A22 – Uses of Writing in Content Areas11/20/2009

Lisa Antoniou, Eastern Kentucky University Writing Project
Diane Giorgi, New York City Writing Project
Thomas Murray, New York City Writing Project

  • Writing is used as a tool to
    • deepen understanding.
    • explain.
    • prove.
    • demonstrate understanding.
    • share ideas. (The greatest ideas in any discipline are always ultimately shared through writing!)
    • teach/learn different types of reading and different types of writing.

Lisa Antoniou—Science
  • Read more than just the textbook. Find articles in journals, magazines, or newspapers that are relevant to the content. Help students learn a different kind of literacy while demonstrating the real-world application of their course material.
  • Think and write like a scientist. Teach technical writing. Walk students through how to write each section of a scientific journal article (introduction, materials & methods, results, analysis, discussion), using lots of graphic organizers and scaffolding.
    • Lisa’s students complete inquiry and investigation projects and write scientific journal articles on them.

Diane Giorgi—Social Studies
  • Think and write like a social scientist. When social scientists write, they investigate, corroborate, interpret, explain, synthesize, theorize, argue, determine significance, and make connections to larger context. The writing can be expository, narrative, interpretive, or persuasive.
  • Students almost never see social studies writing until it appears on a high-stakes exam. Writing is an important tool for learning and thinking about content, and students need instruction and practice; it should be integrated in everyday classroom activities.
  • Social studies teachers are often reluctant to ask their students to write because they feel too much pressure to cover broad content, and they do not have enough confidence to teach writing. They also might worry about how to grade student writing.
  • Students can write at the beginning of class (summarize previous lesson), the middle of class (respond to thought-provoking question), and the end of class (reflect). They can share their writing with partners, groups, or the whole class.
  • Students can dig more deeply into subject matter by writing from a different perspective (become an immigrant or a founding father), by writing poetry that reflects an historical experience, or by writing letters to historical figures.
  • Teachers need to scaffold writing by starting with brief low-stakes assignments before helping students identify a thesis, support a thesis, organize thoughts, etc.

Thomas Murray—Math
  • Our students don’t want to be talked to all day. Instead, have students
    • teach a lesson on topics that they’re struggling with.
    • complete a park project – design a park or playground, including to-scale drawings and geometric calculations.
    • write gossip articles ( i.e. “Hypotenuse caught in a love triangle”).
    • use journals to monitor student understanding.

Conclusion: What can we do at our sites?
  • Hold a separate mini-institute for non-ELA teachers.
  • Recruit by sending department chairs or administrators copies or links to articles emphasizing the importance of WAC.
  • Conduct a one-day introductory “institute” for non-ELA teachers to ease their concerns about participating in the intensive SI.
  • Make SI more relevant to non-ELA teachers:
    • Compose one reading or writing group of non-ELA teachers.
    • Choose one book focused on WAC.
    • Include personal writing options or suggestions for left-brained participants.
  • Offer PD on WAC, perhaps separate PD for different subject areas.
  • Choose a specific person at your site to be the WAC expert.
  • Value different types of literacies – different disciplines utilize different kinds of reading and different kinds of writing – content-area teachers are the experts in the literacy of their discipline.

Notes by Carrie Nobis

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