What is Writing for Understanding?
Teachers have long understood and honored the idea that writers must “write about what they know.” A corollary to this is also true: students must know about what they write.
Writing for Understanding is an approach to writing instruction, at all grade levels, that recognizes that at the heart of effective writing is the building of meaning, expressed in a way so that others can follow the writer’s thinking.
In Writing for Understanding instruction, the teacher’s guiding principle is not “Let’s see if you can write this.” Rather, the guiding principle is, “Let’s make sure you can write this.”
This means that, in Writing for Understanding classrooms, “backwards planning” on the part of the teacher becomes critically important. Before sitting down to write, the student needs to both understand the ideas he's working with, and know how to structure and craft them in written language.
The teacher, therefore, needs to plan intentionally for student access to both of these elements. Our book, Writing for Understanding, explains this process in great detail.