Writing Across the Curriculum – Examples and Strategy Review

writing in the classroom

Why is Writing to Raise Achievement so important to use throughout every lesson? Let’s start by explaining more about Writing Across the Curriculum.

What Does “Writing Across the Curriculum” Mean?

Writing Across the Curriculum refers to the notion that content area teachers reinforce the benchmarks that ELA teachers traditionally teach in their lessons. All teachers are tasked with using writing to help students learn the subject-area content, whether it is photosynthesis, algebra, or music. Students must communicate effectively in all fields of study, not just in English or Language Arts class. Historians, scientists, and almost all professionals continuously use the same organizational skills and mental habits required for writing and communicating effectively.

With the emphasis on writing in the current standards, it is important for students to write every day and in every lesson. Writing throughout lessons actively engages students with the content they are learning. There are numerous points throughout the lesson where students can write to deepen their understanding of the content and increase their writing proficiency. In the Assignment, students practice Write to Inform, or formal writing for a specific purpose, while ongoing Write to Learn strategies happen during Lesson Instruction. Students Write to Learn by:

  • taking notes
  • brainstorming
  • asking critical questions,
  • or as Distributed Summarizing prompts like Quick Writes and Summary Point Writing

How do you implement this strategy for the greatest impact?

  • Writing to Learn activities and tasks are used throughout lesson instruction as a means of Distributed Summarizing.
  • Assignments consistently reflect grade-level content and writing standards/benchmarks.
  • All expository writing Assignments directly connect to content areas.
  • A graphic organizer is used as part of the prewriting phase, and when completed, used to summarize and write about new learning.
  • The teacher consistently utilizes rubrics to set writing expectations for all Assignments.
  • Rubrics are used by the teacher and students to assess writing, and are included in the display of student work.

What does this strategy look like in both my in-person classroom and when used with online learning?

Example 1: Constructing Arguments (Writing to Inform)

Description: The Assignment should allow students to answer the Lesson Essential Question. In addition, the lesson Assignment should provide the evidence needed to determine if students have met the lesson’s goals. There is no better way for students to advance their learning than by writing to prove mastery in the Assignment.

Process: In designing the Assignment, aligning the writing product to the thinking students are expected to use is vital, as reflected in the grade-level writing standards. For example, if the lesson’s Learning Goal is for students to construct an argument, a letter to the editor or a speech would align with that goal.

  • Lesson Essential Question: How do various cultures contribute to our community?
  • Writing Standard: W.2.1: Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.
  • Learning Goal: Construct an argument for how a specific culture contributes to the community
  • Assignment: Using the Constructing Arguments Graphic Organizer, students express their opinions about how a specific culture has contributed to our community. Students support their opinions with facts and evidence collected from the various texts read throughout the lesson. The opinion piece must be at least three paragraphs, with a strong topic sentence for each paragraph. Students will use the Constructing Arguments Rubric for this Assignment.

Example 2: Quick Write (Writing to Learn)

Description: With the standards’ emphasis on writing, it is important for students to write every day and in every lesson. Quick Writes (short, informal, ungraded writing), can be structured in ways that let students work with the content, practice written communication, and articulate key concepts in their own words. This type of summary writing is vital in helping students gain the ability and stamina to write over a wide variety of time frames and for various tasks, purposes, and audiences, as required by standards.

Process: There are numerous points throughout the lesson and at the end where students can write to deepen their understanding of the content, demonstrate understanding, and increase their writing proficiency.

  • In the Activating Strategy, students can write to make predictions, to link to what they already know about a topic, or to begin thinking about new concepts and vocabulary.
  • Quick Writes during Learning Activities is an essential way for students to process and consolidate new learning. In a Quick Write, students think about what they have learned and then record their thoughts in writing.
  • Formative Assessments are checks for understanding after each Learning Activity. While these formative assessments can occur in various formats, one of the best ways is through writing.
  • Students can use a Quick Write to summarize at the end of every day. By taking the information they have learned, filtering out the most crucial information, and translating it into their own words, they clarify their thinking and deepen their understanding.

Lindsey Hampton

During her 20+ years in education, Lindsey has been an elementary and secondary classroom teacher, an instructional coach, and a specialist in teacher induction. She has collaborated with teachers and administrators nationwide to develop learning partnerships that focus on evaluating and implementing High Yield Instructional Strategies. Her instructional coach and specialist background have led her to the philosophy that improvement must be viewed as a continuum, a means to refine and adapt the improvement of instructional practices continually. She has presented this theme and many others on teaching and learning at numerous conferences in FL, KY, TN, NC, and PA. Her contributions to Learning-Focused include developing new resources and workshops, providing leadership and instructional training and coaching.

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