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.