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Ebony Allen, Afra A. Hersi, Ph.D.

"I want to write, but I can't": Strategies for supporting 5th grade demand writing in science

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With the advent of the common core state curriculum, students will be required to synthesize information in writing across subject area in order to meet grade level standards.   To progress through secondary school and college, students must learn an adequate command of written language.  Many adolescents currently struggle with writing.  The goal of this study is to address part of this problem.  It aims to discover what strategies increase demand writing proficiency within the fifth grade classroom.  The study takes place in a classroom within an urban environment with a mixed ethnic and economic population.  Some of the students are bilingual.  The students have differing writing abilities, including having Individual Educational Plans and being former participants in the English as a Second Language program.

The goal of my qualitative study was to understand how to effectively instruct students in writing so that they can independently compose proficient expository writing on demand.  It also aimed to reveal the efficacy the self-regulated strategy model with students in a multi-ethnic bilingual environment.  The study was designed to answer the question, “What strategies can increase demand writing proficiency within the fifth grade classroom?” I provided explicit instruction in text structure organization, word choice, vocabulary, and conventions to improve the holistic score of demand writing of the fifth grade students.  I also analyzed student writing attitudes.  I collected data such as student interviews and surveys, student writing samples, and other student artifacts. 

At the start of the study, I administered a self-created prompt and evaluated the students’ responses based on a self-designed rubric.  During the study lessons that taught explicit writing strategies following the self-regulated strategy development model were implemented.  Inquiry projects, technology, explicit vocabulary instruction, and journal writing were taught in conjunction with the writing to build science content knowledge. Preliminary data suggests that explicit differentiated strategy instruction promotes proficient demand writing in fifth graders.  The data also suggests that when their writing needs are addressed in a targeted way, 5th grade writing attitudes improve.

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