Teaching Persuasive Writing: Lessons Learned

(Neither of these students gets what they want)

Title: Supporting the Argumentative Writing of Students in Linguistically Diverse Classrooms: An Action Research Study

Authors: Campbell, Y.C.; Filimon, C.

Source: RMLE Online—Volume 41, No. 1

Link: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321584963_Supporting_the_Argumentative_Writing_of_Students_in_Linguistically_Diverse_Classrooms_An_Action_Research_Study

Lessons Learned? As we read the following study summary, we realized that this investigation implemented aspects of strategy instruction that we too use in our Talk to Write program: teacher modeling, student collaboration with teachers, and then student practice for each strategy taught. The question remains: Why did this study’s students not improve in organization, focus, and purpose while the students in our TW pilot did? See the Lessons Learned explanation at the end of this summary. ATTEND the Learning Disabilities Association of California’s free 10/1/2022 virtual conference, Evaluation and Assessment for Students with Disabilities, and then come to our Demonstration: Engage Via Transferring Talk into Writing, October 1st, at 12:45 p.m.

Abstract: Despite the need for specialized English-learning instruction for them, English Language Learner’s (ELLs) continue to be mainstreamed into regular classrooms across the country. English Language Arts (ELA) teachers worry about effectively teaching essay-writing to ELL students while meeting the needs of proficient English-speakers. This study tested the effects of strategy-focused writing instruction on the argumentative essay-writing skills of  linguistically diverse middle school students. Strategy-focused writing instruction can be defined with the following process: “the teacher identifies a strategy, introduces the strategy to the students through teacher modeling, and allows the students to engage in guided practice with the strategy until individual students finally achieve mastery through repeated practice and reinforcement.” The data showed that student overall writing performance increased significantly from pretest to posttest. Students improved in the areas of Evidence and Elaboration and Conventions of Standard English, but not in the Purpose, Focus, and Organization domain.

Participants/Studies Included: The study consisted of 47 linguistically diverse seventh-grade students from a middle school in South Florida.

Research Design: Action research study. Results were measured by comparing pre- and posttest scores of the ELA-TBWRA, a test aligned to the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) standards. The total number of points possible that a student can earn on the test is 10. The ELA-TBWRA consists of three domains: (1) Purpose, Focus, and Organization (four possible points); (2) Evidence and Elaboration (four possible points); and (3) Conventions of Standard English (two possible points).

Methods: A pretest was administered before the implementation of the strategy-focused writing instruction, and a posttest was administered afterwards. Students received the 40-minute intervention five days per week for 16 weeks. The first two weeks were spent teaching essential vocabulary, using lists of active verbs and transition words, and on writing a short story/narrative. Because the students showed weakness in the use of mechanics and grammar, the teachers focused on sentence structure and mechanics through modeling, as well as through guided and individual practice. They continued to teach vocabulary development, grammar, and mechanics throughout the intervention period. The five-day writing instruction cycle was implemented as follows:

Day 1: Explanation and discussion of organizational structure
Day 2: Analysis and planning
Day 3: Introduction.
Day 4: Body paragraphs
Day 5: Conclusion

Results:

Implications: Continuously teaching grammar and mechanics was an integral part of delivering an effective writing instruction curriculum. The results of the warrant further research concerning argumentative text-based essay writing instruction. Especially considering linguistic diversity across the country, there is a specific need for the examination of writing instruction interventions that feature a comprehensive curriculum for teaching argument that includes teaching claims, warrants, and logical reasoning for ELLs.

Lessons Learned? As we read the following study summary, we realized that this investigation implemented aspects of strategy instruction that we too use in our Talk to Write program: teacher modeling, student collaboration with teachers, and then student practice for each strategy taught. The question remains: Why did this study’s students not improve in organization, focus, and purpose while the students in our TW pilot did? First, our program taught students the basic logic and purpose of persuasion starting with short role plays that had students persuade others on common topics, followed by backward chaining of a persuasive essay where we identified the key persuasive concepts. In other words, we showed students that with persuasive writing you can get people to agree/believe you (i.e. had a purpose). In addition, we dissected a persuasive essay to uncover working components as we taught one simple strategy to creating these components, as well as why these components need to be included if students want to persuade others when they write. In addition, the teachers in this study spent much time on phrasing, vocabulary, etc. That essays showed improvement in these areas is laudable, but adding one or two more steps would have resulted in an improvement in their students ‘purpose, focus, organization’ scores.

ATTEND the Learning Disabilities Association of California’s free 10/1/2022 virtual conference, Evaluation and Assessment for Students with Disabilities, and then come to our Demonstration: Engage Via Transferring Talk into Writing, October 1st, at 12:45 p.m.