2017) Experimental trials and ‘what works?’ In education: The case of grammar for writing In British Educational Research Journal, 43,(6), pp. 1019–1047