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SRSD

Self-regulated strategy development is an approach for teaching learners task-specific strategies for carrying out composing processes like planning, drafting, and revising. Developing writers learn to apply specific writing strategies; acquire the knowledge needed to use these strategies successfully; learn to regulate the use of these strategies as well as the process of writing; and develop positive beliefs about their writing capabilities and the strategies taught (Harris, Graham, Mason, & Friedlander, 2008). SRSD involves six recursive stages of instruction: develop background knowledge, discuss it, model it, memorize it, support it, and independent performance. Teachers first model how to use the target strategies and self-regulation procedures, but move deliberately to independent learner application, and stress maintenance and generalization of the procedures taught.

Context. The case study presented here took place in Chile and involved teaching opinion essay writing to 20 sixth graders in a private school (average age =11 years, 67% girls). The teacher in this study (the fifth author of this chapter) is 35 years old with nine years teaching experience. She received professional development in how to deliver SRSD over a one-month period. This included an online course on SRSD and a manual with detailed instructions on how to provide SRSD instruction with the target strategies. All instructional materials needed by the students were provided by the school.

The emphasis in this case study of teaching students strategies for planning, drafting, and reviewing their opinion essay is a departure from the learning objectives in many Chilean schools where little emphasis is placed on such instruction. Instruction was also delivered in the context of a private school. Public school classrooms often contain 35 or more students. The smaller number of students in this private school class made it possible for the teacher to be more attentive to individual needs during instruction. Moreover, the families of students in this class were affluent, and enjoyed greater linguistic and material resources than many students in public schools. Additionally, the teacher modified SRSD instruction as specified in Harris, Graham, Mason, and Friedlander (2008) to make instruction fit her classroom and a Chilean context (e.g., emphasis was placed on peer-evaluation as well as self-evaluation). Lastly, instruction was delivered at the end of the school year. This had two consequences, it was necessary at times to extend a writing class beyond the allotted 45 minutes to accommodate SRSD instruction. It also made it impossible to apply a criterion-based approach to SRSD instruction as is recommended. As a result instruction was time-based (i.e., ten lessons), and less time was devoted to two stages of SRSD: support it and independence performance. This was also influenced by other teaching demands in other subject areas. This meant that students had less time to practice applying the strategies learned, use of the graphic organizers for strategy use were not replaced by student designed organizers, and little attention was devoted to strategy maintenance and generalization. As a result, we will address how these would have been addressed if more time had been available.

Writing Strategies. Students were taught a three-step process for planning and drafting their opinion essay (see Table 9.1). This included first thinking about audience and purpose, and then applying a general writing strategy (POW) for planning and drafting as well as a genre-specific strategy (TREE) for generating ideas and notes for their composition based on the basic parts of an opinion essay. These strategies (or schemas) were used in previous SRSD research (e.g., Harris et al., 2012). While they structure or regulate how students carry out the processes of planning and drafting an opinion essay, they require thoughtful use. As they carry out specific steps, students must make and evaluate the decisions they make. For example, when picking an idea to write about they are encouraged to generate possible ideas and make decisions about which will be most suitable given their purpose and audience. Likewise, when organizing their notes, they generate possible reasons to support their ideas, make decisions about which ones are most convincing, and consider how best to organize them to obtain the maximum argumentative effect. Thus, for each step of these two strategies, students are engaged in making multiple decisions, evaluating them, and modifying them as necessary to achieve their goals.

Develop and Activate Prior Knowledge. At the start of the first class, the teacher began asking students what they knew about opinion essays, including the parts of an opinion essay and the differences between arguments and reasons. To facilitate the development and activation of knowledge about these issues, students reviewed examples of daily argumentation, based on two comic vignettes presented by the teacher. Additionally, students read, first individually and later in turn, a model text entitled “What time should we rest?” Then, students were asked to underline the opinions of the author in the text read, and then to give reasons and explanations to justify their opinion. Finally, the teacher proposed that students reflect and briefly write about what they learned during the lesson, the functions of arguments, and the topics they would like to debate or argue.

During the second class, students read and discussed a model text titled “Should children be paid for their homework?” To facilitate the analysis of the parts of this opinion (thesis, reasons, and explanations), the teacher posed a series of questions and had students annotate these parts directly on the text. Afterwards, the teacher asked students to use these parts to write an opinion essay on the topic: “Should homework be sent home?” The generated texts were collected by the teacher as an initial indication of students’ opinion writing performance (pretest). Some of the text produced by students was read and analyzed by the class, using an evaluation guide for the parts of an opinion essay. Students evaluated text alone and together. At the end of class,

Table 9.1 Strategies and Steps for Writing of ROW + TREE

Step 1: Think, who will read this, and why am I writing it?

Step 2: Plan what to say using POW

  • • P = Pick an idea to start with - this is an idea in our heads.
  • • O = Organize my notes
  • • W = Write and say more

Step 3: Organize my notes using TREE

  • • T = Topic sentence - tells the reader what you believe
  • • R = Reasons
  • • E = Explain - Explain each reason
  • • E = Ending - Wrap it up right

students completed a reflection activity based on the questions: What was it that you liked most about writing the opinion text? What was the hardest part of writing the opinion essay?

During the third class the teacher presented the students with two “writing tricks” or strategies: POW + TREE (see Table 9.1). These are mnemonics that specify a series of mental activities or steps underlying the target strategies for planning and drafting opinion essays. The teacher presented these strategies on the blackboard in the form of graphic organizers with the meaning of each step specified. Drawing on the analysis of model texts reviewed in previous classes, the teacher described how Carlos, an ideal student, used these strategies to write his opinion essay. During this process, students focused on identifying the parts of each strategy and learned how to use the graphic organizers to generate planning ideas and notes. At the end of class, the class discussed the importance of using the strategies to write good opinion texts.

In the fourth class, the teacher taught and explained the purpose of two additional tricks students would use to improve their essays: million pesos words and selfregulation strategies. For million pesos words, students received a copy of commonly used words to signal opinion essay ideas or connect them when writing an opinion text (e.g., opinion, order, cause, consequence). The teacher also introduced and modeled self-regulation procedures students would use while writing (i.e., goal setting and self-instruction). For example, she generated and modeled with students help selfinstructions that can be usefully applied before, during or after writing. To facilitate this process, students had a table illustrating different types of self-instructions “good writers” use: task definition (“What do I need to do?”), task planning (“I need to make plan”; “If I stay focused, I can do this”), implementation and strategy use (“I need to write down my POW + TREE reminder”; “I need to set a goal to include all of the parts”; “I did the first step and now the second step is ...”), self-assessment (“How am I doing?”), and self-reinforcing (“This is pretty good!”; “I’m getting better at this!”). The teacher and students then discussed the importance of using the million pesos words and self-regulation procedures.

The lessons provided during this stage gave students an introduction to POW + TREE strategies as well as how self-talk can direct one’s behavior during writing. In subsequent stages (see below), the teacher will model how to use POW + TREE in a flexible and strategic manner, and apply self-talk to direct the use of these strategies as well as their writing behaviors and thoughts. The teachers will further introduce how to use goal setting, self-monitoring, and self-evaluation for these same purposes. Students then receive practice applying these strategic processes as they write their own essays. As they are learning to use these different strategic tools, the teacher emphasizes that these tools can be used flexibly and intelligently, as they will need to be adapted to different writing topics, tasks, and situations.

Discuss It. During the fifth class, the teacher asked students to help her examine an opinion text to identify if all the elements in the TREE strategy were present. Using a previously written opinion essay, the teacher identified each of these parts, with students help, and made notes for each of these parts on the graphic organizer presented during the third class. She also reminded them that it was important to ask who would read the text and if the arguments made sense. The students then analyzed a new opinion essay, placing the parts they identified in note form on the graphic organizer.

At the start of the sixth class, students reviewed an opinion essay that did not include all of the elements included in TREE. Individually, students read the essay and completed the graphic organizer. As students worked, the teacher reminded them to determine if the writer included all the parts, but also to evaluate if provided reasons made sense. Once the task was completed, the class discussed deficiencies in the essay analyzed. Students then worked in pairs to improve the essay they evaluated, adding new arguments and reasons that made sense. At this point students had acquired the knowledge needed to move to the next step: seeing how the target strategies can be applied.

Model It. In the seventh class, the teacher modeled how to use POW and TREE and the other tricks presented to students in previous lessons. She first provided a review of the strategies and self-regulation procedures presented in prior lessons. Next, using the three-step strategy presented in Table 9.1, she identified the writing topic (“The use of social networks and children’s sedentary lifestyle”), making her thinking visible while talking aloud, referring to the appropriate step of POW (Pick an idea to start with), and making notes on the graphic organizer (including setting a goal to include all the basic parts of an opinion essay in her composition). She then began planning her essay aloud, referring to the second step in POW (Organize my notes) and using TREE to guide the idea generation process, as she wrote notes on the graphic organizer. Students were encouraged to provide help by letting the teacher know if the arguments being put forward made sense, the order of ideas was logical and appropriate, and if ideas were relevant. While modeling the use of the target strategies, the teacher used self-instructions to regulate the writing strategies, writing task, and her writing behavior (e.g. “How am I doing?”; “Am I following all the steps?”), making visible how the teacher managed the process of writing.

After planning and drafting the essay as well as checking to see if it had all of the parts, the teacher introduced the idea of collaborative planning. Students were asked to work in pairs to apply all of the procedures used by the teacher during the seventh class with one exception. Once they collaboratively planned their text, each student drafted an essay of their own using the collaborative plan. The teacher then modeled how to evaluate the completed essay using a rubric. Students then evaluated their partners text using the rubric and provided evaluative comments directly on the text.

During the eighth class, students generated self-instructions they would apply to their own writing. After revising the importance of self-statements, the teacher asked students to generate and record in a table self-instructions they each planned to apply.

Memorize It and Support It. At the start of the ninth class, students played games to ensure they had easy mental access to the steps in POW and TREE. For example, they gathered in a circle and the teacher threw a ball indicating the first letter of the POW strategy, the student receiving the ball had to point out the keyword associated with the letter indicated and throw it to another student to explain the purpose of this step. This same activity was repeated for TREE.

The teacher applied a collaborative activity where students were to apply everything they had learned about writing an opinion essay on “Is it appropriate to give technological toys to six-year-olds?” As collaborative writing occurred, the teacher circulated around the room providing the level of support specific children needed.

If more time had been available, students would have practiced writing essays until they could do so without help from the teacher or peers. This would include fading the graphic organizer, with students creating their own personal graphic organizer they could generate on a separate sheet of paper.

Independent Performance. During the tenth class, students planned and wrote an essay on a topic of their choice. The teacher encouraged students to use their self-instructions, the strategies they were taught, million pesos words, and so forth. Students shared their completed essays with the class and conducted assessments of the quality of their work with another student.

If more time had been available, the class would have held a discussion on how what was learned could be modified to make it work better. In addition, students would have identified other situations where they could apply the strategies and identify how they would need to be modified in those situations. Finally, students would have set goals for using what they learned over time and in other situations.

Impact. As a result of SRSD instruction, students evidenced changes in the way they wrote (e.g., planning in advance) and what they wrote. An example illustrating typical changes in students’ writing is provided in Table 9.2. Statistically significant improvements were found for the class as a whole from pretest to posttest on essay

Table 9.2 Example of Performance Before and After SRSD Instruction

Pretest

Writing Prompt: Should homework be sent home?

I think not, because probably having problems in the house or even not having time to do them, and not doing homework, we lost out, unable to give our reasons or explain the reasons why we could not do the homework. At the same time, I also think yes because it helps us to continue with our learning because despite the difficult, being willing, we still managed to solve or understand the task. It is also dependent on the amount of the task, such as writing, because if it is too much, not everyone will be motivated to do it.

Posttest

Writing Prompt: Do you think it is useful to wear a uniform at school?

No, since not having a uniform is highly favorable for students. My first reason is that it is very boring for all students, because having dark and opaque colors does not allow us to express ourselves.

Second, 1 think that by forcing us to do it all week, we have less motivation to do it correctly.

Lastly, I think it is more comfortable to use “colored clothes," since the uniform is tighter because it has a lot of elastic. In conclusion, I think that the school should not force us to wear the uniform, no matter how much it represents the school; no child feels comfortable doing it.

length, number of essay elements (e.g., reasons), and essay quality (using a five-point holistic quality measure). While orally expressing their opinions was a common part of the participating students’ daily lives, they evidenced difficulty doing this effectively with writing before SRSD instruction. They found it especially difficult to organize their written argument effectively and make clear connections between ideas. As a result of SRSD instruction, students’ writing became progressively more organized and complete (containing all of the basic parts of an opinion essay), with students using discourse markers associated with persuasive texts (e.g., “one reason why ... ”) to signal transitions between ideas, resulting in qualitatively stronger text.

 
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