Any experienced writer can tell you that the act of writing itself, therefore being a ‘good writer,’ is a lifelong process. Experienced writers can also attest that every wordsmith has their own method for crafting a good piece. Some may choose to jump right in and start writing freely, while others prefer to create an outline to build from. Both options have created a wealth of wonderful literature for the world to enjoy, as well as top score-earning essays. With this in mind, the question for educators with young students new to writing then becomes: Should essay planning be required for students?
The answer is yes! Why? First and foremost, as all teachers know, academic essays typically have a rubric which will be used to grade the students’ papers. Rubrics usually contain very specific questions that are to be answered in the essay. This strongly indicates that a rubric is the ‘bare bones’ of an essay outline. For those with little or no experience writing an essay, a rubric is the perfect guide. But let’s dig a little deeper. What if the essay is open to whatever question the student wants to answer, and the rubric merely dictates a word count along with citing and font requirements? The answer is still yes – planning should be required for student essays.
According to an in-depth research report by Interactive Educational Systems Design (IESD) in 2016, the most “effective instruction” for writing includes planning. By conducting more than 40 experimental studies in grades 2-12, IESD discovered that planning and other educator-guided writing strategies produced an impressive effect size of 1.26 (p < .001). Moreover, the researchers concluded that Top Score Writing’s research-based curriculum provides the necessary tools for meeting and or exceeding state writing assessment requirements; and prepares students for higher education and career-based writing. As further proof, three years prior to the report, schools in the state of Florida averaged 53% proficiency in FCAT 2.0 Writing Data Comparisons; while schools (in Florida) using the Top Score Writing curriculum averaged 75%.
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