TCI Teaching Strategy: Writing for Understanding

Many teachers struggle to build student writing skills outside of the Language Arts.  Due to lack of time and the right approach to writing assignments, teachers often find their students’ writings lack creativity and detail even after reading their textbooks and filling out several worksheets. However, with TCI’s Writing for Understanding activities, all learners can have something memorable to write about.

Writing for Understanding activities improve both students’ understanding of key social studies concepts and their writing ability by engaging students in interactive experiences. Imagine teaching the concept of spatial inequality in your Geography class using Geography Alive! Regions and People.  In the TCI lesson, students pretend to be journalists “visiting” four neighborhoods in Mexico City through visuals and recorded interviews of people who live there.  At each stop, students analyze the imagery and listen to the people who live there describe life.  Students record data and details in their notebooks and then write a brief postcard on their stop before moving to the next neighborhood.  At the end of four visits, the students have four snippets of authentic writing pieces (postcards) and lots of great visuals and auditory experiences. Their final writing piece would be to write an extended argumentative essay that would appear in their school newspaper on the essential question: why does spatial inequality exist in urban areas? The lesson delivers oodles of content in a hands-on way as well as incorporates best practices when it comes to writing.  It’s fun and interesting work for both students and teachers (that’s undervalued sometimes).


To guide a successful Writing for Understanding activity in your classroom, keep these steps in mind:

  1. Use writing to help your students learn key social studies concepts.
  2. Give students rich experiences to write about.
  3. Have students record their ideas, thoughts, and feelings in rewriting activities.
  4. Provide students with authentic writing assignments.
  5. Guide students through the writing process.


See this short video tutorial on Writing for Understanding.  If you have a TCI subscription for your class, thumb through the table of contents to see which upcoming lessons use this strategy.  If you are new to TCI or our programs, learn more about our award-winning K-12 curriculum here.

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