Writing and Composition Overview

English language arts is a core subject taught in schools, beginning with basic preliteracy skills and moving through advanced language skills. State and national standards for English language arts, such as the Common Core State Standards, focus on four core areas of learning: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. In writing, students are taught to write in a variety of genres, such as:

  • Descriptive writing
  • Narrative writing
  • Expository writing
  • Argumentative or persuasive writing
  • Creative writing.

Students need both general skills and genre-specific skills to become good writers.

Writing and composition are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably; however, there are slight differences. Writing can refer to any collection of letters or characters used to represent meaning. In this sense, writing can refer to letters, words, and sentences or even to hieroglyphics, emojis, and pictographs. The term writing is also used in a broader sense to encompass the use of words to create a unified body of information. The definition of composition usually refers to specific pieces of writing to address a specific purpose or prompt. It is possible to define writing and composition as follows: writing is the process of turning letters and words into a text that conveys meaning, while composition is the process of creating purposefully written works.

Teachers can begin to teach writing and composition as early as preschool. In addition to learning basic letter formation, preschoolers can begin to put together coherent thoughts that answer a question or describe a drawing. Early elementary students combine the learning of usage and mechanics, such as sentence structure and punctuation, with the composition of meaningful material. Upper elementary, middle, and high school students learn to create paragraphs and essays in a variety of formats and for a number of different purposes. Teaching writing in school is essential because clear and effective writing is a key life skill in college, the workplace, and beyond.

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Writing & Composition Topics

Resources for Composition Writing

Study.com holds resources for both writers and teachers of writing. Writing courses begin with elementary-level courses and move through middle and high school. These courses teach usage and mechanics as well as composition in a variety of writing styles. Also available are college-level credit-eligible courses designed to teach composition writing and technical writing. For teachers, there are a wide variety of lesson plans, activities, project ideas, and writing prompts appropriate for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Writing and Composition Courses

Students of all ages can benefit from Study.com's variety of writing and composition courses. Elementary-level courses target grade-level skills for third, fourth, and fifth graders. Middle and high school students can access English language arts courses that cover the four areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. At each level, lessons teach mechanics and grammar skills as well as different writing genres, such as narrative, expository, and argumentative writing. College-level credit-eligible courses cover the basics of college essays and research papers and courses dealing with creative writing and technical writing skills.

English 105: College Composition II

This credit-eligible beginner college course covers foundational skills for research papers, argumentative papers, and essays. Topics include research proposals, outlines, sources, grammar, and editing. The course includes assignments and a study guide.

English 204: English Composition I

This credit-eligible college course addresses intermediate skills such as academic writing, genre, and style. The course covers the writing process from introduction to conclusion. Additional lessons cover complementary skills such as oral presentations.

English 205: English Composition II

Learn about topics such as prewriting, research, writing for an audience, revision, and documenting sources in this credit-eligible college course. In addition, explore how to write business proposals, write research essays, and prepare presentations.

English 305: Advanced Technical Writing

This credit-eligible college course covers the basics of technical writing as well as how to write informal and formal reports, manuals, instructions, proposals, technical correspondence, and technical writing for social media and public relations.

English 104: College Composition I

This beginner-level college course starts with the conventions of grammar and usage. Explore types of essays and how to develop, structure, and revise an essay while using source materials. This course is credit-eligible with assignments and a study guide.

For teachers and parents

Lesson Plans for Composition Writing

Teachers of composition writing can access a number of resources on Study.com, from lesson plans to writing prompts and project ideas. Lesson plans are designed to address many different types of writing. A set of lesson plans contains plans focused on upper-grade learners and higher-level writing skills, while another is designed for elementary language arts teachers. Another set of plans consists of a vast selection of writing prompt ideas, encompassing numerous topics and writing genres.

Lesson plans
  • Writing & Composition: Lesson Plans & Activities

    Upper-grade teachers find plans that target different steps of the writing process, as well as the composition of different types of writing. Resources also include writing rubrics, writing prompts, and project ideas.

  • Language Arts: Lesson Plans & Games

    Elementary-level teachers can access a variety of language arts lesson plans, grade-specific games, and writing prompts. Writing topics include punctuation, vocabulary, spelling, dialogue, linguistics, and phonics.

  • Writing & Composition: Essay Prompts & Resources

    Writing teachers for middle school, high school, and college students can access a variety of essay prompts and topic ideas. Find general prompts as well as specific content-area topics such as American History prompts.

Writing and Composition Skills and Practice

Writing is an integral part of the school curriculum at all grade levels. Middle and high school students are often expected to produce quality writing related to their content learning, such as social studies and science. To do so, students benefit from practicing their writing skills. Writers need consistent, repeated opportunities to work on both mechanics and usage. Mechanics include skills such as spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Proper use of mechanics transforms a jumble of words into a body of information. Mechanics are necessary at all levels of writing and need to be explicitly taught to students and reinforced in various contexts.

Correct mechanics must be accompanied by proper usage. Usage covers grammatical considerations such as parts of speech, agreement, sentence structure, and paragraph writing. Examples of usage include consistent verb tenses, proper subject-verb agreement, and avoiding sentence errors such as run-ons and fragments.

Good writers also need to hone the skills necessary to write in individual genres such as narrative, argumentative, and expository writing. Argumentative skills include formulating a thesis, developing a cohesive argument, and drawing a clear conclusion. Narrative skills include developing a plot and creating characters and settings. Expository skills include good organization and sufficient supporting evidence. When students practice analyzing different types of literature, they begin to identify and understand the techniques necessary to produce different types of writing.

High school students can access a variety of skills practice on Study.com. Skills practice consists of questions sorted by category that can provide students with practice in their usage and mechanics skills. Students can choose to practice a single skill or several skills at once. In addition, teachers or parents can access the skills modules to put together an assignment that targets a student's specific goals or needs. These assignments can be used for homework, quizzes, or in-class practice.

The English language arts skills practice includes grammar, vocabulary, reading, and writing. Grammar topics include phrase and sentence structure, parts of speech, capitalization, punctuation, and more. Vocabulary topics include dictionary skills, word meanings, prefixes and suffixes, and word roots. Writing topics focus on editing, revision, and writing for specific genres. Reading topics include literary analysis, which is also part of writing for different genres. Use the following links to view skills practice topics by grade level:

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Composition Writing Homeschool Resources

Study.com's comprehensive homeschool curriculum includes a middle school curriculum that covers the basics of English language arts. Both the 6th Grade Language Arts: Homeschool Curriculum and the 8th Grade Language Arts: Homeschool Curriculum include writing skills such as spelling, parts of speech, and the writing process. For high school students, the following courses include lessons on word choice, tone, the writing process, research skills, and the different types of writing:

Homeschool students looking to improve their skills in the area of writing and composition find lessons, lesson plans, writing rubrics, and more.

Homeschool solutions
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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between composition and writing?

    Writing is a general term that encompasses the use of symbols to convey meaning. Writing can include letters, words, sentences, and longer texts. Composition is the process of creating a piece of writing, usually in answer to a specific prompt, goal, or objective (such as a letter, essay, story, or research paper).

  • Why are writing and composition important?

    It is critical for students of all ages to study writing and composition to build the skills necessary to write well. Writing well is a life skill that is key to educational success and the job search process. Writing is also an essential component of many jobs. The ability to write clearly allows an individual to communicate more effectively.