What is SRSD?

What is SRSD and how does it support Writer’s Workshop? Writing reflects awareness of audience, social context, purposeful discovery — in a nutshell – writing is this kind of thinking on paper. Strong, creative, critical thinking, leads to rich writing. At its heart, SRSD enables students to take charge of how they self-regulate their thought processes before, while and after writing so that writing flows freely and is filled with powerful voice and agency. SRSD works best in a writer’s workshop community climate.

How does SRSD work? Grounded in a 6-stage gradual release framework, SRSD is not a program. It is a set of practices that empower teachers to enhance how they already teach writing, and develop the self-regulation needed to be in charge of their writing. While tools and lesson plans are available merely to help teachers get started, SRSD is meant to be customized and transformed to integrate with and enhance however teachers currently teach writing. Meaning drives writing in SRSD, not form. Students are supported in self-regulating how they make meaning and communicate those with varied scaffolds that are removed as soon as writers become independent, fluid writers.

Hear Dr. Karen Harris (developer of SRSD, with colleagues) overview SRSD:

SRSD uses a gradual releases of responsibility model, shown in the stages below, combined with emphasis on four main characteristics of self-regulated learning (goal setting, self-instruction, self-management and self-reinforcement) to support writers. Click on each stage to see a full description of it, along with images of each activity in action in real classrooms.

What Matters? (Stage 1: Develop it)

Before writing, we design engaging and meaningful tasks that allow for choice. As an example, Pooja Patel had students write about UN Development goals in “Kids for Change”.

Additionally, we work to build enthusiasm through highlighting the purpose of the text type students will learn, or through sheer fun.

Finally, we give pre-assessments that students will self-score then use to set goals and track their gains.

Routine 1 Reveal Features of Writing: Evaluate Exemplars (Stage 1: Develop it)

Teachers begin by revealing the craft moves and key features used by expert writers. Meaning, not form, drives writing in SRSD. Writers are encouraged to focus first on their message and purposes, then choose which forms and craft moves will best help them make the impact they’d like to make with their writing.

Students are taught craft move options and varied, fluid forms that they can use to help them meet their purposes when writing. For example, in the images below, students are given a lens to see the initial shape of a paragraph, including key elements. Students learn these are fluid forms, and their choice of which form to use is driven by the meaning they aim to convey. Form is viewed as a vehicle for conveying meaning to a reader, nothing more. Students then look more deeply at both peer writing and mentor texts to unpeel the onion of the layers of craft moves writers use to drive their purposes and create art. In this example, student attention is drawn to noticing that writing begins with an engaging opening that “opens the door” to the writing through drawing the reader in and setting the controlling focus that the writing, as a whole, will support.


Routines 2 & 3 Reveal Processes: Plan & Revise (Stage 2: Discuss it )

Students then begin their journeys to learn about the writing process, how to use and how to continuously fine tune how they will use if for the rest of their writing lives, an ongoing inquiry-driven journey of continuously refinement that never ends.

Instead of just teaching the writing process by immersion and getting started, we step back for a few lessons and explicitly teach students best practices for each step of the writing process.

Teach Planning:

We start with how to plan. Students discuss the importance of planning and why they should plan. We take completed pieces, step back in time and imagine how the writer might have outlined the piece before creating it. This is done to begin the exploration in the many ways that writers plan and to begin the work of finding “How can I best plan my writing? What are my options? How will I orchestrate them?”

Below you see a piece of writing, followed by a “trip back in time”. Students went back in time to map out what were the key elements the writer used as a framework of ideas when writing this? How were those ideas structured and organized? This activity can be repeated over and over as students learn to abstract out deeper and deeper levels of craft from vocabulary choices, to figurative language craft moves. The goal is to transform the writer’s attention to grow to “read with a writer’s eye”, noticing craft moves whenever reading.

This task, at the same time, also enables writers to learn about best practices for planning their writing before they actual do write. As they see models of how other writers plan, they learn that most expert writers plan in bullets or cave man talk. This often takes time to learn. Students can critique examples of planners that are overdone, as well as see planners that are just right.

Over planner vs just right

Teach Revision:

After learning to plan, they then learn to revise before editing. They discuss the difference between revision and editing and that revision is more important that editing at first. Students should think about the message of their writing before copyediting for errors. They should be encouraged to add and clarify at first, not to remove when they revise. Most students don’t know how to revise. They change icy to cold because they can spell cold. But what they’ve actually done is edit and this brought down the quality of their writing. More often than not, students who revise without understanding how often bring down the quality of their writing. They need to learn a few best practices for how to revise well before they can do this.

Routines 4 & 5: Initiate Self-regulation via Self-talk & Think Alouds (Stage 3: Model it)

Next, teachers will initiate gradual release through modeling in Stage 3, Model it. “I do, we do and you do” gradual release takes place when teachers first teach criteria for writing content and processes, then model how to use these for students, the “I do” phase. Next, as “we do” teachers collaboratively engage in these practices with students until students are ready to do them independently in a “you do” phase. Teachers will model adaptive self-talk from guiding oneself through using the writing process, and taking advantage of tools that can help one get started.

Teachers support this by teaching students about self-talk and having students write up and use positive self-talk statements. Teachers also then model this with “I do” think alouds in which they make the invisible, visible. They show students how another student writing a piece might think about while writing, often going into ‘character’ and acting in the role of ‘student’ while doing these think alouds.

Routine 6: Initiate Self-Regulation via Collaborative Practice (Stage 3: Model it)

In order for gradual release to work, teachers must support students in becoming more self-regulating. This happens all through writing instruction, but especially in Stage 3 Model it when teachers also heavily emphasize using positive, encouraging self-talk as they write and coping with the kinds of frustrations all writers face such as sustaining focus or managing writer’s block. Students practice applying more positive self-talk and coping better as they begin to write collaboratively with their teacher and with each other next. The class might first plan a piece together sharing ideas as well as the new self-talk they are using as they think about writing. Students might write a piece together as well, as a group effort. Next students would write in groups as they begin to launch toward independence.

We have students work on and adjust their self-instruction planners almost daily. Students write about what they will say to encourage themselves, to get started, as they write and what they will do after they write.
Self Instruction Planners

Routines 7 & 8: Track Formative Feedback/Goals via Scoring (Stage 3: Model it)

Students then begin self-scoring their writing, and tracking their gains in a formative assessment framework. However, scoring is first explicitly taught to the full class. Here a teacher is showing the full class a large poster of a scoring scale as each student scores a piece of writing, to see if they agree on how many points to give each aspect of the piece of writing.

Intro scoring
Next, a second teacher standing by a chart paper of an essay the class wrote together, leads her students in using scales to score this collaborative writing that they did together as a class. In this way, students gain a clear sense of what qualities to include in their writing. This clear understanding of the criteria for strong writing is critical if students are going to set goals for their own writing.

Below is an example from a student who just scored a piece, then entered his score on a sheet that had scores from his prior writes. He beamed with joy at his gains. He nearly doubled the scores he is receiving by this point.

Everyday Routines for Internalization (Stage 4: Memorize it)

“A strategy that cannot be recalled, cannot be used.” (Powerful Writing Strategies, 2008)

In Stage 4, students memorize or internalize the steps they will follow when they write, especially the mnemonics and strategies they will use to navigate better through the writing process. This internalization happens daily. At the start of each lesson, students might all pair & share the steps of the mnemonic or the steps they will use to write that day from their self-instruction planner. A teacher might toss a ball around the classroom and each student shares steps for writing when he or she catches it.

ball toss

Below are engaging videos that show how teachers creatively support students in internalizing the mnemonics and steps for the writing process:

Everyday Routines for Support (Stage 5: Support it)

After students have internalized the criteria for writing and how to engage in the writing process, then in Stage 5 they practice and receive feedback regularly until they are proficient and the standards set. Students will write daily, receive feedback, work with peers and continue scaffolding until they are able to write independently. Collaborative writes in which students write along with the teacher, volunteering ideas, and seeing their peers share how they make decisions and self-regulate while writing.

Everyday Routines for Independence (Stage 6: Independence)

Finally, students write independently in Stage 6. The teacher’s role in this stage is really that of guide on the side as students direct themselves through the writing process, using all the strategies and self-regulation supports they have learned.