Being a Writer Research

We drew on two decades of research in the areas of writing, motivation, and learning theory as well as social and ethical development as we developed the Being a Writer program. The program is based on current research findings including those of the National Council of Teachers of English, Richard Allington, and Donald Graves.

Social Interaction Is Key

The National Council of Teachers of English says: “Writing is a social activity that influences, and is influenced by, the communities in which a writer participates. By writing about their experiences in the world and having the opportunity to engage in varied learning experiences, young writers develop a personal voice and gain confidence in their ability to write with authority about a range of topics.”1

Collaborative Learning Improves Classroom Talk

Richard Allington identified classroom talk as the most important feature of effective fourth-grade teachers’ classrooms. Allington described the classroom talk as respectful, supportive, and productive and not only modeled by the teachers in interactions with students, but also deliberately taught.2

Good Teachers Model Writing

Donald H. Graves says: “A teacher who shows what she is trying to learn through writing isn’t afraid to ask children what they are trying to learn through their own writing. Children sense that the teacher who writes provides a much wider safety net to support the risk taking that goes with exploration. ‘My teacher has been there,’ a child senses.”3

Best Practices Make the Best Writers

Atwell, Calkins, Fletcher, and Graves identify and encourage the following practices to improve students’ writing practice and attitude:

  • Teacher and peer conferences
  • Classroom discussion
  • Collaborative writing tasks
  • Writing for real audiences and purposes
  • Student self-assessment
  • Regular periods of writing
  • Choice of writing topics
  • Models of good writing4

Immersion in Genres Develops Writing Skills

The National Council of Teachers of English says: “Extensive reading and writing within a particular genre or domain of knowledge improve writing achievement. Indicators of competency/facility with vocabulary, syntactical patterns, fluency, patterns of errors, organizing structures, and even writing processes will all vary from one topic or type of writing to another. These variations mean that control of a particular kind of writing is best supported by ample experience with its use.”5

The program aligns with state standards.


  1. National Council of Teachers of English Writing Initiative, What We Know about Writing: Key Research Concepts.
  2. Michael C. Kelley, "Best Practices in Writing Instruction: Teachers' Report of Writing Instruction at a High Performing Elementary School" (Doctoral dissertation, University of Delaware, 2002).
  3. National Reading Panel, "Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. Reports of the Subgroups" (Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development), pp. 2–4.
  4. Michael C. Kelley, "Best Practices in Writing Instruction."
  5. National Council of Teachers of English Writing Initiative, What We Know about Writing: Key Research Concepts.