Writing Across the Curriculum- 9 Best Practices

Students are struggling more than ever with their writing capabilities, and this is troubling district and federal education leaders – along with just about everyone else. Should writing skills be taught across the curriculum?

At the end of the proverbial, K-12 school day, why is student writing ability important?

Whose responsibility is it to teach students how to read and write in our schools? Should teaching kids how to read and write at grade level expectations be a whole-school-type effort? 

Why not just leave that responsibility to English and ELA teachers – since they are the subject matter experts, right? After all, you wouldn’t expect a high school English teacher to help teach Algebra and Trigonometry consistently during their writing and grammar lessons would you?

Who is on the hook for student writing ability?

If only it were so simple. For decades, educators and bureaucrats have been trying to figure out the role literacy plays in the schema of learning and subject mastery. Additionally, who should be responsible for primary instruction and support – across all core classes – to support that effort. 

Therefore, the logic goes, the science teacher focuses on her core subject, science, of course, but also supplements the student’s literacy and writing ability by incorporating a little grammar tip here and a dash of  verb tense there – perhaps served up during a mini-lesson on the parts of a human cell.

Student writing at its lowest

Students are not getting the education they deserve. As The New York Times points out, “40 percent of those who took the ACT writing exam in the high school class of 2016 lacked the reading and writing skills necessary to successfully complete a college-level English composition class, according to the company’s data.”

How can all teachers reinforce student writing achievement?

How do younger students who are in the process of learning to write (and read) improve their writing (and reading) ability? Should teachers of core subjects outside of English/ELA be responsible for helping young writers learn a foundational level of formal literacy?  Should non-ELA teachers be required to expect (and reinforce) a baseline level of literacy in their own assessments?

For example, what if a middle school student has achieved subject-level mastery of a life science, but can’t write clearly enough for the teacher to know they have achieved mastery of the subject? If a 7th grade math whiz can’t read the word problems on a math test due to their lack of reading comprehension ability, what to do? 

These are just some of the questions teachers and educational leaders at nearly all levels of the U.S. education system have been asking over the last decades regarding writing across the curriculum (also referred to as WAC)

Learners in primary and secondary grade-level U.S. public schools depend on ELA teachers for most of their formal writing instruction and assessment.

Sure, a 5th-grade history professor may take off a few points on a research project for numerous and major grammatical errors.

Highlighting the importance of writing ability across the curriculum

Teaching students the importance of writing in all core classes is essential for their success in college, the workplace, and life. Writing is the cornerstone of communication, affecting everything from creating a resume to negotiating a business deal. As such, students must learn how to effectively communicate their ideas, feelings, and opinions through writing.

Writing is a complex skill that requires practice and guidance. The ability to express oneself in written form is invaluable, whether for a job interview, a school paper, or even a simple email. Writing also helps students build their critical thinking skills, as it requires them to process and structure their thoughts into meaningful sentences. Furthermore, writing encourages students to research and explore topics, which can lead to a greater understanding of the subject matter.
Teachers are overworked and need resources to create good writing prompts, provide critical feedback, and grade all those writing assignments. WriteRightNow helps teachers by providing a quick access to writing prompts, a feedback library, and grading tools. Teachers can get started with this cost-effective writing software on their own today.

Writing ability intersects with critical thinking and communication

In addition to the academic and professional advantages of writing, teaching students the importance of writing in all core classes also helps them become better communicators. Writing allows students to express themselves and their ideas clearly and concisely. 

This helps them articulate their thoughts to others, which is critical to any successful relationship. Crafting written pieces encourages students to be accurate in their wording, as it is critical for them to express the desired message with clarity.

Teachers can sign up for WriteRightNow for easy writing assessment tools for free — right now.

Writing, expression, and creativity

Writing can provide a creative outlet for students, allowing them to explore their emotions and ideas positively. It can also help students develop their writing style, which can help them stand out from the crowd. Finally, teaching students the importance of writing across the curriculum can foster a lifelong appreciation for the written word.

Writing ability and college or postsecondary learning

Overall, teaching students the importance of writing in all core classes is essential for their success in college and beyond. Writing is a complex skill that requires practice and guidance. Teaching students how to communicate their ideas and opinions through writing prepares them for all aspects of life. From job interviews to creative endeavors, writing is an invaluable skill that can help students succeed in any situation.

9 Best Practices to Get Students Writing Across the Curriculum

Teachers can help students improve their writing capabilities in all classes across the curriculum by considering the following strategies:

  1. Incorporate writing assignments into all classes, not just English classes.

Writing across the curriculum is an important strategy teachers can use for a couple of reasons. One of those reasons is that it allows students to expand their depth of knowledge on the subject being studied. Secondly, writing lets students practice the type of communication they are going to need when they are finished in school and start working. No matter what job field they go into, communication will be important. 

  1. Provide clear instructions and rubrics for writing assignments.

Rubrics are a vital part of good writing instruction. A well designed rubric lets students know exactly what to include in their assignment. They can also use the rubric to go over their own work before submitting it to their teacher. Another great thing about rubrics is that they allow the teacher to grade each writing piece with consistency. Just as the student can look at the rubric to grade their own writing, the teacher uses the rubric to calculate a score based on categories the students are aware of. 

  1. Give students feedback on their writing, both in terms of grammar and content. 

A couple of things to note about giving feedback are to read the whole writing piece before commenting, and don’t nitpick. Reading the piece in its entirety will allow you to form a better opinion on how well they did. To help with this, take notes while you read, especially if the writing is longer. That way you will be able to look back and quickly remember what it was about. Giving constructive feedback is most important when working with students. With that in mind, make sure your comments have quality. The amount of feedback you give isn’t as important as the type of feedback. 

  1. Provide simple grammar lessons and informal writing workshops as needed. 

Your school district might have a dedicated language arts program that addresses reading and writing. If that’s the case, there is probably a writing piece that goes along with it. Using this program will give you assignments and strategies to help improve student writing if used correctly. 

  1. Set a high standard for written work, and hold students accountable for meeting that standard. 

As touched on earlier, using rubrics is a great way to grade work consistently. Rubrics are also helpful to hold students accountable for the standard of written work in your classroom. Another way to help students meet high standards is to give them time in the writing process. Revising drafts and meeting with peers to edit takes time. If you don’t give them that time, it will be very difficult for students to make the improvements they need. 

  1. Encourage students to read widely, and to think critically about what they read. 

Reading gives students the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills. It’s important to remind students that when they are reading, they need to ask themselves why what they are reading is good. This question allows them to think about writing at a much deeper level. If students come upon a word or phrase they aren’t familiar with, encourage them to write it down and look it up.

  1. Help students develop their ideas through brainstorming and outlining. 

Brainstorming will help students develop more ideas. Having more ideas will help students create a more in depth piece of writing. Some common brainstorming strategies are listing, clustering, and freewriting. Outlining will help them put the ideas they generate into a cohesive or logical order. 

  1. Utilize technology to help students with their writing, such as spell-checking programs and grammar-checking programs. 

Tools like Grammarly island other proofreading technologiescan help students improve their writing. They can use the editor on the website to upload any document they have on their computer, or they can download the app for Google docs and edit as they type. Hemingway Editor will help students make their writing clear and concise. It works best for shorter pieces of writing, but can be useful for longer pieces as well. 

For 5th-12th-grade  teachers, WriteRightNow provides a robust and customizable writing prompt and feedback libraries, that reduce the labor involved with grading.

  1. Assign writing projects that are interesting and engaging, and that are relevant to the course material.

Design writing projects that are more engaging to your students. Attach supplementary materials to deepen student understanding and help them create better written works. Add in different types of assignments such as responding to current events or subjects students are interested in. Another way to increase engagement is to give less specific instructions. This will let students have more freedom in their writing.

Check out what other teachers are doing once you get signed up for WriteRightNow via its customizable witing prompt and streamlined grading tools.
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