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2012. Vol.3, Special Issue, 852-855
Published Online October 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.326127
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Using the AREA Approach to Create Successful Writers
William M. Yerger
Loeb School of Education, Eastern University, St. Davids, USA
Received August 22nd, 2012; revised S e p t e mber 20 th, 2012; accepted October 5th, 2012
The high stakes assessments that states are now administering use a rubric where not only is a correct re-
sponse required by students, but also a justification or rationale for that response is needed for a higher
score on the item. The AREA approach discussed in this article is an excellent strategy that both students
and teachers can successfully employ in answering questions either in writing or in public speaking. It is a
clear, straightforward way of responding to a question with assurance that the response was developed in
a thorough and organized manner.
Keywords: Instructional Strategies; Methods and Materials; Methodological Perspectives;
Motivation/Engagement; Writing Approaches
Students are required daily to answer numerous questions in
class, on tests, and in everyday life. The high stakes assess-
ments that states are now administering use a rubric where not
only is a correct response required, but also a justification or
rationale for that response is needed for a higher score on the
item. The rationale that students give must be thorough and
complete. Students no longer can just guess and get the full
credit if they are correct. Many schools are now offering spe-
cific prep courses that students are required to take if they are
not proficient in a given subject matter. These courses are de-
signed to take students through a rigorous curriculum that will
stretch critical thinking and ability all for the purpose of pre-
paring students for state assessments.
The author has found and utilized numerous approaches to
writing that students can use to improve their products in per-
suasive, informational, and entertaining (PIE) writing. Three ap-
proaches that are noteworthy include the RAFT (Buehl, 2008;
Holston & Santa, 1985), GIST (Cunningham, 1982) and the
AREA approach (Mamchak & Mamchak, 1991).
The RAFT is an exciting creative writing approach which
allows the writer the flexibility to deal with persuading, in-
forming, or entertaining. The acronym of RAFT stands for:
Role of the Writer
Audience that is being addressed
Format of the writing, i.e. letter, article, speech
Topic being addressed
An example (Frank, Grossi, & Stanfield, 2006) of this could
be as follows from a social studies class:
Audience: King of England
Topic: Unfair taxation
Tompkins (2013) shares teaching procedures and examples
of the RAFT technique along with how to differentiate instruc-
tion with tiered techniques and projects.
The second approach GIST is a useful technique for summa-
rizing and getting the main idea in any subject.
Students work in pairs to develop a 20-word summary of the
material read or discussed. This technique focuses the students’
attention and thinking in a reflective manner.
The third approach I found a few years ago for developing
support for the answer was not found in any writing book. It
was found in a book on public speaking (Mamchak & Mam-
chak, 1991). Upon reflecting on the approach, it’s the same one
that Ronald Reagan, the great communicator, used in answering
questions for the press. The approach is entitled the AREA
approach. I will elaborate on this one extensively because of its
simplicity of application and demonstrated improvement of test
results when this approach is taught to teachers and utilized by
Very simply stated, when someone asks a question the one
answering the question needs “to cover the area well” to con-
vince others of their response. This means to be as thorough as
possible in the response, covering the information fully. Your
approach should reflect a positive attitude, passionate response,
and an optimistic viewpoint.
Specifically, the AREA approach to answering a question is
Answer the question in a simple sentence;
Reason(s) stated for the answer;
Example(s) shared supporting the reason;
In using this approach with students, I no longer find that
they do not know what to write about or what to say. Once they
take a position they just need to follow the formula in a pre-
scribed step-by-step manner. Fear leads to writers block. Stu-
dents face the fear of not knowing if they are good enough, if
anyone will like it, if they can finish, if they can start. However,
the AREA approach takes the fear out of writing for many
students. For others it serves as a check on their position, de-
veloping added confidence in their response.
W. M. YERGER
AREA Appro ach Example 1
An example that could be utilized follows:
Should students be allowed to wear hats in class?
I feel that students should not be allowed to wear hats in
It can pose problems for other students and even themselves.
If the hat is novel, others may be looking at it and not paying
attention to the teacher. If it’s a large hat, it may block the vi-
sion of others. The one wearing it may also be distracted by
moving it around on his head.
Answer Again: Therefore, I feel that hats should not be
worn in class because of the distraction created and the lost
focus on learning.
A counter example of responding to the question without
clarity might sound like:
“No, they shouldn’t” or “No, it’s not a good idea for kids to
wear hats in school. Hats are for outside the classroom.” A
response like this lacks clarity and specificity, doing little to
persuade or convince anyone to accept their thinking. It just is
an unsupported opinion rather than based on real facts.
Once students see the example they are ready to develop a
group response to a question using the AREA approach. The
following are possible questions, listed by designated levels to
be used with students:
Should recess (including at lunch time) be eliminated in
Who do you think was our greatest American hero?
Should students be paid for coming to school?
AREA Approach Example 2
The teacher writes AREA vertically on the board, chart pa-
per, etc. and has the students assist in the development of the
response. The position that the students take does not matter.
What does matter is the support for the position. For example,
two different responses are addressed below to the question:
Grades 3-5: Should recess be eliminated from schools?
In defense of recess:
We believe that recess should not be eliminated from schools.
Students in the same environment need the opportunity to
move during day.
One cannot operate at his/her best without having the chance
to stretch. Many children are in poor physical shape and need to
get appropriate exercise.
Brain fatigue will cause the mind to disconnect from the
learning after too long a sustained period of time as seen when
students yawn or become fidgety. When students get a chance
to run and move, their brain recovers from the sameness syn-
drome that can hamper learning. Finally, the schools need to
model for students life-long leisure activities and the impor-
tance of exercise to keep students from becoming couch pota-
toes. Students today spend less time outdoors. The 21st Century
has seen huge advancements in technology. Video games have
become a huge business targeting the youth of today. The ex-
pansion of this market has created an environment where stu-
dents are spending the majority of their time indoors.
The 3 R’s? A fourth is crucial, too: Recess. New research
suggests that play and down time may be as important to a
child’s academic experience as reading, science and math, and
that regular recess, fitness or nature time can influence behavior,
concentration and even grades. A study published in the Journal
of Pediatrics studied the links between recess and classroom
behavior among about 11,000 children aged 8 and 9. Those
who had more than 15 minutes of recess a day showed better
behavior in class than those who had little or none (Parker-Pope,
Recess should not be eliminated from the elementary school
as it is a benefit to learning and the development of life-long
positive exercise habits.
In opposition to recess:
We believe that recess should be eliminated from schools.
Teachers will tell you that the most problems that they deal
occur at recess and instructional time is wasted.
Students fight, don’t get picked for teams, are bullied, fall
and get hurt, just to name a few. Then, students’ learning is
affected as solving these problems too often spills over into the
classroom where the teacher is not able to begin the lesson on
Recess needs to be eliminated as the problems caused create
hard feeling and detract from instructional time.
After the teacher develops the response through a shared
writing with the students, the children can do guided practice in
a small group or with a buddy before each student one alone.
AREA Approach Example 3
Below are two additional examples of AREA best practices
Grade 6-8: Who do you think was our greatest American
I feel that George Washington was our greatest American hero.
George Washington helped found our countries values, be-
liefs, and government. He was America’s very first President
and is known as the “Father of our Country”. He was a distin-
guished general and commander in chief of the colonial armies
in the American Revolution.
You might have thought that George Washington was in
Philadelphia with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John
Adams and the other delegates of the Continental Congress as
they wrote the Declaration of Independence, but he wasn’t. In
July 1776, Washington was in New York with his troops. On
July 9th, he received his copy of the Declaration with a note
from John Hancock telling Washington to share the news with
the troops. After the war was over, Washington hoped he would
be able to retire and return to Mount Vernon. Instead, in 1789,
the electors unanimously voted George Washington the first
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 853
W. M. YERGER
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
president of the United States. Because it was such an honor,
and he felt a great duty to his country, he accepted. He left
Mount Vernon on April 16 and arrived in New York City on
April 30 for his inauguration. As he took his oath standing on
the balcony of Federal Hall, a crowd broke into cheers. The
members of his first Cabinet included Thomas Jefferson as
secretary of state, Alexander Hamilton as secretary of the treas-
ury, Henry Knox as secretary of war, and Edmund Randolph as
attorney general (The Library of Congress, 2013).
Due to George Washington’s amazing leadership and people
skills, he was respected by an entire country. His dedication to
America was what propelled him to the position of being the
first President of the United States.
AREA Appro ach Example 4
Grade 9-12: Should students be paid for coming to school?
I do not feel that students should be paid for attending
Students should not be paid because it is a privilege to attend
school and payment would cheapen that privilege. Students are
currently obligated to attend school and should they stop at-
tending they become truant.
In today’s world so many students already feel they are “en-
titled” to certain liberties while at school. Many students are
disrespectful and talk back to the educators. If we begin com-
pensating the students monetarily, we will have multiple issues
to deal with; such as how much payment is to be given, how do
we keep payment fair across the country, and who would be
responsible to pay the money?
Therefore, I do not feel students should be paid for attending
school because it is a privilege to attend school, and each stu-
dent is offered a free and appropriate education in the United
Depending on the grade level, some high interest questions
Should teachers be allowed to take cell phones from stu-
Should students have to pay to participate in sports?
Is it reasonable for students to have a curfew?
Should students be allowed to wear _______ to school?
Should students be permitted to chew gum?
Is it a privilege for students to drive to school?
Should students be allowed to pick their teachers for
Should students be allowed to have privileges in school
based on their grades?
The above examples are not related to the curriculum, but
develop the interest, skills, and success needed for responding
to the same type of questions in the curriculum. The following
are some curriculum related questions:
How would the United States be different today if Colum-
bus had landed in San Francisco Harbor instead of the East
Through which medium does sound travel the greatest dis-
How did you come up with 18 feet for the perimeter?
Why do you think that the character responded in that
How is the book “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, related
to the Russian Revolution of 1917?
How does the human “five senses” affect an individual’s
personal and mental health?
How many years did it take to build the Great Wall of
I’ve found that in using this approach with students and
teachers one way to help them think and organize their thoughts
is to tell them the following:
“If you wanted to find out something about the topic on the
internet, what would some key words that you could put in a
search engine that would assist you in finding information
about the topic? Also, what do you already know about some of
the key words?”
One time I was presenting the AREA approach to teachers in
a school district near the Atlantic seacoast.
In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach I
shared the following: “Now that I’ve given you an example of
the approach, I’d like someone to give me any question in the
world that you would like me to respond to. If the question is
too technical, I’ll tell you. Otherwise, I’ll answer it using the
The room was silent for about ten seconds, after which one
of the teachers in the group put me to the test with this ques-
What should a person do if they experience a decompres-
sion injury while scuba diving?
Well, I have never scuba dived and wondered if I was really
going beyond my headlights in answering the question. I did
what is prescribed in the Mamchak book mentioned earlier:
“Repeat the question for everyone to hear.” This is actually
done to give the speaker more reflection time in dealing with
the question so they can better organize their thinking. Immedi-
ately what went through my mind was both the key search en-
gine words and what did I already know about some of the
words expressed in the question. The words that came onto my
radar screen were scuba diving, decompression, and injury.
Since I knew very little about the first two words, I focused on
the third word, injury.
Here’s the question repeated and how the response sounded:
What should a person do if they experience a decompres-
sion injury while scuba diving?
Short of going to a doctor or medical facility and receiving
help, a person who has experienced a decompression injury
while scuba diving needs to stay out of that situation for six to
We know that when the body has experienced nearly any
kind of severe blow, trauma, or injury, it takes about six to
eight weeks for the body to heal. Bones, tissues, and corpuscles
need time to be restored.
If a person experiences a broken arm or leg, the doctor generally
W. M. YERGER
ESPA tests in grade 5.
Partially Profic ient Proficient Advanced Proficient
Language Arts Liter acy 15.7% 80.4% 3.9% Year 1: Before AREA In tr oduced
Language Arts Liter acy 10.5% 73.7% 15.8% Year 2: A ft er One Year of AREA A pp r oach
Language Arts Liter acy 0.0% 73.0% 27.0% Year 3: After Two Years of the AREA Approach
Results attained by the New Jersey statewide testing system over three consecutive years.
tells you that it will take at least six weeks and as many as eight
weeks till you’re fully healed. The same is true for the healing
time for a mother after childbirth. Major operations also take
about the same amount of time.
Therefore, because of the trauma to the body and healing
needed, short of going to a doctor or medical facility and re-
ceiving help, a person who has experienced a decompression
injury while scuba diving needs to stay out of that situation for
six to eight weeks. After I finished answering the question, I
asked her how I did. To my delight she surprisingly stated,
“That’s exactly right!”
I have shared this technique over the last fifteen years with
teachers coming back to me telling how well students are now
answering questions along with getting better results on the
statewide tests. My own daughter while in college took the
Praxis 1 Writing Test and scored twelve points out of thirteen
on the section where they had to answer a question and justify
what they wrote. She told me, “Dad, I wrote the word AREA
and did what you and mom taught me about the approach.” She
shared the question and what she said in answering the question.
I didn’t even agree with what she wrote, but she provided the
reasons and examples for her thinking which gave her the good
Research on Classroom Application
When I was an elementary principal I decided to not only
in-service the intermediate teachers on the
AREA approach but also to follow the test results. I met with
them one morning, bringing in a fluorescent poster board with
the AREA approach on it. After teaching them the method and
giving examples, they taught it to their students complete with a
chart similar to the one that I brought in. They posted the chart
in the room and had children write responses in class following
the procedure. The results that we achieved on the New Jersey
ESPA Language Arts Literacy Test were remarkable. Our
school went from one of the lowest in the school district to one
of the highest in the state. The number of students who became
advanced proficient increased nearly seven times after using the
approach for two years .
Poster of the AREA Chart
Table 1 shows the outcome.
Presently, I teach the method to my undergraduate students.
They find it very easy to write a paper on “My Most Effective
Teachers” just to name one. I also continue to in-service teach-
ers as a consultant to school districts. In addition, I have per-
sonally found the AREA approach an effective and successful
tool in preparing aspiring teachers for an interview. For exam-
ple, a potential teacher may be asked, “What do you feel are
your greatest strengths that you would bring to this job?” By
using the AREA approach the interviewee will most certainly
be convincing if not remarkable.
In summary, the AREA approach is the best strategy that I
have ever used with students and teachers in answering ques-
tions. It is a clear, straightforward way of answering a question
with assurance that you’ve responded in a thorough and organ-
ized manner. Its components of Answer the question, Reasons
for your response, Examples to support the reasons, and An-
swer again to emphasize and summarize the main points clearly
are easy to follow for the presenter and creates a clear under-
standing for the recipient.
Special acknowledgement goes to Paul Dunn, my graduate
assistant who added some ideas and reviewed the work.
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Frank, C., Grossi, J., & Stanfield, D. (2006). Application of reading
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Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 855