Supporting writing from sources in 6th grade classes

Within the German secondary school system, it is common to combine assigned readings from multiple sources with written reports requiring a synthesis of these readings. For 6th graders, it is often a challenge to choose the wording and syntactical structures that result in comprehensive, coherent and well-formulated texts which capture the essence of the original content without plagiarizing. Even though such academic writing is crucial to success across secondary school subjects (e.g., biology, geography or history), and continues to be important in vocational schools, at university, and beyond, many students continue to struggle with writing throughout their academic career.

During the reading process in the intervention presented, the students insert content elements from their reading into pre-structured visualizations – with feedback if necessary. By so doing, they learn to manoeuvre within expository texts, to find specific pieces of information and to put them into words – without copying whole phrases from the source text. Based on these visualizations, they write their first drafts. Following this, they get further feedback concerning (1) content and (2) comprehensibility based on functional grammar. They receive feedback codes, which lead to more extensive linguistic support (e.g. with grammatical alternatives and examples). During the entire intervention, the students work at their own pace. Individual writing counselling during the lessons and afterwards is both facilitated and manageable for the teachers through carefully arranged teaching material and work sheets which help the students with recurrent revision tasks.

In order for this concept to be effectively implemented, each participating teacher and his or her class get the support of two more teachers for a period of 6 to 9 weeks. Following this, they are able to work with this method without further support. It can be employed across many subject areas and topics if teachers are ready to produce their own material. Additionally, teachers get online support for their own flexible work with this method via a website with a growing number of prefabricated work sheets that correspond with the 6th grade biology, geography and history curriculum.