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Subject-Specific Resources

Integrating Writing Into the Classroom

Once reserved for use in the English classroom, clear and precise writing is now valued in all content areas and is recognized as an essential communication skill. Writing Across the Curriculum is a pedagogical movement that began in the 1980s and was infused throughout content areas in the 1990s. As a result, educators recognize writing as an effective strategy to increase and/or express understanding of subject material.

While writing now spans all disciplines and may vary in structure from subject to subject, some aspects of writing remain concrete. The following tips can help you integrate a variety of writing assignments into your classroom.

Vary Writing Activities
Typically, writing in the classroom falls into one of the following categories:
  • Writing to learn is often informal writing that is worked seamlessly into a lesson; it may or may not be evaluated. Learning logs and journals are predominant examples of writing to learn activities. This kind of writing practice helps students become more comfortable with writing and encourages the use of writing as a learning strategy.
  • Writing in the discipline is more formal and uses content specific vocabulary. These assignments are structured and tend to develop over time. While this kind of writing will also aid in learning, its outcome is usually an evaluated product of learning.
Integrating both types of writing in the classroom helps students learn to view writing as both process and product.

Plan Writing Assignments with Care
An effective writing assignment begins with careful teacher planning that involves:
  • Clearly designed writing activities. Teachers determine the learning goal prior to introducing the assignment and convey that goal clearly to students. Students should understand the prompt or topic to be addressed, the expected length, documentation format, and, if applicable, citation requirements.
  • Rubrics shared when the assignment is given. Evaluation of writing is subjective, but a concise rubric that determines how the writing will be evaluated removes some of the subjectivity. Rubrics should specifically list any aspect of the essay that will be evaluated.
  • Scheduled benchmarks. For longer writing assignments, students should be given a schedule of due dates for the outline (if applicable), drafts, and final copy. Such benchmarks aid in organization and improve the overall quality of student writing by removing the option to procrastinate.
  • Method of publication. Teachers should determine the audience for the assignment and inform students of that audience when the assignment is given. Students, just like adult writers, are better able to effectively address an audience when they know for whom they are writing.
Follow Established Writing Structures
Educators should expect academic writing to follow a standard structure that includes:
  • Lead paragraph that introduces the topic and engages the reader
  • Stated two- or three-point thesis in the lead paragraph
  • Organized, cohesive body consisting of two or three paragraphs, depending on the number of points introduced in the thesis
  • Transitions between sentences and paragraphs
  • Conclusion that emphasizes the point of the paper
Reinforce the Importance of Good Writing
Equally important to structure is following conventions of the English language. While this was once considered the domain of the English teacher, all teachers are aware of and able to correct basic student errors in the following areas.

Skill What to Look for
Composition A central idea, elaboration, unity, and organization
Written expression Precise language, tone, and sentence variety
Usage/mechanics Correct sentence structure, punctuation, spelling, and usage

This article was contributed by Janice Christy, M.Ed., English Department Chair at Louisa County High School in Louisa, Virginia.

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