Writing to Learn &

Learning to Write

Odense, March 22, 2012

Gert Rijlaarsdam & Team


de la troupe


Writing to learn versus Learning to Write

What works for whom and when?

What works?


Observation writing strategies

Classroom practice

Theme 1

Learning to Write Texts & Writing to Learn

Does it make a difference?

Google counts.… 21 03 2012

“writing is complex” 52.800 hits

“Writing is a complex process” 283.000 hits

“Learning to write is a complex proces” 2.730

Text production/Writing strategies

Revising strategy preference

Thinking through the act of writing

Producing free (pieces of) texts, drafts, and then

reprocess, revise, rewrite, select etc.

Planning strategy preference

First planning, notes, schemes etc., then write

Little revision on line, when writing.

Sculptors Engineers


Learning through writing:

Attention must be focused on learning, not on

writing. Thus:

Adapt writing tasks to writimng stategies:

to plan/think-write-revise.



Learning to write argumentative texts about

short short stories

Aims twofold:

1. Learning to interpret van literary stories by writing

about stories

2. Learning to write argumentative texts (stand point,


Learning content

lesson 1 2 3 4 5

Issue + + + + +

Stand point + + + + +

Introduction, closing

(reader oriented)

+ + + +

Informing + + + +

Argumentation + +

Signaling +

Revisers condition

Planners condition

Two conditions

Random assignment to condition

composing for sculptors


1. write a discovery draft of a literary review

2. reread draft and check on given criteria

(argumentative and rhetorical)

3. write the final text

composing for engineers


1. fill in a planning scheme

2. check planning scheme on given criteria

(argumentative and rhetorical)

3. write the final text

Writing Style Inventory

‘When I finished my text, I start reading and

revising thoroughly: a lot of things can

change then.’

(Revising scale, α = .73)

‘I always create scheme before I start


(Planning scale, α = .76)


Writing to Learn

For instance: Writing to understand a literary text, a text in history,

social sciences.

Quality of Subject


Writing by Revising Writing by Planning


Quality of subject


Writing by Revising Writing by Planning



If you use writing for understanding/acquiring

subject matter, Options

Type Plan Explore/Revise






If you use writing for understanding/acquiring

subject matter, Options

Type Plan Explore/Revise

Planner X

Non-planner X




If you use writing for understanding/acquiring

subject matter, Options

Type Plan Explore/Revise

Planner X

Non-planner X

Revisor X

Non-revisor X

Learning to Write Texts

Teaching aim:; improve text quality


Tekst quality

Writing by Revising Writing by Planning



If the Student has a outspoken writing approach?

Best Text Quality via PLANNING

If the student has no outspoken writing approach?

Best Text Quality via EXPLORATIVE


Theme 2-3:

What works in teaching writing

What lesson is this …

Learning about texts from Readers’


Rijlaarsdam, G. Couzijn. M, Janssen, T., Braaksma, M. & Kieft, M. (2006). Writing Experiment Manuals in Science

Education: The

impact of writing, genre, and audience. International Journal of Science Education, 28, 2–3, pp. 203–233.

Physics Experiment (Steps 1-3): Proof

that air takes space….

Effect Sizes Text Quality

Revision after observing someone else's


Revision after observing own manual + written


Revision after observing own manual

Revision first draft

0 1 2 3

Effect Size

Effect Text Knowledge

Three weeks later:

Writing a letter to a new student in

class: how to write a manual….

Most genre awareness: those

writers who saw a tekst being read

Transfer Potential: Effect Sizes

Revision after observing someone else's


Revision after observing own manual + written


Revision after observing own manual

Revision first draft

-0,5 0 0,5 1 1,5 2

Effect Size

Advices on Content Avices on Style Advices on Process

Conclusion Physics Experiment

Inquiry of readers’ processes support

the development of knowledge about what an

effective text entails (‘genre awareness’).

(Reader in reader’s role)

Three roles to connect in writing education





Complete Communication Participation

Learning Model





Communicative roles/pairs

Writing is reader oriented, has a goal to achieve and a reader to read

Writer has access to the reading process; what happens during reading, what happens with the text

being read?.

Instructive roles/pairs:

Reader informs writer about the quality of the text, as experienced.

Observer/analyse role:

Learners study the writing, reading or writing-reading process..

Inquiring/Observing writing and

reading strategies in peers

processes. Effects on learning and


Main focus

Effects of inquiry/observation versus learning by

practicing, on

Learning: effects in same modus:

writing -> writing; reading -> reading)

Transfer: effects to other modus:

writing -> reading; reading -> writing)

Lesson series (four hours in total) about

argumentative reading or writing; Grade: 9, age 15

Theory: same

Application: practicing ersus inquiry tasks

Observation tasks (observing writing)

Presentation of the task

Observing two students at work, performing the

writing task: observation of writing processes

Presentation of the texts the students wrote:

observation of writing products

Answering two questions about the observations

Presentation of the task

In a little while, you are going to watch on CD-ROM

videotape recordings. You will see two peers writing

a short argumentative text based on the following

argumentation structure. The models had to make

sure that the reader will understand the standpoint

and arguments in their text. Next page you will find

the argumentation structure the models received.

Argumentation structure

(1.1) In a city,

you can choose

from different

shops, schools,

and swimming


(1) It is better to live in a city than in a village

(1.2.1) You can

meet more

different people

(1.2) You can

better develop

yourself in a city

(1.2.2) There are

more cultural


(1.3) The

opportunity for

finding a job is

getter in a city

(1.3.1) There are

a lot of

companies close

to each other

Questions guiding the observations

1. Which student did less well?

2. Explain briefly what this (less good) student did worse.

Make your notes here, when you observe the students:




Student to observe (one of a pair)

Presentation of the models’ texts and

answering two questions

You saw two students performing the writing task. They

wrote the following texts:

Student 1 Student 2

texttext texttext

texttext texttext

Answer two questions:

1. Which model did less well?

2. Explain briefly what this (less good) model did worse.

Learning effects? Yes, see effect sizes:

Learning Modus



Effect of Observation

Effect of Observation

0 0,2 0,4 0,6 0,8 1 1,2

Effect Size

Learning & Instruction, 1999

Transfer effects? Oh, yes!


the other


Obs Reading vs Pract Writing

Obs Writing vs Pract Writing

0 0,1 0,2 0,3 0,4 0,5 0,6 0,7 0,8 0,9 1

Effect Size

To Writing To Reading

Learning & Instruction, 1999

Theme 4: Practice


The Yummy Yummy Story ... Or …

the bright side of writing education

Introducing the Case


On the wrappers of the Yummy Yummy candy bars,

which you occasionally eat, you have seen that you can

get two free cinema tickets.

The wrapper reads:

Advertisement Yummy Yummy Candy bars


This is what you must do:

On each Yummy Yummy candy bar wrapper there is 1

point. Collect 10 points and send these in a sufficiently

stamped envelope to: Yummy Yummy Candy Bars Points

Offer, PO Box 3333, 1273 KB Etten-Leur, the


Also include € 0.39 in stamps to cover postage. Clearly

write your name, address and postal code, and the free

(FREE!) cinema tickets will be sent to your home as soon

as possible. This offer is open until April 15 2003.

Communicative Situation

It is April 7 2003. You have collected a total of 8 points, but

you cannot find any more bars with points. The bars in the

shops have no points on the wrappers, but it is still not

April 15. Thus, you cannot get your 10 points together.

Nevertheless, you wish to receive the two cinema tickets.

Therefore, you send your 8 points along with two complete

wrappers without points.


Write a letter to enclose with the points and wrappers.

Explain why you are unable to send ten points. Convince

Yummy Yummy Candy Bars that you want to receive the

two cinema tickets and that there was nothing you could

do to get ten points. Make sure that they send you the

cinema tickets! Then address the envelope.


Three roles,

connected in a learner-to-read & -to-write




Complete Communication Participation Learning






Communicative role/pairs:

Writing has a purpose and an audience

Writer has access to reader’s process.

Instructive role/pairs:

Reader informs writers about perceived quality of text.

Inquiry/Observing/Analyzing role:

Learners study the writing, reading or writing-reading process.




Get what they owe you

The Yummy yummy Candle Bar Case….

Introducing the Case

Introducing the Case

At work!

Omar (12); First Letter

Dear employees of Yummy Yummy Candy Bars

I participated in the Yummy Yummy Candy Bars offer to win two

cinema tickets. After some time I had already saved eight points.

After some time I could find no more Yummy Yummy candy bars

with offer points. I went to every sweetshop where Yummy Yummy

candy bars are sold, but I have found absolutely nothing!

Therefore, I give you two wrappers with no points on them to

prove that I have eaten ten bars. I hope that you can help me by

still giving me the cinema tickets. I hope that you understand my


Yours faithfully,

Omar van der Veen

Lesson 2

Implementing the Reader’s role:

Board of Yummy Yummy Candy Bars….has to

select three out of 18 letters to send cinema


Implementing the Inquiry role:

Research team observes the meeting, to collect

the argument and criteria for selecting letters

Yummy yummy Board Meeting…

Poster Research Team 1

Poster Research Team 1

Must not be too neatly

Writer must have a GOOD REASON

Not too short or too LARGE

In The letter you must see that a

child wrote it (not too formal)

Must be neat/proper/reasonable

Few spelling errors

Not using the same words always

Not too much hoping and drawling

Addressing more persons

Poster Research Team 2

Poster Team 2

Must be


Explain the


Explain that you

did everything

you could

Be clear what

you want from


Researchers Present Findings

Board Presents Winning Letters

Revising the Letter


Which group improved most:

Management board? (discussing and evaluatiing



Role Effects: Effect Sizes

Effect Size









Board Researcher

Omar’s revised letter

Dear employees of Yummy Yummy Candy Bars,

Concerning the Yummy Yummy Candy Bars offer, I read that you can win

two cinema tickets if you collect ten points. For this reason I participated

and after a while I had obtained 8 points! Joyfully I went to a sweetshop

where they sell Yummy Yummy candy bars, but I have not been able to

find a single bar with a point on it! Therefore, I then thought that the

offer was already over, but of course that is not possible, because the

offer is open until April 15! Then I went to another shop but it was the

same there, and when I had gone along to a lot shops I thought of buying

two wrappers without points and writing you a letter to explain that I

have done everything possible to collect ten points. In this letter you will

also find the two wrappers without points and the wrappers with points to

prove to you that I have bought ten bars. I hope that you understand my

problem and that you can help me with my problem. Is it possible that you

can still send me two cinema tickets?

Yours faithfully,

To conclude

Writing lessons can be fun

Take into account different writing styles

Create communicative pairs (writers-readers)

learning by observing your readers can be fun (and is


Create Reflective activities

Learning to write by observing other writers/readers

Observing readers discussing texts

Instructional script


experience the process


as Reader (participant in communication)

or Researcher (observe of communication)


Abstractions: Researchers (communicative

effect, text qualities),

Studies available

1. Learning from Inquiring Learners behaviour (Learners Model), Learning to Write

Synthesis Texts (First Year University) (Mariet Raedts, Brussels)

Argumentative Texts (Grade 9). Transfer to the other modus (Reading) (Michel Couzijn, Amsterdam

Argumentative Texts (Grade 8) (Martine Braaksma, Amsterdam):

Interaction with

Learner characteristics

and observation tasks

Expository texts in hypertext (Grade 10-11), Martine Braaksma

Literary texts (poems, short short stories) (grade 9): Talita Groenendijk

Learning to Revise in L2 (First Year Students) (Elke van Steendam, Leuven)

Interaction with Learner Characteristics

2. Learning from Inquiring Readers’ behavior (Communicative Model),Learning to

Write Letters of Complaint (Grade 7): Yummy Yummy Case (Martine Braaksma)

Instructional Texts (Grade 8): The Physics experiment (Michel Couzijn)

Stories (Grade 7): Trying out stories on target group readers/listeners (Anne Toorenaar)

3. Writing as a learning tool

Writing expository texts based on research data (Michel Couzijn, grade 10-12), with observation

Writing as preparation on vocational choices (grade 7), Anne Toorenaar

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