Writing templates, like Structural Organizers, break down the writing process into steps. They help with brainstorming and organizing ideas by either outlining a process for students to follow or a graphic organizer with process instruction and support.
Students with a range of disabilities have been shown to benefit from the explicit instruction of organization and pre-writing strategies (Bishop, Sawyer, Alber-Morgan, & Boggs, 2015). Much research has found that students show better writing performance when using writing templates than when simply following the writing process approach typically taught by their teachers (e.g., Fontenot et al., 2015). Further, writing templates have been modified for all age and grade levels. For example, Cronje and colleagues (2013) developed a writing template for university students, and the Four Square Method has been used up to the secondary level (Tijani & Ogbaje, 2013).
It should be noted that though writing templates can be used without the aid of computer-based technology, students who have spelling or reading challenges may benefit from using assistive technology along with the templates in a digital format.
Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description, this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable. Note that not every writing template strategy has been empirically validated, but the research does show that in general writing templates are preferable to less structured writing.
Most students spend very little time planning and/or at the prewriting stage, and this can be encouraged by writing templates
Research shows that when students use pre-writing strategies the quality of their writing improves (Flanagan & Bouck, 2015)
Using writing templates requires comprehensive instruction
Some students may be resistant to handwriting templates because they will be required to retype all of the information into a computer for composition. It may be preferable to use AT to complete the writing templates.
Providing writing templates will only improve writing if students are properly instructed
Students with Learning Disabilities or challenges may require the use of assistive technology along with writing templates in order to be successful
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Bishop, A. E., Sawyer, M., Alber-Morgan, S. R., & Boggs, M. (2015). Effects of a graphic organizer training package on the persuasive writing of middle school students with autism. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 50, 290-302.
Cronje, R., Murray, K., Rohlinger, S., & Wellnitz, T. (2013). Using the science writing heuristic to improve undergraduate writing in biology. International Journal of Science Education, 35, 2718–2731.
Flanagan, S. M., & Bouck, E. C. (2015). Mapping out the details: Supporting struggling writers’ written expression with concept mapping. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 59, 244-252.
Fontenot, J., Carney, K. J., & Hansen, K. (2015). Conspicuous strategies in teaching expressive writing:
A quantitative study comparing two approaches to process writing. Journal of Instructional Research, 4, 108-117.
Tijani, G., & Ogbaje, M., (2013). Using four square technique of writing to solve problems of paragraph fragmentation: A Nigeria-Ghana experiment. International Journal of Computer Applications, 65, 1-4.
Wallace, R., Pearman, C., Hail, C. & Hurst, B. (2007). Writing for comprehension. Reading Horizons, 48, 41-56.
Wilcox, D. J. (1996, October). A visual strategy for teaching written expression: Meeting the challenge presented by students of Native American heritage. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Northern Rocky Mountain Education Research Association, Detroit Lakes, MN.
Written by Bronwyn Lamond, Last Revision May 2018