Three Ways Our Students Grow in Their Writing Skills

May 18, 2015 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

It’s best to think of language acquisition as a journey, and every student is somewhere on the path. Our goal for our students is not perfection; our goal is progress. We want to see all the students advance from where they are. If we ignore the reality of where they are, we can’t ensure they will improve.

That takes a load off, doesn’t it? Perfection is a difficult goal to achieve, but ensuring progress is still a worthy chore for every language arts teacher. Let me offer you three IEW ways to help your students grow in their writing skills.


Modeling is the first way our students grow. We don’t just give the students a well-written paper as an example. We actually model the process it takes to produce a well-written paper. Otherwise, students aren’t able to see the steps toward a finished product.

  • We model the questions.
  • We model the decisions.
  • We model the thinking.

Remember, to develop good writing habits, students who have language-processing glitches or who are English language learners need more modeling than other students do. If we move them to independence too soon, they will more than likely become overwhelmed with the attention to the details because of the extra processing effort they must already employ.

Instead, move the students to independence as they are ready. Working with the young writers until they feel confident and their work reflects good habits makes learning more efficient. Teachers save time and energy grading. More importantly, we reduce student frustration and increase engagement.


Requiring short, frequent assignments—this is another way our students grow in their writing skills. Even our longer assignments are designed by building on them with shorter assignments.

In Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Andrew Pudewa explains this as teaching structure within structure within structure. Students receive the frequency, intensity, and duration they need to internalize the writing process. They consistently practice producing a structure, some stylistic techniques, and the thinking needed to complete an assignment.

Short, frequent assignments offer students the exposure they need for agility in expression, just like they would develop when they practice a physical activity like riding a skateboard. This simple practice is especially beneficial to those who aren’t behind but aren’t ahead. It ensures they grow, too.


The third way our students progress is that we challenge them at their point of need. Because we model the writing process until they are ready to work independently, our students do not feel we are asking them to jump an ocean with a skateboard. However, we don’t overinflate them by applauding if they jump over a puddle.

What do I mean by that? I would bet that every year we have at least a few students enter our classrooms who already know everything we are required to teach through the year. We teach our lessons, and those kids check out mentally because they can.

They come to the end of the year with all A’s, and they are proud. We are proud. Their parents are proud. And they didn’t learn a thing.

We have the tools to stop this. By adjusting the source text and the checklist, our students are challenged appropriately, even if they are functioning at a college level in the sixth grade.

The regular process we provide as Structure and Style teachers will help students grow in their ability to think and express themselves. When you analyze what part of a lesson helped students in specific ways, you remain faithful to the students and to the method.

Live Chat with IEW