Improving Writing Instruction in Second and Third Grade Classrooms

The Fossil Creek Writing Project


  • Jana Hunzicker Bradley University
  • Cecile Arquette Bradley University
  • Ann Quinzio-Zafran Bradley University



professional development, writing process, writing workshop, young writers, state writing test, writing instruction, school-university partnership


This article presents research findings from a professional development project initiated by one rural Illinois primary school to improve writing instruction in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms. During the 2010–11 academic year, the school partnered with a private university to provide customized, year-long professional development that integrated preparation for the state writing assessment and a writing process approach. Simultaneously, a study was conducted to identify and describe teacher thinking and practices related to writing instruction during participation in the project. Data were collected through a pre/post teacher survey and written teacher reflections. Participating teachers indicated 15 improvements in their thinking and practices related to writing instruction. However, confidence in their students’ likelihood to perform well on the state writing assessment decreased during the project, and changes in thinking and practices varied from teacher to teacher, possibly due to varying levels of teacher readiness to change.

Author Biographies

Jana Hunzicker, Bradley University

Jana Hunzicker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Bradley University, where she teaches Methods of Literacy II: Reading, Writing, and Language Arts Grades 3–8. Before earning her Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction, she taught 8th grade language arts for seven years and served as an elementary school administrator for nine years. Her research interests include effective teaching practices, teacher learning, professional development, and teacher leadership.

Cecile Arquette, Bradley University

Cecile Arquette is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Bradley University. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from New Mexico State University, her Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Teachers College, Columbia University, and her Bachelor’s degree in Dramatic Arts from the University of Mary Washington. Her research interests include effective literacy methodology in elementary classrooms, best practices in teacher education, and peer and cross-age tutoring.

Ann Quinzio-Zafran, Bradley University

Ann Quinzio-Zafran, a National Board Certified Teacher, recently retired after 36 years with Coal City Community Unit #1 Schools from her roles as teacher and K–5 Language Arts Coordinator. She received her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Illinois State University. Currently, she is pursuing a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction focusing on Teacher Education from Northern Illinois University.


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How to Cite

Hunzicker, J., Arquette, C., & Quinzio-Zafran, A. (2014). Improving Writing Instruction in Second and Third Grade Classrooms: The Fossil Creek Writing Project. Writing and Pedagogy, 6(3), 497–530.



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