University of Iowa

Teaching Writing Fluency Through Feedback and Progress Monitoring Toward Goals

Teacher helping student with writing

Through identifying errors, providing corrections, and praising well-written sentences, teachers can help students improve their writing fluency, while monitoring progress toward writing goals.

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Posted on: May 15, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the second post of a two-part series on timed practice and writing fluency.

Once writers can compose sentences accurately (i.e., with minimal grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors), these writers can learn to write fluently. Writing fluency is defined as writing with accuracy and speed (Johnson & Street, 2013). This post is the second in a two-post series on how teachers can use timed practice procedures to promote students’ sentence-writing fluency skills. Part 1 covered the first of three components of timed practice: (1) repeated writings. With repeated writings, students participate in several consecutive timed writing sessions using a series of writing prompts such as story starters or picture-word prompts. This post presents the last two components of timed writing procedures: (2) immediate and corrective feedback and (3) individualized goal setting and progress monitoring.

(2) Immediate and Corrective Feedback

The second component of effective timed practice is providing students with immediate and corrective feedback (Hier & Eckert, 2016; Truckenmiller, Eckert, Codding, & Petscher, 2014). Teachers can review students’ written sentences after each individual timing to reinforce strengths and correct errors. When working individually with a student, the teacher can sit next to the student at a small table and provide feedback. When working with small groups of three to five students, teachers can sit across from the students at a table or with the students arranged in a semi-circle of desks. These configurations allow the teacher to easily monitor students’ work while they are writing and, when the timer sounds, to retrieve completed responses quickly for scoring and delivering feedback.

Feedback involves providing students with information about their performance (Koenig, Eckert, & Hier, 2016). When delivering feedback, teachers can:

  • Praise students for instances of writing accuracy (e.g., the appropriate use of grammar, capitalization, and punctuation).
  • Identify errors in the students’ writing (e.g., grammar, spelling, capitalization, punctuation) and alert the students to those errors.
  • Verbally provide the correction to any students’ errors and ask the students to correct the errors in their writing.

For example, the following student’s sentence written during a timing contains an error:

The cook were making food.

The teacher could use the following conversation to provide feedback:

Teacher: Look at the word “were.” Your sentence has only one cook, but the verb you used is the plural version, as in “The cooks were making food.” The correct word is “was” - “The cook was making food.” Which word should you have used?

Student: “Was.”

Teacher: Correct. Please make the change on your work.

This process can be adapted to any kind of error students make, and the error correction steps should be used so the teacher and students address each error individually. When working with small groups of students and limited time, teachers can choose to identify and provide error correction for only the types of errors individual students make most frequently. The “Sample Plan for Timed Writing Sessions” (see Supplemental Materials for Teachers below) offers more information and additional error-correction examples.

When providing feedback on a second (or third, etc.) timing, the teacher can praise students for writing sentences that do not include the errors the teacher identified earlier. Using the example from above, a student who wrote a sentence with an error in subject-verb agreement would have received corrective feedback before beginning her second timing. In that next practice opportunity, the student writes:

The cook was making food.

In this instance, the teacher has an opportunity to praise the student for correcting the verb number error she made in the first timing. The teacher might say:

I see that you made your verb agree with your singular subject in this sentence. Good job using “was” here instead of “were” with your subject “cook.”

(3) Progress Monitoring Toward Individual Goals

The third component of effective timed practice is allowing students an opportunity to monitor their progress toward the established goal. As stated in the first post in this series, when students know the goal for using timed practice activities, they understand what they are expected to do to demonstrate improvement in their writing fluency.

After providing feedback and error correction in a timing, the teacher can evaluate each student’s writing for CWS and IWS. Because CWS and IWS are relatively quick to score once a teacher has familiarity with the measures (Hosp, Hosp, & Howell, 2016), assessing an individual student’s writing will not take long. For groups of 3-5 students, this process will take more time (e.g., 4-5 minutes).

Then, the teacher can share with the students how they did. For example:

Teacher: You earned 35 CWS on this timing. Your goal is 30 CWS. Did you meet your goal with this timing?

When working with larger groups, teachers may not want to share an individual student’s performance in front of other students. In this situation, the teacher can simply write the score on top of the student’s paper and identify the goal. For example:

Teacher: [Writes ‘35’ on the top of the student’s paper]. You earned this [points to the ‘35’] on this timing. If you met your goal, write “Yes” next to the score. If you did not meet your goal, write “No.”

Then, the teacher can provide praise for the specific behaviors that earned the student CWSs (e.g., appropriate grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization). When working with a group of students, this would occur immediately after the teacher has scored the first student’s writing and prior to moving on to scoring the next student’s writing. For example:

Teacher: You earned [state or point to score] 35 CWS because you started all your sentences with capital letters and ended them with punctuation. You also used appropriate grammar when you used the verb “was” when you wrote about “the cook.” Good job knowing to use “was” when there is only one subject.

At the end of the repeated writings, the teacher can briefly review all the students’ scores on the writing prompts. The teacher can then ask the students to identify their best performance of the day and confirm whether they met their writing goal. For example:

Teacher: On today’s timings, you earned [state or point to each] 25, 29, and 35 CWS on the writing prompts. What is your highest score today?

Student: 35.

Teacher: That’s right. Did you meet your goal of 30 CWS today?

Student: Yes.

Teacher: Good job meeting your goal.

If the teacher is working with a small group of students, this process should be repeated for each of the students in the group. Once the students have identified their highest scores of the day, they can graph their progress on an individualized progress-monitoring graph. These graphs can vary in design, but simpler designs are likely best. The graph should include the student’s writing goal clearly labeled and a space for the student to indicate her progress (see Supplemental Materials for Teachers below for example graphs).

Writing fluency (i.e., writing quickly and with accuracy) is a critical writing skill, and teachers can use timed practice featuring repeated writings, immediate and corrective feedback, and progress monitoring toward individual goals to help students write sentences fluently. With the feedback these practice opportunities provide, students can become more aware of and correct their writing mistakes (Truckenmiller, Ecker, Codding, & Petscher, 2014). This allows students to track their own progress toward their writing goals.

Supplemental Materials for Teachers

PDF iconSample Plan for Timed Writing Sessions

Introducing picture-word prompts for practicing writing fluency and modeling how to use them for one-on-one and small-group instruction. Also includes providing students with feedback and progress monitoring.

PDF iconExample Student Graph for Progress Monitoring

Teachers can use this graph to record goals and progress toward those goals with their students. A partially completed graph is also included to demonstrate how teachers and students can use the tool.

Additional Resources

  • Free writing lessons: These lessons available also from Datchuk use explicit instruction techniques to teach students writing skills. The lessons are appropriate for students who need more practice using appropriate grammar, capitalization, and punctuation skills. Teacher scripts and student worksheets are included.

References

Hier, B. O., & Eckert, T. L. (2016). Programming generality into a performance feedback writing intervention: A randomized control trial. Journal of School Psychology, 56 (June 2016), 111-131. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2016.03.003

Hosp, M. K., Hosp, J. L., & Howell, K. W. (2016). The ABC’s of CBM: A practical guide to curriculum-based measurement (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Johnson, K. R., & Street, E. M. (2013). Response to intervention and precision teaching: Creating synergy in the classroom. New York: Guilford.

Koenig, E. A., Eckert, T. L., & Hier, B. O. (2016). Using performance feedback and goal setting to improve elementary students’ writing fluency: A randomized control trial. School Psychology Review, 45, 275-295. doi:10.17105/SPR45-3.275-295

Truckenmiller, A. J., Eckert, T. L., Codding, R. S., & Petscher Y. (2014). Evaluating the impact of feedback on elementary age students’ fluency growth in written expression: A randomized control trial. Journal of School Psychology, 52, 531-548. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2014.09.001 | Full text