My Magic Writing Discovery

Remember that old electric razor commercial where the guy says, “I loved it so much I bought the company”? Well that’s my story, sort of. You see, I’m a marketing documentarian. I capture heartfelt stories from employees and turn them into marketing videos. It’s kind of cool to have average joes looking like rock stars on YouTube (though the miracle of editing three hour interviews into two minutes of killer content!).

Anyway, one day I was interviewing educators- talk about your average joes- for a literacy course when, all of a sudden, these teachers started gushing about a writing program. They were giving me accolades on camera that I’d never seen before: “it was unbelievable”this and “it was like magic”that. On and on they went. I had everything I needed in less than an hour.

Later that day, in the parking lot, I spoke to the director about this “magic writing potion”with a name only a researcher could come up with, Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD). He looked at me with a smile and said, “I wish I could make this up. That SRSD single handedly turned around a failing school. And once one teacher has it, they all want it. It spreads like wild fire and the kids love it, too.”

Sorry, I just didn’t believe them. It was like I was being set up. So I did what any skeptical person would do: Google it. And that is where I found that the “magic”wasn’t magic at all. SRSD was unbelievably effective by design. Karen Harris and Steven Graham, the SRSD creators, had concocted a writing strategy that had “dancing on the moon”results because they wanted it to.

When I searched further I discovered that in over 30 years of SRSD research they had 100+ successful studies and an average effect size of 1.0. What does that mean? An effect size measures a student’s progress from before a baseline to where they are after finishing an intervention program. Wikipedia: An effect size is the quantitative measure of the strength of a phenomenon. In this case, the “phenomenon”, is learning how to write using SRSD. And, whereas, teachers dream of a post-intervention effect size of .50 (point five-oh) you can only imagine their response to a 1.0 effect which is, in fact, “dancing on the moon”results.

Finally I said, “no masse”. I found so much hidden results (SRSD seems to be the best kept secret in education- only a fraction of the country was using it)) that I shut down most of my company and have since dedicated my time to spreading the SRSD word. My children are 12, 7 and 5. And not one could write a pretty paragraph (ok, I’ll give my five year old a break). That is, until now.

So if you believe that your child’s writing can be better (national average: 73% are below proficient), and if you believe that writing will help them in college and in their career, then go ahead and Google Karen Harris and Steve Graham. And add those four tiny letters that create such a big fuss. SRSD.



Marketing video pioneer Randy Barth  ([email protected]) has been a video marketing documentarian since the days of VHS. Credits for Randy (@honceoui) include “Fighting to Rise Above,” the story of Olympic medalist Kayla Harrison; producing two feature-length movies; board member of, which provides sports therapy for at-risk youth; and serving as VP of Pixability, a Cambridge-based video marketing service, which Randy helped grow from tiny startup to hot YouTube property on the national stage. Today Randy focusses his energy within the literacy landscape through his company, LiteracyOnDemand with and Writing Whatever as his online course entrees.





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