I used to begin the school year by telling all of my students that my job as an English teacher was the most important job in the world and that their class would be the most significant they would ever have. I used this bit of hyperbole to capture their curiosity, but I would explain to them that it was my job to teach them what they would have to use in all of their other classes, and jobs, for the rest of their lives. This was my way of expressing to them the importance of reading and writing in our society. I do not do this anymore because I truly value the movement of interdisciplinary writing and writing across the curriculum, and I would hate to belittle that concept to my students by demeaning my colleagues and their approach to teaching literacy skills. On the contrary, I want my students to make the connection that writing has across the spectrum of education.
Reading and writing are ways to analyze and synthesize life and help us find meaning in things. Writing is key to learning. It helps us process, decode, and understand our complex thoughts or the complex thoughts of others. A main focus of the “Writing is…” video was the fact that writing is an outlet; not only for creativity, but also for expression of thought and knowledge. All classes in content areas require these skills to learn, and writing is used in each of them.
Check out this video about writing.
Despite its poor editing, this video gets the importance of writing into perspective. Something as simple as writing a note to someone telling them not to drink your milk. Literacy is the most important skill that we have as humans. The foundation of nearly everything is writing. With our society becoming more global and our opportunities to learn developing so rapidly, some forget that writing is essential to every academic field and every career. I have no choice but to compare literacy and writing to the Force. It surrounds us. It penetrates us (gross). It binds the universe together.
For all of the teachers out there I have provided a few interesting writing activities that foster the development of this skill. “Writing to learn” is a method of using short tasks that are informal in nature. These are instructional strategies used to help students learn by tapping into their prior knowledge and by helping them make meaningful connections to the reading through written word. One strategy that I have not used but that seems interesting is the Microthemes strategy. It’s foundational premise is that less is more when it comes to learning by writing. In these lessons, students produce a brief piece of writing that has been produced by doing a large amount of thinking beforehand. The authors refer to them as mini-essays. A strategy that I have used before is exit slips. These are wonderful short written reflections of the activities and great for closure. I find them useful through all subject areas because they allow the teacher to ensure that the concept has been grasped.
“Writing in disciplines” is a more formal approach to academic writing. This is a way to express thought and opinion in an academic format using important writing skills used within the discipline. My students are currently working on a persuasive research paper. This is a very long writing project that our department hopes will prepare them for their all-encompassing Senior Project. This research-based writing assignment is a process that I have had to teach them from outlining to drafting to revising to publishing. The overall goal of this assignment, and all interdisciplinary writing assignments, is to prepare students to write in a more scholarly form. I think it is important because it shows them the difference between formal writing and informal writing, while also preparing them for college level writing tasks. Eventually they have to learn that tweets and essays are different.