Have Struggling Writers? Issue #1: Increase Student Engagement

When it comes to teaching essay writing, there’s so much to teach……and so many obstacles to overcome.

          This is the first of four blogs that identifies the obstacles and ways in which our Talk To Write (Talk/Write) program helped students overcome the obstacles and improve their written expression.     Sooo…what does it take to engage students in writing tasks such that they enjoy the process? What does it take to see the smiles and interest shown by the students in our photo?                                        

Research and techniques used a small N study conducted in Barstow, California provide a number of insights as well as proof that these work.                                                                                                    

How do we know these techniques work? Study participants rated program methods/training with‘4’s and ‘5’s (on a scale of 1 –not helpful, to 5-very helpful). Reportedly, by an administrator at a staff meeting, participants expressed opinions more in class and supported these opinions with examples, etc.

What research and approach led to increased engagement?

  1. RESEARCH: “Information on any given *topic will be remembered best by individuals who have great interest in it than by those who don’t” *(substitute in ‘writing process’/ ‘writing assignment’) (Baddeley, 2009, p. 378)

            How do we build interest? Give them opportunities to express opinions, debate, and compare –              which is what writing an essay to persuade allows.

           2. RESEARCH: Studies document the feelings of inability that many students have when                               experiencing ‘chronic failure,’ aka struggle with literacy tasks (Berninger, 1994, Syal & Torppa,                    2019;  Graham, et. al. 1993; Green, 2009.)

          3. Feelings of ‘ability’ are tied to motivation: How many people would willingly seek out                                tasks that are difficult or that they have ‘failed’ at previously?

            RESEARCH: Social psychology research tells us: Increased self-regulation efficacy contributes                   to  self efficacy for academic attainment. (Zimmerman, et al., 1992). In short, students who feel               they have strategies to attack academic tasks set higher academic goals.

            How do we increase students’ feeling of ability? Teach students effective strategies AND to                    evaluate own work, so to see success.

           Most importantly, show them and prove to them that they have existing neuro-linguistic skills               (aka cognitive and oral language skills) that ease the transition from oral language (talking) to                 written language (writing).   


Participate in our two day Instruction Workshop to Support Struggling Writers and: 

  1. Receive all the materials you need to build your students’ foundational skills in essay writing
  2. Practice activities so that you’re ready to use these in the classroom and
  3. Engage your students so that they are confident, effective, and independent writers.
  4. Receive the downloadable and semi-scripted user-friendly Talk/Write manual to help you use effective teacher language during instruction.

Learn more  here: 

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