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Teaching Writing

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Instructional Models in the Classroom
Gradual Release of Responsibility Model
Workshop Model

Additional Resources

What instructional models might be used to teach writing in the classroom?

Writing skills and strategies may be taught using a gradual release of responsibility or a writing workshop model.

Gradual Release of Resposibility What is the gradual release of responsibility model?

The gradual release of responsibility model entails these lesson components: direct instruction, guided practice, and independent application.

Direct Instruction (5-15 minutes): The teacher introduces, explains, and models a writing skill or strategy.
Guided Practice (5-15 minutes): Students practice the instructed skill or strategy with teacher guidance and feedback.
Independent Practice (5-15 minutes): Students independently apply the skill or strategy on a formative assessment or a piece of writing.

The gradual release of responsibility may be implemented within relatively short timeframes. Practice and application of the skill or strategy may and should extend to writing across the curriculum. In addition, this model is well-suited to instruction of discrete skills or strategies. A representation, but not exhaustive, list of such skills follows.

• Commas in a series
• Subject-verb agreement
• Composing an enticing lead
• Developing a satisfying conclusion






Girl writing
What is the workshop model?

A workshop is an instructional model that has three distinct phases: a mini-lesson, independent writing, and sharing.

Mini-lesson (5-15 minutes): The teacher provides explicit instruction on one writing concept. Concepts generally fall into one of the following categories.

  • Workshop procedures – Initial lessons often focus on aspects of the writing workshop to facilitate full and effective student participation. These lessons may address how to access writing materials, how to store in-process and completed writings, how to engage in peer review, etc.
  • Writing strategies: These lessons focus on the writing process and feature strategies for some aspect of prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, or publishing. Students may learn how to narrow their topic, plan for a personal narrative, develop an enticing lead, revise to incorporate strong verbs or vary sentences, introduce a convention (grammar, usage, mechanics, or spelling), etc. Writing strategy lessons may also introduce a pertinent feature of one of the 6+1 traits of writing. (See Writing Traits.)
  • Characteristics of Good Writing: In these lessons, students use the language of the 6+1 traits of writing to analyze and critique writing. Analysis of writing samples aids students in internalizing the qualities of effective writing.

Independent writing (15-30 minutes): During the independent writing phase, students apply the mini-lesson writing skill or strategy to their own writing and continue in-process work on their writing. During this independent phase, students may engage in peer review. (See Resource Sheet #_ for Peer Review Guidelines.) As students work independently, the teacher confers with an individual student about his writing offering focused feedback or meets briefly with a small group for targeted small group writing instruction. The teacher may also work on a piece of writing.

Sharing (5-15 minutes): At this point in the writing workshop, students read their work aloud to the entire class or to a partner and elicit feedback in the form of praise, questions, or polish. Praise communicates to the writer something that he has done well and should keep in the piece of writing. Questions address areas of the writing that are unclear or confusing and may lead to the polish or recommendation for improvement. Offering feedback should be modeled explicitly and offered respectfully. Often, a teacher will invite students to critique her writing or the writing of an anonymous author to develop the feedback protocol.


Online Resources:


Write It (Scholastic): An online writing resource that’s packed with engaging ways to build your students’ writing skills. The site provides teachers and students with:

  • Resources from Literary Cavalcade and other Scholastic publications.
  • Units of lessons and activities which focus on specific genres like Poetry, Essay, Short Fiction, Memoir, Humor, and Journalism.
  • An Interactive Online Community for students and teachers to share and discuss writing
  • Teacher's Guide

Audio and Video:

BCPS Resources:

Gradual Release of Responsibility