illustration of boy writing

The five features of effective writing

By Kathleen Cali and Kim Bowen

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

General

Applebee, Arthur. (2000). “Alternative Models of Writing Development.” In R. Indrisano & J. Squire (Eds.), Perspectives on Writing: Research, Theory, and Practice. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Available online at http://www.albany.edu/cela/publication/article/writing.htm.
This chapter by the director of the national Center for English Language Achievement summarizes research on writing development and reports by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The chapter examines research on students’ purposes for writing, the development of fluency and control of written language, knowledge of text structures and strategic processes, and the social component of writing development.
Lane, Barry. (1999). The Reviser’s Toolbox. Shoreham, VT: Discover Writing Press.
In this book, Barry Lane provides ideas for helping students revise their drafts by learning to focus their writing, write better leads and endings, expand their drafts using Snapshots and Thoughtshots, and other revision strategies.
Ray, Katie Wood. (1999). Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Ray has collected a myriad of examples of good writing from picturebooks and other literature that can be used to help students “envision” the possibilities for their writing. She includes examples of books to teach students different possibilities for text structures, ways with words, use of nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, paragraphing, punctuation, and other conventions of print.
Spandel, Vickie. (2001). Creating Writers: Through 6-Trait Writing Assessment and Instruction (3rd Edition). New York: Longman.
Six-Traits trainer Spandel has developed lessons and student writing samples for each of the Six Traits which can be easily adapted to the Five Features.
Stead, Tony. (2002). Is that a fact? Nonfiction writing K-3. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Why wait until middle school to teach children informational writing? Stead provides lessons, bibliographies of nonfiction books, and detailed rubrics for teaching primary students to write a variety of nonfiction genres, including instructions, reports, scientific explanations, persuasive writing, and nonfiction narratives.
Strong, William. (2001). Coaching Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Strong extends his expertise in sentence-combining to lessons on teaching middle and high school students to improve their grammar, usage, style, and voice through sentence combining activities and writing models.

Focus

Lane, Barry. (1999). The Reviser’s Toolbox. Shoreham, VT: Discover Writing Press.
In this book, Barry Lane provides ideas for helping students revise their drafts by learning to focus their writing, write better leads and endings, expand their drafts using Snapshots and Thoughtshots, and other revision strategies.

Organization

Buss, Kathleen, & Karnowski, Lee. (2000). Reading and Writing Literary Genres. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Buss, Kathleen & Karnowski, Lee. (2002). Reading and Writing Nonfiction Genres. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
These companion books provide lessons for teaching the organizational structures of a number of narrative, informational, and argumentative genres to elementary children.
Fletcher, Ralph. (1993). What a Writer Needs. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman n.
Fletcher includes useful lessons on different types of beginnings and endings.
Harris, Karen R., & Graham, Steve. (1992). Helping Young Writers Master the Craft: Strategy Instruction and Self-regulation in the Writing Process. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
Although this book targets students with learning disabilities, the authors provide organizational supports and self-regulation strategies that can help all inexperienced or struggling writers.
Murphy, Pamela. (July, 2003). Discovering the Ending in the Beginning. Language Arts, Vol. 80, No. 6, pp. 461-469. In this article, Murphy shows how good writers lay the foundation for their endings from the very beginning of their piece.
Ray, Katie Wood. (1999). Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Ray suggests picturebooks that students can use to study different text structures that they can then use in their own writing.
Stead, Tony. (2002). Is that a fact? Nonfiction writing K-3. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Stead provides detailed lessons and rubrics for variety of nonfiction genres, including instructions, reports, scientific explanations, persuasive writing, and nonfiction narratives, which can easily be adapted for older students.
Write Design Graphic Organizers
This website includes definitions of the five main types of organizers, their different purposes and shows how design/format is related to the purpose of the organizer.

Support and Elaboration

Lane, Barry. (1999). The Reviser’s Toolbox. Shoreham, VT: Discover Writing Press.
Lane provides ideas using Snapshots and Thoughtshots for developing support and elaboration in narrative writing.
Harvey, Stephanie. (1998). Non-Fiction Matters. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Harvey provides research, notetaking and summarization strategies that students can use to develop support and elaboration in their informational writing.

Style

Ray, Katie Wood. (1999). Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Ray has collected a myriad of examples from picturebooks and other literature that can be used to teach students about authors’ word choice and ways with words.
Strong, William. (2001). Coaching Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Strong uses sentence-combining exercises to study professional writers’ word choice and sentence variety.
Strunk, William, and White, E. B. (2000). The Elements of Style (4th Edition). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
This classic stylebook is a still a great source of advice and examples of elementary rules of usage, misused words, and stylistic do’s and don’ts.
Zinsser, William. (2001). On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction. (6th edition). New York: HarperCollins.
Zinsser, William. Writing to Learn. (1988). New York: Harper & Row.
In these two books on informational writing and writing across the curriculum, Zinsser explores the principles of good writing in a variety of disciplines.
Guide To Grammar and Writing (Capital Community College, Hartford, CT)
This guide to grammar and writing provides a useful grammar review for teachers and older students. The section on clauses is a helpful review for teachers who are teaching sentence combining. The guide also includes examples of good writing from literature, the Bible, and historical speeches. The sections on parallelism, developing an argument, and transitions are especially valuable for teaching style.

Conventions

Ray, Katie Wood. (1999). Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Ray examines the conventions authors use to achieve different effects in their writing and how conventions differ for different genres of writing.
Strong, William. (2001). Coaching Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Strong includes exercises for teaching middle and high school students to experiment with the appropriate usage and conventions for different contexts and genres.
Strunk, William, and White, E. B. (2000). The Elements of Style (4th Edition). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
This classic stylebook is still a great source of advice and examples of elementary rules of usage, misused words, and stylistic do’s and don’ts.
Weaver, Constance. (1996). Teaching Grammar in Context. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
Weaver discusses the research that supports teaching grammar in context, how to analyze patterns of errors to inform instruction, how to incorporate grammar minilessons into writing instruction, and includes an appendix of lessons for teaching grammar in context.
Guide To Grammar and Writing (Capital Community College, Hartford, CT).
This guide to grammar and writing provides a useful grammar review for teachers and older students. The section on clauses is a helpful review for teachers who are teaching sentence combining. The guide also includes examples of good writing from literature, the Bible, and historical speeches. The sections on parallelism, developing an argument, and transitions are especially valuable for teaching style.
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