Writing the Course for Primary Students

Literacy is down so families have to get involved.
Jul 15, 2022
A combined effort is needed to boost writing.

Teachers are confident in their ability to teach writing but often come up blank when it comes to supporting struggling writers, they need support.

In the first national survey to investigate how writing is taught in primary school one teacher commented: 

“While I have answered some of the questions in this survey negatively, I am trying to get better at teaching writing. I want to love it but I'm not sure exactly where to turn for help.”   

Dr Anabela Malpique from Edith Cowan Uni who led the research said, “Teachers in our study reported that they needed more support in learning how to teach writing.

“We recommend professional development opportunities to be put in place at state and national levels that equip teachers with evidence-informed writing and keyboarding tools for teaching.” 

Developing lines of communication between families and schools to promote writing at home was identified as important and it seems teachers rarely develop strategies for parents to support their children’s writing at school or at home. 

“Most teachers (65 per cent) in our survey never asked students to write at home with the support of a parent/guardian, while 77 per cent reported never or rarely (once a year) asking parents/guardians to read their children’s written work at home,” Dr Malpique said. 

“Previous research has shown parents can help in supporting children’s effective writing. 

“Just encouraging children to write at home, from little things like writing the shopping list, to writing a diary may help.  

“Giving them a hug, a pat on the back, or a thumbs-up after reading something they wrote at school or at home will raise students’ motivation, and motivation for writing is key,” Dr Malpique said. 

Providing adequate writing instruction and practice in schools was an essential cornerstone of writing development. 

Most students spend the minimum recommended time (3 hours per week), on writing activities in their classrooms, with some teachers reporting students spend only 15 minutes and others 7.5 hours per week on writing practices.  

Teachers place more time on teaching spelling than on any other writing activity; most teachers don’t teach typing, and little attention is placed on teaching handwriting, planning, and revision strategies for writing. 

Better prepared and more confident teachers are more likely to use evidence-based practices for teaching writing and spend more time teaching writing skills.  

ECU led a national team of researchers who recruited 310 teachers to participate in the study. Participants provided insights on how much time they spent on class preparation and teaching writing, their confidence in teaching these skills and the types of writing practices typically developed in their classrooms. 

The national survey is part of a larger research initiative to understand more about how children write in primary schools and the role that teachers and parents may play in supporting effective writing development. The Writing for All initiative aims to inform teacher training and educational polices about what needs to be done to empower primary students with the writing skills needed for their academic, professional, and personal success. 

The paper ‘Teaching writing in primary education (grades 1-6) in Australia: a national survey’ co-authored by Dr Anabela Malpique, Dr Debora Valcan , Associate Professor Deborah Pino-Pasternak, Professor Susan Ledger, and, was published in the journal Reading and Writing.  

Image by Jessica Lewis Creative