07: Scaffolding Academic Writing




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  • 3 Functional Grammer Components:
    1. field: topic
    2. tenor: relationship between writer and audience
    3. mode: communication channel / style
  • Characteristics of Effective Writers:
    • Adjust language for purpose and audience
    • Organizes writing to meet specific purposes
    • Edits and revises
    • Uses writing models
    • Has prerequisite content knowledge
    • Explicit enough to generate understanding
    • Confident
  • Characteristics of Genres:
    • Particular organization
    • Specific social purpose
    • Unique language features associated with culture of discipline
  • Genre Type: Narrative
    • Purpose: entertainment, education
    • Organization: Orientation, Events, Complication, Resolution
    • Language features: sequenced in time, past tense, wide use of active tense, includes dialogue, descriptive language
  • Genre Type: Argument
    • Purpose: persuasion
    • Organization: statement of position, preview of arguments to follow, supporting arguments, supporting evidence, reaffirmation of position
    • Language features: logically sequenced, present tense (for generalizations), uses technical jargon, use evaluation vocabulary to suggest stance
  • Teaching Implications of Genres:
    • Social purpose of text affects language features
    • Can have hybrid genre, one embedded in another
    • Genres are descriptive, not prescriptive
    • Treat genres as useful (not static) prototypes
  • Scaffolding Writing Stages:
    • Build the field: All scaffolding that builds up related content and language knowledge
    • Model the genre: Develop student knowledge of focus genre
    • Joint construction: Using joint writing, think aloud, and questioning strategies to collaboratively write sample pieces of focus genre
    • Independent writing: Students use scaffolding from previous stages to write on their own.
    • Using a genre framework for assessment and revisions: Use framework (rubric, checklist, etc) that describes key genre features to assess and revise work
  • Implementation of Writing Stages:
    • Timing for stages? sprinkled over a whole unit, not one lesson
    • Use all 4? Depends on student prior knowledge
    • Use of other language? In all phases except the final one
    • Genre choice? Genre that makes sense for the content and context
  • Other Strategies for Students Who Need More Support:
    • Encourage drafting in native language
    • Storyboard – use pictures and words to create graphic outline
    • Reorder jumbled sentences that model key sequences in genre
    • Dialogue journal – teacher writes question, students answers, teacher responds
.Knowing the functional grammar components for a targeted genres makes it easier to model and create scaffolding to support the learning of that genre.  Explicit teaching of specific functional grammar components can help students develop the skills of effectively writing within specific genres.  Knowing the phases for scaffolding writing can help one design and sequence activities that explicitly scaffold writing.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify the specific genre that makes sense for an upcoming project context
  • Research functional grammar components that go with targeted genre(s)
  • Develop scaffolding activities that go with all the 4 Stages needed by students (depends on their prior knowledge) – see above for 4 Stages
  • Collect good samples (models) of targeted genre
  • Develop genre checklist that lists all key features of the targeted genre
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement scaffolding activities from all 4 (or less) stages of scaffolding writing during logical phases of project
  • Use models as conversation starters and demonstrations of key language features
  • Use peer and self feedback cycles and genre rubrics or checklists to assess and revise work more than once
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use writing routines and standardized checklists to create many repeated opportunities for students to deliberately practice writing in specific genres that are critical to one’s content
  • Use reflection prompts to make students aware of how their skills are developing over the course of several projects
  • Use evaluation routines/graphic organizers that have students provide evidence that they effectively used the key language features of targeted genres



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