Getting the Most out of Writing in the Content Area

So many teachers struggle to build student writing skills outside of the Language Arts.  Teachers in the content area can be uneasy about the time committment away from content as they do writing assignments.  It doesn’t have to be that way though.  One of my favorite lesson strategies is the Writing for Understanding lesson strategy.  In this strategy, teachers deliver a rich content-laden lesson that gives the students lots of pre-writing experiences. 

Imagine for example, that you are teaching the concept of spatial inequality in your Geography class using Geography Alive! Regions and People.  A rich activity might be having the students pretend to be student journalists “visiting” (through visuals and recorded interviews of people who live there) four neighborhoods in Mexico City.  At each stop students analyze the imagery and listen to the people who live there describe life.  Students record data and details in a notebook and then write a brief postcard on their stop

Stop 2 - Neighborhoods of Mexico City
Lesson idea taken from Geography Alive! Regions and People, Lesson 9.

before moving to the next neighborhood.  At the end of four visits, the students have four postcards, lots of great visuals and auditory experiences (think Marzano’s Nonlinguistic Representation) and also have snippets of authentic writing pieces (postcards).  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 delivered oodles of content in a hands-on way as well as incorporate best practices when it comes to writing.  It’s fun and interesting work for both student AND teacher (that’s undervalued sometimes).  If you’d like some other ways that you can infuse good writing in your classes, check out the embedded portion taken from our methods book, Bring Learning Alive on peer read-arounds and writing rubrics.Writing Strategies with TCI

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