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The Writing Rope: A Framework for Evidence-Based Writing Instruction

Updated on
Modified on June 2, 2023

The ability to write is as essential to learning as the ability to read. As Graham and Perin noted in Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools, (commissioned by Carnegie Corporation of New York and published by the Alliance for Excellent Education), summarizing the writing research for fourth- through 12th-grade students:

“Writing is not just an option for young people—it is a necessity,” Graham and Perin state. “Along with reading comprehension, writing skill is a predictor of academic success and the basic requirement for participation in civic life and the global economy…All students need to become proficient and flexible writers.” (2007, p. 19)

However, the literature and discourse related to literacy instruction tends to focus on reading. Much has been written about the multiplicity of skills involved with reading, beginning with the five components necessary for skilled, fluent reading that became widely recognized after the 2000 report of the National Reading Panel (i.e., phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension). On the other hand, when attention is paid to writing instruction, teachers are not able to identify the components of skilled writing or essential elements of a curriculum for teaching writing.

With this in mind, in 2019, I developed a model that organizes writing skills and strategies into five components necessary for skilled writing, titled The Writing Rope. Like strands in a rope, writers must integrate skills from the following components to produce quality writing:

Critical Thinking Strand: Includes skills needed to write about text and other sources (e.g., identify relevant information, taking notes), writing summaries and personal responses to narrative text, and an awareness of the stages of the writing process (i.e., thinking, planning, writing, revising).

Syntax Strand: Includes syntactic awareness and the ability to apply knowledge of grammar to write high-quality, elaborate sentences.

Text Structure Strand: Includes knowledge of the basic structures related to narrative, informational and opinion/argument writing (including introduction, body development, conclusion). It also includes paragraph writing skills, and an understanding of patterns of organization and related transition words/phrases (e.g., description, sequence, cause/effect, etc.).

Writing Craft Strand: Includes awareness of task, audience, and purpose, as well as the ability to use various literacy devices when writing (e.g., dialogue, figurative language, word choice).

Transcription Strand: Includes fluent spelling and handwriting/keyboarding skills that enable writers to focus on the composing part of the writing process.

In January, I’ll be the guest on EDVIEW360’s podcast, where we’ll be discussing writing and the strands of the rope—and why reading and writing go hand in hand. We’ll talk about how students benefit from explicit and systematic core and intervention instruction that incorporates evidence-based practices. I hope you’ll listen as I share how The Writing Rope provides a model for identifying and organizing the many writing skills and strategies that must be part of an effective writing curriculum. You can watch for the release of the podcast here.



Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve the Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools–A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Sedita, J. (2019). The Writing Rope: The strands that are woven into skilled writing. Retrieved from: https://rockporttech.wpenginepowered.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Article-The-Strands-That-Are-Woven-Into-Skilled-Writing.pdf

Sedita, J. (2023). The Writing Rope: A Framework for Explicit Writing Instruction in All Subjects. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.


About the Author
Joan Sedita
Joan Sedita
Founder of Keys to Literacy

Joan Sedita is the founder of Keys to Literacy, a literacy professional development organization working across the United States. She has been in the literacy field for more than 40 years as a teacher, administrator, and teacher trainer. She is the creator of The Writing Rope framework, and has authored multiple literacy professional development programs, including The Key Comprehension Routine, The Key Vocabulary Routine, Keys to Beginning Reading, Keys to Content Writing, Keys to Early Writing, and Understanding Dyslexia. Beginning in 1975, she worked for 23 years at the Landmark School, a pioneer in the development of literacy intervention programs. Sedita was one of the three lead trainers in Massachusetts for the Reading First Program and was a LETRS® author and trainer. She received her M.Ed. in reading from Harvard University and her B.A. from Boston College.

Learn more about Joan Sedita