1. Understand a Process Orientation

No matter the genre, a process orientation to writing underlies all instruction

2. Plan a Writerly Classroom

For Young Children
The Presence of Print

Beginning Thoughts on the Writing Center

More on the Writing Center

For Older Children

3. Understand Your Students and Their Products

 Assess your students' writing samples to determine instructional needs
 The CAASR Framework

 Features of various genres

Consider developmental aspects of writing

 And, keep in mind your ESL writers

4. Plan Instruction

Use an overall model

Keep a range of genres in mind

Highlight Author Studies

Related Page 1 | Related Page 2 | Related Page 3










Assess Children's Writing: Collect Samples

Narrative: "Write a story"

Factual: "Write about something that you know a lot about"

Persuasive/Correspondence: "Write a letter to President Clinton giving him your advice about Kosova"

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Consider Written Products with

The CAASR  (Concepts, Attitudes, Aspects, Strategies, Range) Framework

(Adapted by Laura Smolkin, University of Virginia)




Literacy Assessment in Practice: R-7, Language Arts

Education Department of South Australia (1991)

Adelaide, Australia: Education Department

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The CAASR Framework allows teachers to analyze student writing in four separate areas -- ideas and information, language, organization and mechanics.

We begin by considering students' ideas and information because the major purpose of writing is to share or express ideas.



Writing is an act of thinking and every finished piece of writing is a record of thinking achievements that have been made. When students are able to engage seriously with ideas and issues that concern them, the following kinds of achievements can be observed:

Topic Knowledge

Teachers can look for evidence of what students know about particular topics. Teachers can analyze students' writing to discover:

  • the amount of information provided about the topic
  • the depth of information
  • the accuracy of the information
  • the different kinds of information provided
  • how the student relates ideas from different sources such as their experiences, readings, or television

Knowledge of the World

Through their experiences, students develop their knowledge about the world and how it works. Teachers can look for evidence of students' understandings of:

  • themselves
  • others (for instance of parents as people with their own needs rather than as simply servants to children's needs)
  • the relationships between people
  • the complex community beyond the home
  • the complex natural environment
  • sensitivity to issues of stereotyping of characters or ideas

Presentation of Ideas

Writing provides students with the opportunity to extend and elaborate ideas - to find gaps and contradictions. They are confronted with the problem of working through ideas until they can support and justify them. Teachers can look for evidence of:

  • commitment to rationality: being prepared to support rather then simply assert generalizations
  • explanation and elaboration: providing specifics, giving examples, providing evidence
  • presentation and evaluation of different perspectives
  • presenting own opinion or point of view
  • dealing with difficult questions

Presenting ideas and information in patterns known to them assists readers of writing to best make sense of the author's message. In this next section, we will consider the organization of students' written work.


When students write for readers, they face a number of sometimes competing organizational demands. They may have to:

  • organize their ideas and information in ways that make sense to themselves, that is, they have to structure their own complex experience
  • recognize the expectations generated by the particular form or genre they choose
  • present what they have to say in ways that help their readers to understand/appreciate/respond/agree.

For writing to succeed, then, six things need to be clear:

Kinds of Writing

Students gradually learn to use the organizational structures typically used (in Western European cultures) for stories and other entertainment, events, descriptions or entities, accounts of processes, arguments, etc. Teachers may comment to students on the way they use:

  • typical story features, such as
    • setting (when, who, where)
    • problem or initiating event
    • episodes or developing events
    • resolution or outcome
    • conclusion
  • typical patterns for describing entities and processes and reporting events
    • statement of focus, scope, and significance
    • sections which explain or amplify
    • concluding summary
  • patterns for simple arguments
    • what I think
    • why I think this
    • what other who disagree think
    • why I think they are wrong
    • concluding statement


Readers respond to writing in which they can find a clear focus. Therefore, teachers may comment on the way students use:

  • titles which clearly indicate what the piece is about or which who the tone or mood
  • subheadings which clearly show that each section is part of the whole and is all about one particular subtopic
  • introductions that give direction to the whole piece
  • topic sentences that give direction to subsections or paragraphs
  • endings that summarize or clinch
  • sentences that keep the focus on the topic of the previous sentence


Readers should be able to skim and see how the parts of a piece relate the overall focus or theme. Teachers may attend, therefore, to the way students identify parts by using:

  • subheadings
  • topic sentences and key words
  • paragraph indentations and spacing


Readers expect parts that flow one from the other in a manner appropriate to the genre and to the language in which it is written. (Example, what is typical sequence in one society for a story is not necessarily so for another society). When commenting, therefore, on how appropriately parts are sequenced, teachers can consider:

  • conformity to typical story sequence according to the culture of the child who is doing the writing
  • whole sequence of non-narrative writing
  • discourse conventions that signal direction such as first, then, next, however, nevertheless, finally


Readers expect coherence (the whole piece being about one main topic or theme) and cohesion (all the parts clearly linking). Teachers can, therefore, analyze students' writing in terms of the following:

  • topic sentences that structure a paragraph so firmly that the sentences that follow do not require explicit linking devices
  • repetition of key words that show the focus is being maintained, e.g., "traditional," "parents," "children," in the preceding piece
  • use of pronouns (he, she, it, we, they, him, her, them, us)
  • possessive adjectives (my, your, his, her, them, us);
  • words to show focus without repeating
  • elaboration of a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech over sentences or paragraphs

Readers' Needs

Writers gradually learn to shape their writing to meet readers' needs for clarity, focus, voice, vitality and interest, and form. Teachers can watch for use of:

  • effective "leads" that gain and hold the readers' attention
  • clear indications of what the piece is about and where it is going
  • recognition of what the reader might already know and believe
  • strong links that make the overall structure clear
  • use of layout and graphic devices to make for easy reading
  • direct address to the reader
  • a conclusion or summary that brings the piece to an effective close
Readers' engagement in a piece of writing is enhanced by authors' "turns of the phrase." The following section of the CAASR framework enables teachers to consider supporting students' growth in this aspect of their writing. This is the perfect time to call attention to the ways various authors work with language in their books.


At times, close attention needs to be given to the expression that students use in their writing. For this purpose, teachers need a set of subcategories that outlines the features of language to be focused on. A three-fold scheme of vocabulary, sentences, and style is suggested.


Students' use of words changes as they experience different varieties of oral discourse and as they immerse themselves in the rich and varied language of different kinds of writing. At various stages, teachers may comment on such things as the use of:

  • new words (as students use an increasing range of words)
  • precise words
  • effective adjectives, adverbs, and verbs
  • words that surprise and delight because of their freshness and unexpectedness
  • words that make comparisons (metaphors, similes)
  • words such as abstract nouns that convey the message economically, e.g, "His boss was delighted with his punctuality and promptness" instead of "His boss was delighted that he was always on time and that he got things done quickly".
  • words from reading that seem particularly because they have an exactness, and appropriateness often lacking in speech
  • words from speech that give writing vitality and vigor
  • non-sexist language


It is important to note that all students, even those who have enjoyed the experience of being read to at home, encounter new forms of language in their school years. With rich experiences in reading and writing, students' use of sentences develops in a number of directions. Teachers can respond to students' achievements by commenting on such things as their use of:

  • complete grammatical sentences
  • compound sentences (two simple sentences linked by "and," "but," or "or")
  • complex sentences (combining a simple main clause such as "He stopped" with a subordinate such as "when he was tired.")
  • an appropriate balance of simple and complex sentences
  • adventurous sentences which relate ideas and information in complex ways (first attempts may involve incomplete grammatical structures)
  • varied sentence beginnings such as:
    • a phrase before the subject:
      • "At the first blush of light in the east, they..."
    • a clause before the subject:
      • "While the sky was just beginning to grow pink, they..."
  • sentences that use lists of words, phrases and clauses, such as:
    • words: "He was dirty, dishevelled, and dead-tired."
    • phrases: "She crept across the garden, through the little wood and over the wall."
    • clauses: "They clambered over the steep hill, slithered down the grassy slope and trudged through the swampy valley."
  • sentences with surprises, such as:
    • "The peace of the evening was rent into a thousand fragments."
    • "He can't even make toast. Feel that. It's like coconut matting."
  • sentences that pick up and develop the language and ideas of previous sentences
  • sentences that make use of sound combinations such as the earlier example of alliteration in "dirty, dishevelled, and dead-tired"
  • sentences that build up atmosphere or particular effects


Effective pieces of writing are more than a collection of appropriate words and good sentences. They are wholes that have a consistency of tone or voice. The tones or styles that students might adopt are endless . Part of the fun and challenge for students is taking on different styles and attempting different kinds of writing. Teachers can respond to these attempts by commenting on such achievements as:

  • appropriateness of tone or style
  • consistency of tone or style
  • the building up of atmosphere
  • attempts at new kinds of writing (e.g., dialogue)
  • attempts at new styles or voices (e.g., writing tentatively or authoritatively)
  • cohesion (through words that link with words and ideas in previous sentences)

In the CAASR framework, the area that teachers generally notice first -- mechanics -- is attended to last.


Because teachers are concerned with students' growing mastery of the graphic conventions of writing, they naturally look to find evidence of students' achievements in such things as handwriting, spelling, punctuation, and layout. If computers or word processor are used, mastery of these tools can also be noted. So teachers look for evidence of students taking on new challenges, showing progress, and achieving mastery in the following subcategories of mechanics.


Depending on the age and experience of the writer, there are many aspects of achievement to be observed. For Example, one focus might be on the students' development in :

  • forming letters:
    • "Mary is good at forming "y's" that have hooks below the line."
    • "Bruno is writing most of his letters on the line."
  • using spaces between the words

Handwriting can be influenced by physical difficulty, by what has been learned in previous school settings, and by what may have been taught in the home. If handwriting is an important part of the writing curriculum - as it is with young writers - teachers can include any of the aspects in which they may have given instruction.



As with handwriting, there are many aspects of spelling that can be taken into account. The focus again will depend on the age and experience of the student. It may also depend on the ease with which certain students remember visual patterns. It will certainly depend on students' experiences with literacy. There are many things teachers can focus on:

  • developmental spelling level
  • the words the student always spells correctly
  • the range of words the student is attempting
    • "Pia is trying difficult words such as 'enormous' and getting everything right except the 'ou' in the final syllable."
  • specific parts of words such as difficult endings (ent/ant), doubling consonants, etc.
  • success in representing each of the syllables in multisyllabic words
  • success in remembering the correct spelling of words previously used incorrectly in writing
  • proof reading
  • use of various sources to check temporary spellings


Punctuation appropriate to various kinds of writing develops with students' experience in reading and writing. What aspects to focus on will depend on the students' stage of development. At various stages, teachers may be concerned with:

  • use of periods and capitals to signal sentences
  • use of quotation marks
  • use of commas, apostrophes, and exclamation marks


Teachers, and students too, often respond to written material in terms of its physical appearance. Therefore, responses can be made to issues such as:

  • balance of text and illustration
  • setting out in sections, pages, etc.
  • use of particular graphic forms, such as BAM! to create interest

Using word processors

Computer or word processing skills which can be organized under the mechanics category include:

  • loading the program
  • locating resources on the web
  • finding the appropriate letters, spaces, capitals, etc.

using the editing sources - deletions, corrections, insertions, etc.