Mark Monteith from Kim McGill on Vimeo.

Inquiry: How can I improve how students apply their knowledge of writing conventions?

Mark noticed that most students in his grade 8 class seemed to be able to successfully complete worksheets and quizzes on writing conventions, yet they did not apply their knowledge to their writing.  Mark felt that he could do something in his teaching to help students better apply their knowledge of writing conventions.  He hoped to see improvement on first drafts of student work.

Mark wondered:

  • Would more time help students write better first drafts?
  • If he should change the expectations he had of first drafts?
  • Would the use of a writing checklist help students?
  • Should he select certain conventions on which to focus?
  • What role could self assessment play in improving how students apply their knowledge of writing conventions?
  • What impact an anchor chart outlining specific conventions would have on student learning.

Mark’s Inquiry Group Members Suggested the use of:

  • Checklists
  • Peer editing
  • Collaborative writing

Mark decided to have students complete a worksheet for basic writing conventions such as capitals, periods and commas.  He then gave students an open writing task (topic of their choice) with the explicit criteria that they use the same basic writing conventions properly.  From this he determined which students did not know the writing conventions on the worksheet and which students knew the writing conventions, but failed to apply them in writing.  Some students had no difficulty with writing conventions at all.

Mark then compared his diagnostic assessments to IEP information and created an anchor chart for paragraph writing.  For students who needed guided practice, he created a 3-d anchor in the shape of a pyramid.  Each side of the pyramid represented parts of the paragraph (much like a hamburger paragraph graphic organizer).


Students who struggled to apply their knowledge of writing conventions benefited from writing about something they were interested in and from anchor charts.

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