Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD)

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I’ve referenced SRSD in probably all of my posts about writing (and many reading posts, too), but I haven’t written an introductory post about it, which seems silly. As I attempt to share many of my resources about writing interventions, I wanted to define what Self-Regulated Strategy Strategy Development (SRSD) is, what it isn’t, and reference studies (hundreds of them!) that it works.

So what is “it”

Behind the Curtain (Source:

Behind the Curtain (Source:

Let’s break it down: Self-Regulated means that through the process, students learn to look for key components in their writing (see “Strategy Development”), and the teachers gradually release responsibility as the students gain more independence. A lot of focus is placed on the SELF part, though, so even as teachers guide, students begin to be independent with at least targeted parts of their writing early on in order to get enough practice with a type of writing to become independent.

The Strategy Development means that students aren’t going into their writing unintentionally, and nor is the teacher. I’ve spoken to many teachers, and even learning specialists and special educators who are not comfortable teaching writing. Possibly this is because they are uncomfortable writing, themselves, but mainly, they were likely not taught to write in an explicit manner. They can edit (i.e. read for grammar/punctuation), but they may not know how to evaluate structure/content, and they may not know how to teach that explicitly (which is important for all writers, especially those who do not like writing, or whom are having difficulty writing… somewhat of a misnomer once they start receiving clear instruction). The “Strategy” piece also helps build student confidence since they’re not looking at every writing exercise like it’s brand new. You are giving them the tools to be competent writers!

Work backwards

Start with how you evaluate writing – whether this is based on Common Core State Standards, school-based standards, criterion-referenced or normative standards… How do you evaluate writing now? Ultimately, you will work to be as transparent as possible about this with your students, so they know what great writing looks like and what its essential components are.

The phases

Phases, where students become increasingly independent Source:

Phases, where students become increasingly independent

I’ve written previously about six phases, and this is how I was taught from the inspiring folks at ThinkSRSD, but I view the process as having 3 main phases, with several sub-phases in the middle. Maybe I’m overcomplicating it… The essential features of self-regulated strategy development are:

  1. a) Formative Assessment: all effective instruction begins with formative assessment so you can get a sense of where your students are, and show them (and potentially supervisors) how they have progressed.
  2. Once you know what they need to learn (again, you have to already be clear about what you have decided are essential components), you begin to teach. To ensure the “self-regulated” part of the process, you typically most of the following tasks:
    1. Think Aloud “I Do” writing exercise
    2. Sharing models
    3. Sharing models and having students map or annotate this to identify the essential components
    4. Providing simple, simple graphic organizers (which students can replicate independently!)
    5. Provide a mnemonic for the writing so students can become independent and self-regulate
    6. Doing “We do” collaborative writing exercises with the whole class.
    7. Doing “You (plural) do” collaborative writing exercises in small groups/with a buddy
    8. Writing self-talk statements to help students through the writing process (that are individualized to areas where they tend to get stuck/have trouble)
    9. For any of the types of collaborative writing, you can:
      1. Provide a part of the writing exercise to have students focus on another part (and provide a model of the part you provided)
      2. Do a fill-in-the-blank exercise, where you provide the skeleton, but students need to fill in the “muscles”
      3. Fill in a graphic organizer and have students write from that
  3. Independence! Check in with your students regularly, and explicitly

From day one, you will “hype the genre.” This is the cornerstone of authentic writing. From the beginning, you will provide students with real-life models (as well as some you have written) to demonstrate that the type of writing they are working on matters. This will also naturally lead to authentic publishing opportunities. I cannot stress the importance of authentic writing enough, and I believe all writing can be made authentic (and if you can’t – you shouldn’t be teaching it!). This will also make it easier for students to generalize their writing. For example, if you have students write a letter for your class, and they receive a letter-writing assignment in another class, with enough foundational teaching, students will recognize the similarity in assignments and use the tools you provided. Of course, this is also all made much easier with teacher collaboration (and administrator support).

Not a program

All in one, handy box!
(Image modified from source:

To be clear: SRSD is not a “program,” it is a framework. That may not be a meaningful distinction to you, but I value it because it means I can’t just give you a box with SRSD in it and you can’t just be an uncreative teacher when you teach it! It is also an important distinction because it means you do not have to buy anything, it means you the teacher are in charge, and

I’m fairly confident that you are already doing most of what the process entails.

That being said, I am a huge fan of collaboration, so I’ll be sharing many of the writing units I have previously taught using this framework. In the next few days, I’ll be sharing a Google Site that I’m adding to on an almost-daily basis, which has several units.

Framework also means that as students become more independent, they can play around with the structure and make it more and more “theirs” (though even from day one, students have the opportunity to be creative and to make CHOICES to show their VOICES).

Yes, it works

The most comprehensive list that I have seen of research on SRSD is on this page on ThinkSRSD. A quick scroll through the material will reveal that there have been studies on diverse populations: typically developing learners, learners with speech and language delays, learners with dyslexia, learners from diverse Socioeconomic backgrounds, learners with emotional disorders, learners on the autism spectrum, and multilingual/multicultural learners (to name a few).

Some resources

In the meantime, here are some external resources, and oldies-but-goodies from within this site:

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