Long past are the days when a teacher would stand in front of a class, deliver a writing lesson, and simply assign a project. Today, students learn through scaffolded activities that build their ability, knowledge, and independence over time. The balanced writing approach moves through four stages of learning that center on students being an active participant in the learning process.
The four stages of teaching writing are:
- Modelled Writing
- Shared Writing
- Guided Writing
- Independent Writing
This is the first stage of the writing process and the only time when the teacher is front and center. During the modeled stage of a balanced writing approach, the teacher brainstorms, thinks, and writes aloud in front of the students. This allows students to see how it is done. For example, when teaching recount writing, I would say: "I know I need to start my introduction with relevant background information, so I am going to include who was involved, what happened, when it happened, and where it happened".
The most important part of modeling a writing lesson is to insure that you explain what you are doing and why you are doing it.
During this stage, students contribute ideas while the teacher writes. The classroom tends to be buzzing with lots of ideas, discussions, questions, and answers from the students, while the teacher supports. Our end product becomes our shared example that is given to each student and posted in our room for reference.
This stage allows the teacher to work with students independently or in small groups. This is where the teacher provides ongoing feedback to the student. Feedback can be verbal, written, or in the form of a checklist. It is crucial that students know how to improve their writing in preparation for the independent writing stage.
This is the final stage when an assignment is given and students show what they can do on their own. Students can and should utilize modeled, guided, and shared writing samples to help them produce their best work. If students are still struggling with a specific writing form, go back and do more shared and guided practice.
The gradual release of writing allows students to build their independence and writing skills, while receiving feedback and support from the teacher. Most importantly, it stresses that students need to be active participants in their learning, not simply observers.