Quality Writing Environment

Brief Explanation & Research

  • A quality writing environment is created when the following important ideas, concepts, processes and structures are in place. In the article “Writing is Taught Not Caught” by Carol Jago, giving student meaningful choices to write about, having them write frequently, offering meaningful and timely feedback, and explicit teaching of skills create  quality writing classrooms throughout the school.

Clearly Identified Key Outcomes

Use your programs of study for curriculum outcomes related to a quality writing environment

Please refer to CESD’s Essential Outcomes work if you are using the previous Alberta Curriculum (Grade 7+).

Here is the New Alberta ELAL Curriculum, from the New Learn Alberta website, laid out like a scope and sequence.

Essential Components of a Quality Writing Classroom


  • Intentional and thorough long-range plans including the genre/type of writing focus for each month aligned with outcomes, strategies or techniques being explicitly taught.
  • Time spent writing every day :Allington recommends 60 minutes daily across curriculum. The length of time spent during a single writing session depends on the age/grade of student.
  • Intentionally building writing stamina – students write for extended periods of time
  • Student expectations and behaviours explicitly taught
  • Predictable writing routine established/explicitly taught:  prewriting, drafting, editing, revising, publishing. Purposeful publishing should limited to when it makes sense for presentation or sharing. Over publishing can lead to redundancy and inefficient use of writing time.
  • Conferencing with teacher – frequent feedback, individualized instruction, goal setting – as teacher circulates or during individual conferences
  • Safe environment for risk taking (teacher models making mistakes, editing, revising; writing is a messy   process!)
  • Teachers being risk-takers with their own writing and modelling
      • Explicit teaching of outcomes, strategies, and skills

  • Mini-lessons taught – ⅓ explicit teaching, ⅔ writing time
  • Teacher modelling:  strategies, techniques, own thinking or ‘think alouds’
      • Gradual release method of instruction:  I do, we do, you do
      • Mentor texts (published or student exemplars) used to model strategies, techniques, word choice etc.

  • Reading / writing connection made explicit for students
  • Focus on one area at a time for editing and revising (avoid overwhelming students)
      • Writing to learn strategies used throughout the day – quick writes, summaries, exit slips, etc.
      • Writing is happening across all subject areas (ie. Math Journals:  writing “how to’, key understanding, important steps)
      • Spontaneous and authentic writing opportunities are incorporated throughout the day as they emerge
      • Writing for authentic purposes
      • Students have choice of topic which increases engagement

  • Build confidence with a lot of encouragement and success
  • Small steps and successes are celebrated
  • Enthusiasm – model and celebrate all attempts and products
      • Writing is viewed as a social activity (talking while planning, revising, idea sharing, collaboratively writing etc)

  • Students share their writing every day throughout the writing process (increases motivation, builds understanding, expands vocabulary, and provides ideas)
    • Oral language and conversation is foundational as it builds vocabulary and helps to clarify ideas
    • Students use what has already been taught:  legible letters, capitals, punctuation, word wall words, personal dictionary words, specific strategies.
    • Utilize resources to remove barriers – word walls/word lists, assistive technology, personal dictionary, scribe, graphic organizers etc.
    • Individualized writing instruction:  know your students and be able to identify 1-2 areas for each student that he/she needs to work on.

    French Immersion – 3x more time pre-planning, scaffolding,   vocabulary development prior to writing

  • Guest authors for inspiration and teaching

      Suggested Resources

      • Daily 5 by The Two Sisters
      • 6+ Traits Writing  by Ruth Culham
        • VOICES – Vocabulary, Organization, Ideas, Conventions, Excellent word choice, Sentence Fluency
      • Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher
      • What Really Matters in Writing Instruction by Cunningham and Cunningham
      • Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller (reading and writing connection)
      • The Writing Rope by Joan Sedita