student writing

Covering the Gamut: Impacting written fluency ‘alongside’ holistic literacy strategies

As we reflect on the 2017 NAPLAN results, it is becoming alarmingly clear that there is a need to focus on teaching students how to write effectively . The NAPLAN itself has received its share of criticism, none more widely touted than that of Dr Les Perelman who correctly points out:

​“If we want to test writing, we should test all aspects of it, including reading, prewriting, writing, revision, and 21st century editing,” (Perelman, 2018)

The reality which is represented by the NAPLAN results is undeniable: the ability to write fluently at the time of testing, is not where we would expect it to be. This realisation has taken root in the US, since the 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) showed that a whopping three-quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lacked proficiency in writing. Although the 2017 NAEP results will be released in late 2018, the intervention strategies and methodologies implemented since 2011 can inform the Australian response to 2017 NAPLAN writing results.

Although some of the criticism of the NAPLAN writing test is earned, it is fair to say that the type of writing we are talking about is writing to learn. This point was concisely outlined by Misty Adonlou in an article on NAPLAN writing results in The Conversation,

“….it is expected that children are now no longer learning to read and write, but that they are reading and writing to learn. To achieve this they need deep and technical vocabularies, and to be able to manipulate sentence structures in ways we do not and cannot in our spoken language.” (Adoniou, 2017)

Holistic Literacy

To nurture and motivate a student’s ability to write in a variety of purposes for the purposes of communication, a holistic literacy pedagogy should be adopted. Such a pedagogy would be able to address the areas of most need which include accuracy and fluency.

In the US, Dr. Judith Hochman seems to be wielding considerable influence in re-focusing writing education. Hochman is the source of The Writing Revolution and the Hochman Method of teaching writing appear to be making a considerable impact.

The method hones in on the skills required to create explanatory and informative writing which Hochman argues, “…is essential for success in school and the workplace.” (Hochamn, 2017)

In Australia, the explicit teaching of writing at a sentence level could improve writing across the board; a practice that could be (and in some cases already is) incorporated into the primary and early secondary school levels. Given that the expectations for essay writing across the curriculum only increase as students work their way through the secondary system, it is clear that an increase in awareness and practice of this teaching is urgent in order to better equip our learners for the written tasks they face at tertiary level and beyond.

Perelman,L. (2018) TOWARDS A NEW NAPLAN: TESTING TO THE TEACHING , Surrey Hills: NSW Teachers Federation
​Adoniou,M. (2017) NAPLAN results show it isn’t the basics that are missing in Australian education, The Conversation , Online
Hochman,J &  Wexler,N. (2017) The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking through Writing in All Subjects and Grades,  San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass