The Three Rs and High School Writing Instruction: Bridging In- and Out-of-School Writing to Reach “Struggling Writers”

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We present a novel take on “the three Rs” – in this case recognition, relevance and renegotiation – as an approach to bridging in- and out-of-school writing practices with struggling high school writers. Our study draws on a year-long research project involving a university literacy instructor co-teaching a composition class in an urban, alternative school for former dropouts. We use socio-cultural and socio-historical literacy theories, in particular the New Literacy Studies framework, to argue that educators need to help students recognize Discourse practices as arbitrary or socially and historically constructed rather than immutable. We need to help students see themselves as successful writers in contexts other than school and begin to draw on various writing conventions in order to renegotiate their status as “novice”, “failing” or “incompetent” writers. In making these efforts, we can help “struggling” students become competent, confident and empowered writers.