Layer 2: Writing and Studying

The readings provided a diverse group of examples of how writing can be better used in the content area classroom.  I was interested in the way the textbook put it in chapter 9: not only can you learn to write, but you can also write to learn.  In my classroom, I hope that both of those two things happen.

Something I’ve always known that I want to do is have my students write in academic journals during the class period.  I think that writing without necessarily taking the piece through the writing process can be a great way to digest thinking while getting practice with writing.  I hadn’t thought much about the many different ways I could use those journals, though.  I particularly liked idea of also using them as response journals while they read, which would help with comprehension as well as serve as notes to spur on classroom discussion.  The key is, as the text points out, not to tear apart their journals for mechanics or spelling errors; the journals will be purely a process thoughts and play with words.

I also plan to explicitly teach many of the study skills outlined in chapter 10.  I think the key to functional literacy in today’s society is metacognition, so explicit instruction about these skills is crucial.  For example, talking about text structure and clues to help us figure it out can teach students to map their own thinking.  If we can come up with lists of words that signify transitions to a different structural component, students can more easily think of the text as a whole.

Another way to use writing to enhance learning is to have students write autobiographically, as the Spires article suggests.  “By creating classroom conditions that teach students to acknowledge what they already know and hold it sacred as they learn to negotiate new academic environments, we affirm that our students’ lives, their knowledge, and their language are legitimate and valued” (Spires 297).  When students feel like they have something valuable to say, they are more likely to say something.  Writing autobiographically promotes students’ sense of self-efficacy, which is linked to motivation.  There are many times when I plan to ask students to write autobiographically.  Activities like the “Where I’m From” poem, bookcasts, and journal responses allow students to interact with language to express their own selves.  I plan on using these activities, among others, to foster literacy in my classroom.

Just like reading should be scaffolded, as we’ve discussed in previous CCIs, so should writing.  Wray and Lewis point out the  value of having students write various forms of nonfiction in the classroom to support learning, but they suggest an apprenticeship-style teacher-student relationship along with writing frames to help.  Writing frames are skeleton outlines designed to help students structure their nonfiction writing.  The authors write, “not only do writing frames help students become familiar with unfamiliar genres, but they also help students overcome many of the other problems often associated with nonfiction writing” (Wray & Lewis).  If we are to use writing in the classroom to enhance learning and comprehension, as we should, we need to scaffold that writing just as we do reading.  RCA2011.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Layer 2: Writing and Studying

  1. I like that you want to use journals instead of note taking but how can you determine if the journal content is accurate based on the lesson you are teaching??? I think a double journal entry would be a great way for your students to journal on one side and then guided information on the other.

    Students definitely want to be valued, each one thinks that they are “one of a kind”, and in essence they are. Having autobiographically written work allows those students to have a POV and create a unique written work.

  2. I agree with your statement that you hope to foster both learning to write and writing to learn in your classroom. I hope to do the same thing. It is true that writing something down helps us lock it in our memory and with continued exposure to the process of writing, hopefully we as educators will promote a sense of self-confidence in our young writers. Another point you mention is being careful not to be overly critical in our critique of certain forms of student writing. As I mention in my blog, this is an area I need to consciously work on. But having a “safe” place to record their ideas is a valuable tool for promoting literacy. Thanks for your post!

  3. joebeazy

    I also use journals in my class and have found them a good way to get students to think critically and work on their typing skills. Sometimes we use our journals as discussion to have students open their minds and share ideas with each other. I even use some of the journals to write autobiographically and spark that interest in writing by using their life and experiences. I too believe that writing, just as in reading, should be scaffold to increase student learning.

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