The Nature of Classroom Instruction and Physical Environments That Support Elementary Writing

Monica Thomas Billen, Brigham Young University


The purpose of this study was to document the nature of elementary writing instruction and classroom physical environments in eight Utah school districts. One hundred seventy-seven full day observations were completed throughout a one-week period. Results indicated teachers included at least one of the following types of writing: writing workshop/writing process, nonprocess writing, and writing conventions and mechanics. Process writing time was dominated by instruction from the teacher. Other elements of the writing workshop were implemented, but in a fragmented way. Only five teachers combined aspects of the workshop simultaneously. Nonprocess writing activities were dominated by prompts and formulas that resulted in one-draft products created with limited teacher assistance and no expectation for revising, editing, or publishing. Conventions of writing were taught regularly, but always in isolation, rather than being integrated with other aspects of writing. Classroom physical environments were generally not literacy rich, showing more evidence of traditional resources instead of resources to support the writing process. Process-oriented teachers had richer environments than those focused on conventions. In fact, classroom environment could be better predicted by the kind of writing the teachers and students did rather than the amount of time spent writing.