What specific academic language skills support skilled writing?
I have also undertaken research to describe the typical development of language skills that are commonly required for completing academic writing tasks. In one study, results of structural equation modeling revealed that the academic language skills studied (lexico-grammatical skills that support precise and concise writing and skill in producing paragraph-level structures or micro-genres needed for organizing texts) represented distinguishable dimensions of productive language skill for 4th-8th graders. Mirroring the upward trends for academic language skills that support reading described above, older writers (grades 6–8) demonstrated greater skill than 4th and 5th graders.
For educators, the importance of this work rests in having made visible a set of language demands that accompany academic writing tasks, but which are rarely addressed instructionally. For researchers, these studies provide a ‘proof of concept’ for the use of short writing tasks to capture productive lexico-grammatical and discourse-organization skills, which are challenging to assess using standard written language elicitation tasks. This line of research has been published in Reading and Writing and presented at several conferences. Currently, I am engaged in expanding this work to include a wider array of academic language skills germane to writing and to explore relationships between the academic language skills necessary for skilled reading and writing for EP and EL students.