Reading and Writing

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 793–832 | Cite as

Writing instruction in first grade: an observational study

  • David L. CokerJr.
  • Elizabeth Farley-Ripple
  • Allison F. Jackson
  • Huijing Wen
  • Charles A. MacArthur
  • Austin S. Jennings


As schools work to meet the ambitious Common Core State Standards in writing in the US, instructional approaches are likely to be examined (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). However, there is little research on the current state of instruction. This study was designed to provide a comprehensive analysis of first-grade writing instruction across 13 schools in one state in the US. Daylong observations were conducted four times during the year in 50 first-grade classrooms. Using a time-sampled, observational protocol, observers coded multiple dimensions of instruction, including grouping, instructional focus, teacher instructional activity, and student writing activity. Results revealed that writing was taught for less than 30 min a day on average, and instruction in skills or process writing was common. Most instruction was organized in whole-class settings with teachers either presenting information or asking students questions. Variability in the amount and focus of writing instruction and in student writing activity was examined at the classroom and school levels. A small number of classrooms and schools were identified with distinctive patterns in their approach to instruction and writing activity. Several moderate relationships were found between the writing instructional focus and the nature of student writing. These findings suggest that first-grade writing instruction is inconsistent across classrooms and schools and point to instructional implications for teachers and schools in the US.


Writing instruction First grade Observation 



The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A110484 to the University of Delaware. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • David L. CokerJr.
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Farley-Ripple
    • 1
  • Allison F. Jackson
    • 2
  • Huijing Wen
    • 1
  • Charles A. MacArthur
    • 1
  • Austin S. Jennings
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Rehabilitative Services and Special EducationUniversity of Maine FarmingtonFarmingtonUSA

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