Teaching Writing in the Content Areas

Teaching Writing in the Content Areas

Teaching Writing in the Content Areas

Teaching Writing in the Content Areas


Most educators intuitively understand the critical relationship between thinking and writing: writing allows us to express what we think, but the very act of writing spurs a process of exploration that changes our thinking and helps us learn. Teaching Writing in the Content Areas examines nearly 30 years of research to identify how teachers can incorporate writing instruction that helps students master the course content and improve their overall achievement. Building on the recommendations of the National Commission on Writing, authors Vicki Urquhart and Monette McIver introduce four critical issues teachers should address when they include writing in their content courses:? Creating a positive environment for the feedback and guidance students need at various stages, including prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing ? Monitoring and assessing how much students are learning through their writing ? Choosing computer programs that best enhance the writing process ? Strengthening their knowledge of course content and their own writing skills The authors also provide 35 classroom strategies, practices, and handouts that teachers can easily use in most subject areas or grade levels. From prewriting guides and worksheets to instructional guidance and analysis, the strategies offer realistic options to help teachers tailor writing assignments and instruction to the needs of each class. Teaching Writing in the Content Areas is more than a primer for teaching the mechanics of writing; it is a research-based guide to regularly engage students in writing that pushes them to express themselves clearly, to explore new ideas, and to become critical thinkers.


As we completed writing the first section of this guidebook, Vicki shared a story from her years in the classroom. She recalled that when her family moved from the city where she had taught high school for 10 years, the students in one of her classes gave her a small, attractive journal that they had dutifully passed one to the other. Each had penned a few lines from a favorite poem or book and written a goodbye wish. As you might expect, it is one of her greatest treasures to this day. in this simple act, her students told her that they had [gotten] their year together. They understood what the reading, discussing, writing, revising, and presenting had been about. More important, they valued it.

She is not alone in having stories like this—all teachers have them, whether they teach physics, French, or world history. Through writing, Vicki came to know her students, what they were thinking, and what they were (or were not) learning. Teaching writing is unique in this way. It benefits both teacher and student, serving as communication vehicle, assessment tool, and intellectual exercise. Admittedly, this was part of her rationale for developing this guidebook.

Knowing that educators want and need this guidance is an even more compelling reason for doing it. We continue to hear from them: the instructional coordinator who said that she has been waiting for just such a guidebook for years, the language arts instructional specialist who put her name on a waiting list because her district has a new writing initiative, and the science teacher who simply said, [I've always believed that if you write, you think.] Other science educators acknowledge the need for creative ideas in their subject, and in turn, for all sorts of writing to reflect the ideas of science.

Although we expect this guide to be useful to curriculum specialists and district-level coordinators, it is to the third educator, who intuitively understands the fundamental relationship between thinking and writing . . .

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