When writing, a person must have an idea, understand the meaning of symbols used to express the idea translate the idea to symbols, and have the capability to produce the symbols. Further, the writer needs to comprehend the structure, content, and purpose of the writing process.

What is writing?

The term ‘writing’ has many meanings. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to write is “to make significant characters or inscriptions.”

In the field of education, writing includes 3 aspects: handwriting, spelling, and translation. For this project, we will focus on this last aspect: translation.

Translation is organizing unique thoughts into a piece of work. This includes structure (i.e. paragraphs, sentences), content (i.e. the author’s thoughts), and purpose (i.e. the author’s intentions, audience). This aspect of writing is particularly important in the school setting, many work settings, and personal expression……


What Do We Know? In the 2011 Nation’s Report Card for Writing, the most recent publication of their results, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that less than 3 out of 10 eighth graders performed at the Proficient or higher level on a national writing assessment. Despite this fact, very little research has been done on children’s writing—and we want to change that!

What are we doing?

The Middle School Writing Project team at UNC-Chapel Hill is studying the writing skills of middle school students. This study will help us learn:

  • Strategies that may improve writing skills, especially for students who may be struggling with writing.
  • How writing is different for students who have writing difficulties.
  • What factors affect a student’s ability to learn to write.  
Our project is a multi-year, longitudinal, federally funded study that began in 2012. Each year, a new group of 6th graders begins our intervention in their home schools. We have already had a great group of students and look forward to working with those in the coming years!

What does participation mean?

If your child is eligible, he/she will:

Receive an assessment of writing, language, and reasoning skills in the fall of the 6th grade.
Receive supplemental writing instruction during the spring of 6th grade.
Complete one follow-up writing assessment at the end of 6th and one in 7th grade.
Receive several “thank you” gifts over the course of the study.


Want to Learn More?