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Self-Regulation: One Key to Effective Student Writing

By Lee Anne Sulzberger, M.Ed.
February/March 2014


This article provides an excerpt from the May/June 2012 Link Lines article entitled The Wonderful World of Writing: Strategies for Effective Writing Instruction. The article featured a summary of 11 elements of effective writing instruction and the benefits of using Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) to help students learn explicit writing strategies. Effective expository writing strategies include (a) webbing, (b) brainstorming, (c) organizing content, (d) goal setting, (e) revising, and (f) editing (Miller, 2009).

This excerpt provides an example of how teachers might use SRSD to teach students how to use a wprewriting strategy.

Example of Self-Regulated Strategy Development

Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) is a six-stage framework designed to help students learn explicit writing strategies (Santangelo, Harris, & Graham, 2008). Table 1 shows the six stages and how they may be used as a framework for teaching the RAFT strategy for prewriting. The RAFT strategy helps students plan an engaging piece of writing by having them consider the Role, Audience, Format, and Topic of the writing assignment (Santa, Havens, & Valdes, 2004). The stages can be adapted to meet student needs.

Table 1



Questions to Consider When Teaching RAFT

  1. Develop background knowledge

Students are taught the foundational information needed to use the strategy successfully.

Are students familiar with the role that they will be playing as both the writer and the audience to which they are writing? Do they know the mechanics of the format we will use?


  1. Discuss it

The teacher describes the strategy and explains how it will help students. Students and the teacher discuss how students can monitor their own progress to see if the strategy is working for them.

What are the benefits of prewriting that I want students to understand? How will students monitor their own writing? Should we use portfolios? What will I do if a student finds that the strategy is not working for him or her?


  1. Model it

The teacher shows students how to use the strategy. The students discuss how it will help and what may be changed to make it work better for them. Teachers may need to model the strategy several times.

What writing prompt will I use so that I can show students how to ask the questions: Who am I as the writer (Role)? To whom am I writing (Audience)? What am I writing – a letter, a speech, an advertisement, something else (Format)? What am I writing about (Topic)?


  1. Memorize it

Students learn the steps of the strategy so they can use it automatically.

Do I need to create any RAFT posters for the room to help students remember the mnemonic? How can I make sure that all students know each stage of the strategy?


  1. Support it

Students are given opportunities to use the strategy, first with peers and then individually.

What opportunities will I provide for students to use the strategy in small groups or with partners? How will I know they are ready to use it independently?


  1. Independent performance

Students use the strategy in different classes and for different purposes. They can talk about how the strategy helps their writing and how it can be changed to better meet their needs.

Are other teachers seeing students use RAFT for writing assignments? Can students use the strategy without supports? Are students making changes to the strategy to meet their needs?

 (Adapted from Santangelo et al., 2008).

Using SRSD as a framework for teaching explicit writing strategies is one way that teachers can help students become independent and proficient writers.

Additional Resources


Miller, S. P. (2009). Validated practices for teaching students with diverse needs and abilities  (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Santa, C. M., Havens, L. T., & Valdes, B. J. (2004). Creating independence through student-owned strategies (3rd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Santangelo, T., Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (2008). Using self-regulated strategy development to support students who have “trubol giting thangs into werds.” Remedial and Special Education, 29(2), 78-89. doi:10.1177/0741932507311636