• Jennifer Laffin

Ideas for Writing Across the Curriculum by Karen Megay-Nespoli


Did you know that incorporating writing into content area learning can be easy and fun? It’s true!


Even if you aren't an ELA teacher, you can still get your students writing as a way to deepen their understanding of your content area.

Consider ideas for writing in the content areas:



Math


Writing in math is a great way for students to solidify their problem solving skills and explain their thinking.

  • One of my favorite math writing experiences is when students create a video math story based on real world problems for their classmates to solve. Students collaborate, write a script for their video, and use the video to demonstrate their learning and understanding in a creative and fun way.

  • Students can write and illustrate a math picture book for younger students. The teacher assigns the math topic and the students collaborate to create the book.



Science


Science writing skills should include the appropriate scientific terms and demonstrate a clear understanding of the concept.

  • Creating a comic strip can be a great way to see if your students understand a science concept. Students can explain the steps in a science experiment or explain a scientific concept through their illustrations and dialogue. Since many students are visual learners, they may find this type of writing motivating.

  • Writing science news articles can reinforce the 5 W’s strategy (who, what, where, when and why) while helping students connect their learning to the real world. Perhaps the students can publish a science newspaper online or interview a scientist via Skype for the news article.

  • You may be familiar with the RAFT (Role, Audience, Format and Topic) strategy, but have you tried it in your science class? This gives students writing practice with different formats. Consider this RAFT for a unit about plants: Role – the roots, Audience – other plant parts, Format – speech, Topic- why roots should be voted the most important part of the plant.



Social Studies


Writing activities in Social Studies/History should challenge students to think about the events that have made our world the way it is today.

  • The SPAWN acronym represents five categories of writing prompts (S=Special Powers, P=Problem Solving, A= Alternative Viewpoints, W=What If, and N=Next). SPAWN writing is typically short in length and can be kept in notebooks or logs. SPAWN writing is fast, but aids in learning, reflecting, and critical thinking, all of which are integral to students’ success in school. SPAWN writing can also be used to record podcasts, which is an activity students’ love.

  • Social Studies Extension Menus can be used to engage students in a variety of writing experiences in the social studies classroom. Students can choose a set number of items to complete, such as choosing 3 in a tic-tac-toe pattern to ensure they have a variety of writing experiences. Items can include creating a brochure, timeline, poem, letter, news article, word search, interview, or a poster.



These writing activities are interchangeable and can be used in any of the content areas. As you begin to add more writing activities into the content areas, I hope you will try a few of these with your students.


One of the most important things to remember is not all writing must be graded. It is perfectly fine to skim students’ writing and engage the writers in conversation or simply leave thoughtful written comments.


Let the writing begin!



Karen Megay-Nespoli is an Associate Professor at St. Joseph’s College, Patchogue, NY, in the Department of Child Study. She also serves as the Director of the Graduate Program in Literacy and Cognition. Her first passion is teaching and her second is writing. Writing allows her to share her thoughts, feelings and knowledge with others. You will often find her with pads, pencils and notebooks. Her current passion is writing children’s stories. .









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