set of lessons. For example, a teacher
might have students engage in the
R–C–R cycle after watching a short
video on the first day of the unit. A few
days later, the teacher might present
new content on the same topic in a
brief lecture and demonstration and
ask the students to go through the cycle
again to process this new information.
The following week, the teacher might
have students gather information from
sources on the Internet on the topic and
then engage once more in the R–C–R
cycle. After several cycles, students are
ready for the next phase.
This strategy ensures that students
adequately encode, revise, aggregate, and
review important information.
environment, the primary focus is on
providing students with a comprehensive and targeted review of all the
content that will be on the assessment.
Phase 4: Combine
Here, students combine the products
of the R–C–R cycles they’ve completed
and then generate and defend one or
more generalizations. Students must
support their generalizations using
specific evidence. For example, as a
result of examining what she wrote in
various R–C–R cycles, a student in a
health education class might generate
the following generalization about diet:
“Proper diet is a balancing act between
the amount of energy you expend in a
day and the amount of calories you take
in.” The student would support this
generalization using specific facts from
her notes. This part of the process could
work as a class presentation or be part
of a class discussion.
A Formula That Works
This five-phase strategy for writing to
learn can be quite helpful to teachers.
Although formulaic, it does ensure that
students adequately encode, revise,
aggregate, and review important information that has been the focus of
Applebee, A. N. (1984). Writing and reasoning. Review of Educational Research,
54( 4), 577–596.
Beutlier, S. A. (1988). Using writing to learn
about astronomy. Reading Teacher, 41( 4),
Beyer, B. K. (1980). Using writing to learn in
history. History Teacher, 13( 2), 167–178.
Britton, J. (1970). Language and learning.
New York: Penguin.
Britton, J. N. (1972). Writing to learn and
learning to write. Urbana, IL: National
Council of Teachers of English.
Murray, D. M. (1984). Write to learn. New
Phase 5: Review
This last phase always occurs before
an assessment, although a teacher
could request it at any time. Here,
students read over the generalizations they produced in the combine
phase and the summaries they wrote
during the R–C–R cycles. Students can
do this independently or in groups.
Although students might generate
new questions that the teacher could
address in a whole-class or small-group
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