Usage of model texts in factual writing

In her PhD, Anne Håland has investigated how 5th grade students use model texts in their own work.

Bilde av Anne Håland Anne Håland

The research project “Usage of model texts in factual writing” (Bruk av modelltekstar i sakprega skriving) examines how pupils in 5th grade use model texts presented to them during teaching. The goal of the project is to determine if model texts can function as a form of support for students as authors of factual texts. The research questions examine the manner in which model texts and instructions from the teacher leave their mark on the student’s texts, and how the students position themselves as writers.

The research project has been designed as a case study, involving the reading by students of model texts before writing their own texts. The case study incorporated four different writing situations, all of which were linked by a common feature in that they involved factual texts. These four writing situations are: Writing a biotope log, a lab report, a factual text in a historical discipline, and a factual text in a science discipline. The four writing situations entailed the use of different model texts.

In theoretical terms, the starting point for the project are theories relating to dialogue and intertextuality, learning theories inspired by scaffolding, as well as theories on domain and positioning. Of central importance in the thesis are the concepts of simulated learning trajectories and domain-relevant positioning. These are concepts that offer some insights into discipline-relevant reading and writing, which also offer new perspectives in the field, both for theory and practice. The model texts are part of a simulated learning trajectory and are meant to serve as support for the students’ positionings, both as scientist in the lab reports and as textbook writers in the factual texts.

The analyses of the texts produced by the students show that the model texts leave their mark on the student texts in various ways. Many of these are related to macro-structures, for instance compositional influences on language, but there are also smaller linguistic influences such as sentences and single words and phrases. The instruction, and the way the students and the teacher use the model texts, also leave their mark on the students’ texts. The analyses further show that the 12 students who were the focus of the project simulated scientific positions in the lab reports and positioning as textbook authors in the factual texts. These positionings are directly expressed in the student texts, in their composition as well as in their employment of different language usages adapted to the particular goal of the writing. The positioning as scientist and textbook writer is also, however, expressed in the manner in which they describe their own texts in interviews and in the choices made during the writing process.

The consequences of the project for this class have been that the students showed great enthusiams for the writing proces when faced with the model texts. They have had meta conversations around langugage and demonstrate an awareness of texts having different linguistic styles depending on the communication situation they form part of.

This study contributes insights into discipline-related literacy teaching connected with the use of model texts. The study’s relevance arises out of a lack of focus on factual writing in a Norwegian school context, in relation to both research and practice. The study also derives its relevance from the strong focus on writing as a fundamental skill in the national curriculum. This study operationalises writing as a fundamental skill within a discipline, and shows how the use of model texts can contribute to the students developing factual writing skills based on the specific premises of a certain discipline. The study thus contributes to research on factual reading and writing as fundamental skills, understood as a “literacy reform”.

Reference:  Håland, A. (2013). Bruk av modelltekstar i sakprega skriving på mellomtrinnet: Ei undersøking av korleis modelltekstar set spor i elevtekstar og korleis elevar posisjonerer seg i ulike sakprega skrivesituasjonar. (Doktoravhandling, Universitetet i Stavanger). Stavanger: Universitetet i Stavanger.