As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of using Concept Attainment as an instructional strategy for writing. You can see examples at Here Are Some Examples Of Using “Concept Attainment” In Writing Instruction.

As I explain in that post, teachers using this strategy place examples, typically (though not always) from unnamed student work, under the categories of “Yes” and “No.” The class then constructs their own understanding of why the examples are in their categories. It’s a great tool for many lessons, and I like it especially for grammar and other writing.

Last week, though, I had a brainstorm, and came up with a revised strategy that I’m calling “Concept Attainment – Plus,” and it has worked very well. I think teachers of English Language Learners and non-ELLs alike might find it useful and, I hope, offer suggestions on how to improve it further….

“Concept Attainment – Plus” has three steps:


I pick an example of student writing that especially illustrates one writing error and put it under the “No” column. In this case, I’m focusing on the tendency for many ELLs to have very long run-on sentences, along with the frequently made mistake of how to write “the United States.”

Parallel to that passage, under the “Yes” column, I re-write the paragraph correctly. Student have to compare the two passages, identify the errors in the student’s writing, and explain why they are mistakes.  After students have completed their review, I call them up to the overhead individually to identify one mistake at a time.

first step


The second sheet contains a short humorous passage in the “No” column that I write and which mimics the errors in the first student passage.

Students have to identify the errors and re-write it correctly on the left under the “Yes” column.  Again, I call students up to the overhead frequently.

step two


I then give students a simple and engaging prompt where they need to write a passage demonstrating their understanding of the writing feature we have learned in the first two sheets.

Step three

Students always like “regular” Concept Attainment, but they have loved this more intensive scaffolded process. It takes about one full class period to do from start-to-finish, and takes me about an hour to prepare it. It’s definitely worth the time.

Let me know what you think of the strategy and, importantly, how you think it can be improved….

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching and to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction.