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Writing Self-Statements


This activity guides students in setting and reaching goals in their writing processes and writing strategy use. It encourages metacognition and self-directed learning. Students learn to use “self-statements” to regulate their learning processes. While these statements are originally scripted and relatively teacher-directed, with enough practice they become intuitive and automatic. Students develop and learn specific statements for the target writing goals. For example: • Defining a problem: “What do I have to do?” • Developing a plan: “What strategies should I use?” • Using strategies for composition: “Let my mind be free, think of new, fun ideas” and “What ideas do I see?” • Monitoring performance: “Am I using all my strategies so far?” • Coping with problems: “Take my time, good parts will come to me,” and “What resources do I have to solve this problem?” • Praising own performance: “I like these parts!”

Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Metacognition
  • Questioning

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Reflection

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Metacognition
  • Writing from Sources


Create a display of the writing process goals that students will be working towards. You can use the six goals listed above, or modify as needed. Create and copy a two-column T-chart for students, labeling the left column “writing goals” and the right column “self-statements.” Identify the topic/theme about which students will be writing.

Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher displays the writing goals, and leads class in a discussion about what is meant by each. Teacher models each goal as needed.

    You may want to break this activity up into several days if you think students need time to focus on individual goals.

  2. Teacher distributes T-chart. Students brainstorm one or two self-statements that they can use to guide them towards each of the goals.

    Self-statements can be questions, statements, or commands, as appropriate. During this stage you can circulate among students and ask them questions to probe their thinking, and to guide them in a productive direction. Self-statements should be easily comprehensible by each student, and should be in “their own voice,” although they may be fairly similar from one student to another.

  3. Teacher presents writing task and students prepare to begin work. Teacher tells students that at designated points they will be asked to pause in their writing, to determine the most applicable self-statement, to use it, and then to respond appropriately.
  4. At regular intervals during the working process (perhaps every 5-10 minutes), teacher stops students. Students consider their current goals, and say their self-statement to themselves. Students respond to their self-statements as appropriate.

    In this initial activity, you may want to ask students to record the time of each stop, the self-statement that they used, and their response to the self-statement (as applicable). Students could do this in Post-its on their writing assignment or in a separate chart. You may want to lead a brief (five-minute) discussion after each pause, asking several students to share what they noticed about their writing process, what self-statement they used and why, and how the self-statement helped them to regulate their process. Eventually, if students use this activity frequently, the self-statements should become automatic and internalized and should not have to be guided through an explicit activity.

  5. As they are working, students pause whenever they think it would be helpful and use a self-statement to guide their process.

    As you circulate you should confer with students, asking them about what they are noticing about their writing process, what self-statements they are choosing and why, and then asking them to think aloud through the use of the self-statements. You can also comment on what you are noticing in their process, and suggest self-statements that may be useful to them. In this initial activity, ask students to record the time of each stop, the self-statement that they used, and their response to the self-statement (as applicable). Students could do this in Post-its on their writing assignment or in a separate chart.

  6. After the writing session, students get into pairs and discuss with their partner the ways in which they used self-statements to guide their writing process.

    Students should discuss how they noticed that they could use a self-statement, which self-statement they used, and how the self-statement affected their process.

  7. Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.

    Students respond to questions including: · How do self-statements help you to plan your writing? · How do they help you to execute your writing? · In what ways are self-statements more or less effective than other writing strategies you have used? · How does this activity develop your ability to monitor your own thinking? · In what other context might this activity be helpful to you?

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