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Do More With Writing!
posted by: Cindy Omlin | October 27, 2012, 03:08 AM   

As educators, we need to be advocates for writing, promoting how essential writing is to our students.  It’s no longer about talking the talk but also walking the walk.  We can do this by fully integrating writing into the entire curriculum.  In fact, relegating writing to isolated language arts classes should be a practice of the past.

Focusing on writing may seem like a revolutionary idea, but it’s a proven one.  New Dorp High School in New York turned their school around with their “Writing Revolution.”  They made writing an integral part of the curriculum in all classes. Students at New Dorp write in every class, every day. It wasn’t just enough to write, either; all subjects had to push their students to write better and to promote analytical thinking in their writing.

How then can non-language arts teachers integrate writing into their curriculum?

The first way is to surround students with examples of good writing by the reading of non-fiction texts in content-area classes.  According to Common Core standards, by the time a student reaches the 12th grade, 70% of their in-school reading should be non-fiction.  That sounds like a lot, but it was never designed that the entire 70% should be only in their language arts classes.  In order to meet that goal students should and need to be reading good non-fiction (not text books!) in their other classes.

We also need to use writing as a means for students to explain their thought process. In math, have students write a paragraph explaining how they solve that long division problem.  In science, focus on hypotheses and have students explain why they think something will happen.  Every day, in so many ways we challenge our students to think.  Often, we allow one student to think for the class and then we move on.

The key here is to slow down and to really go in-depth in our subjects.  Have students write a paragraph about their thought subject and then give them time to revise it and make it better.

Research and reporting on research is essential to STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math).  Most classes give a nod to laboratory reports, but what if we really upped the standards on those?  What if we made students write an essay for their lab reports.  Of course, this would mean slowing down, doing fewer labs, and giving students more time to refine their work.

Should writing replace everything that we do in our classes?  Of course not, but we do need to strive to make it an integral part. By having students to write about what they’re thinking, we force all students to participate.  We also force students to organize their thoughts into a coherent pattern.  Through the refinement of their work, students must engage with the material and, by doing so, internalize it.  More importantly, through the refinement and reorganization of their thoughts in written form, students learn how to think – a skill American schools are often criticized for not teaching.

How do you or can you integrate writing in your instruction?

Please share your ideas below.

Originally posted by Ruthie at AAE.

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