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(Read, Encode, Annotate, Ponder)

9-12 Teacher Strategies to Increase Writing Skills


Writing to Learn

  • Plan activities to fit logically with content.

  • Include activities regularly.

  • Establish a clear purpose for each activity and a plan for how the writing will be used.

  • Model assignments students are asked to write (one effective strategy is for the teacher to write the model). Modeling may need to be repeated several times in order to capitalize on the benefits of this powerful strategy.

  • Invite students to experiment and try out ideas without correction or criticism.

  • Do not grade activities for grammar, usage, or mechanics.

  • Provide individualized positive feedback (e.g., make suggestions, raise questions, respond to students’ questions).

  • Award points for completion and extra points for exemplary work.



Writing Instruction


Essential Element Writing


Framework Refer to box below






W.5.9.8, W.5.10.8, W.5.11.8, W.5.12.8, W.5.9.9, W.5.10.9., W.5.11.9, W.5.12.9

Journals, learning logs, writer’s notebooks, exit and admit slips, inquiry logs, mathematics logs




Although neglected by both literacy and content area teachers, writing-to-learn is an important tool for several reasons. When writing-to-learn activities are used appropriately, students engage more fully; they develop critical thinking skills and they become more aware of their own learning processes. To be effective, learning must be active, and writing encourages students to become active learners. Writing-to-learn leads to deeper understanding and more permanent retention of information. It offers students a means to clarify their thinking, and it provides teachers a means for quick, informal assessments that can inform instruction.


Note: In order to meet the needs of diverse learners less complex materials can be employed to accommodate the needs of Tiers II through V students. (See ‘Strategies for Teaching Writing Skills to Tier III, IV, & V Students’). It should not be assumed that students who struggle with writing cannot use adapted materials with the graphic organizers and other ideas presented here.


Writing-to-learn activities are immense in variety and can be used effectively at the beginning, middle, and/or end of a lesson or unit of study. Because they are often short and can be quickly assessed, teachers are able to provide immediate personal and positive feedback. These activities also encourage frequent use, and writing frequently is more beneficial to learning than traditional long writing assignments given infrequently. When writing-to-learn activities are assessed without consideration of grammatical or mechanical concerns, students develop greater fluency and are more willing to take risks and experiment with new ideas. The purpose of this kind of writing is for students to capture ideas and to connect personally with what they read and study.



  • Short pieces of engaging text, informational or narrative. Tiers II through V students may need a tape recorded version of the text. Note: In several of the activities which follow, sample pieces of text have been included.

Writing-to-learn activities should be designed for use with the whole class

or with small groups. These activities may be implemented at the

beginning, middle, and/or end of instruction; some require as little as two

or three minutes; others may take more time, depending on how much of

the writing process is included. Writing-to-learn activities may usually be

assessed as rough drafts, but several may become the basis of more

extensive alternative assessment. Teachers can easily determine when

to introduce revising, editing, and publishing. All of the following activities

can be found in Tools for Teaching Content Literacy by Janet Allen or in

Smart Step/Next Step Strategies for the Content Areas produced by the

Arkansas Department of Education.


Direct Instruction

The teacher will explain and give examples of how writing helps students to clarify their thinking and remember what they have learned (grocery lists, e-mails, text messages, memos, class notes, etc.). S/he will emphasize that writing helps learners become more active and allows them to take more responsibility for their own learning. The teacher will explain how writing-to-learn allows the student to discover, organize and retrieve information more effectively and will illustrate a variety of tools that can be used for writing-to-learn (journals, learning logs, graphic organizers, etc.)



Many of the writing-to-learn activities that follow include samples of text, graphic organizers, and possible responses that can be used to model the strategy. Regardless of whether the activity is very short or more involved, the teacher should work through the activity so that students understand what quality responses should look like. Thinking should be made visible on chart paper, at the board or on the overhead projector. In some cases, the teacher should model the strategy several times with different pieces of short text.

Guided Practice

All of the writing-to-learn activities that follow allow students to practice what they have seen the teacher model. These activities encourage frequent writing, with the student rather than the teacher as the audience. Most can be done collaboratively or independently; all require teacher feedback so that students perceive the benefit and continue to engage fully. These guided practices afford the teacher the opportunity to assess understanding quickly without the necessity of evaluating grammar and mechanics.



Several of these activities lend themselves to more fully developed writing assignments that afford the opportunity for creative expression. As students become more secure with these strategies, they may then be able to design their own assignments. For example, when students initially use the RAFT activity, the teacher must supply the role, the audience, the format and the theme choices. As they become more confident, students may be able to originate their own options. Also, many of the strategies invite more extensive development through the writing process; what started as a quick response to learning may become a fully developed writing assignment that includes all aspects of the process.


Writing-to-Learn Activities Rationale

(from “Smart Step/Next Step Strategies for the Content Areas”)


These writing-to-learn activities may be appropriately used before, during, or after class. They offer a variety of benefits by:


  • Promoting engagement.

  • Enhancing understanding of concepts being studied.

  • Promoting thinking.

  • Encouraging writing daily.

  • Providing insight into students’ thinking processes.

  • Offering the opportunity for quick assessment and for personal, positive feedback.

Guided Practice

Choose appropriate times before, during, and/or after learning to include writing-to-learn activities.

  1. Plan to use the work produced in these activities in a meaningful way so that students perceive their benefit and value.

  2. Evaluate work as rough drafts and encourage students to take risks in their responses.

  3. Provide personal and positive feedback to all or to selected papers.

  4. Consider awarding points for satisfactory completion and rewarding exemplary work with extra credit.


Develop a systematic plan for offering feedback.


(Read, Encode, Annotate, Ponder)


REAP is a writing-to-learn strategy that helps students read and understand a text. This strategy offers several benefits:


  • It asks students to revisit the text several times as they work through the REAP process.

  • It leads students to internalize the content of the reading as they restate main ideas and important points in their own words.

  • It encourages students to connect with the text as they see relationships and pose questions.

  • It promotes engagement.

  • It fosters the development of thinking skills.

  • It creates a helpful document for students to use as they review for testing.

  • It offers the opportunity for quick assessment and for personal, positive feedback.


  • Each student will need a passage of informational text and a REAP graphic organizer. (See “Watch What You Dew!” and the “REAP” graphic organizer for samples to use in modeling the process with students.)



Guided Practice
  1. Hand out the graphic organizer (or have students create their own) and explain how it will be used, calling attention to the instructions and help at the bottom of the organizer. Advise students NOT to write while they are reading.

  2. Hand out a passage of informational text (or direct students to the informational passage in their textbooks) and provide time for students to read the text.

  3. Assist students as they work individually to complete the R, E, and A sections of their graphic organizer. Emphasize the importance of restating the information in their own words.

  4. Organize the class into discussion partners. Guide students to share the work they have completed individually and to make additions or adjustments.

  5. Lead students to discuss with their partner appropriate responses for the P section of the graphic organizer and to write their connections and questions in the appropriate space.




Use the papers as a basis for review and for class discussion OR collect and review the papers immediately to correct any misunderstandings. Allow responses in the P section guide further instruction or class discussion. REAP papers are best evaluated as rough drafts; points may be awarded for completion with exemplary responses earning bonus credit.



Tier II Additions

  • Allow student to have ample time to read the required text.

  • Pair student with a student peer with average to high writing skills.

  • Have student restate information in graphic organizer using short phrases.


Tier III Accommodations/Modifications

  • Student can be paired with teacher or paraprofessional to read required text.

  • Allow student to read only teacher highlighted sections.

  • Allow student to restate information in graphic organizer using single words.


Tier IV Modifications

  • Allow student to complete only the R & E section of the graphic organizer with the help of student peer, teacher, or paraprofessional.


Tier V Modifications

  • Provide tape recorder for student to speak into for the R & E section of graphic organizer.


Writing To Learn REAP + Worksheet


Copyright © 2006 Arkansas Department of Education. All rights reserved. School districts may reproduce these materials for in-school student use only. No resale. Materials may not be reproduced, distributed or sold for commercial use or profit. ADE employees are not authorized to waive these restrictions.

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