Ernest Hemmingway was once asked what frightened him the most, and he replied, "A blank sheet of paper" (Schmidt, 2004). Mr. Hemmingway possessed powerful writing skills, yet he feared the blank page. It is understandable that some students, particularly those with limited writing skills, face the same fear when asked to complete writing tasks.
What makes these tasks daunting is the increased demand for written communication. Our reliance on technology for communication, specifically email and faxes, requires students to be proficient with written communication as never before (Chapman & King, 2003). Indeed, writing has become a way of life in school, in social settings, and in the work place. Research on literacy supports that content area instruction that integrates writing improves literacy for students at all ability levels (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000). Teachers in all academic areas must integrate writing instruction into essential content instruction. This can be challenging for both teachers and students.
For teachers incorporating writing into their content material the following approach may be helpful (Chapman & King, 2003; Gravois & Gickling, 2003; Wood & Harmon, 2001).
Take inventory of your feelings and beliefs about teaching writing
Create a climate for writing
Know the writer(s)
Use written products to authentically assess student understanding of content essential knowledge
Use written products to authentically assess student understanding of the writing domains (See Instructional Strategies That Support Authentic Assessment Within the Domains of Writing [pdf])
Differentiate writing instruction to improve writing skills and understanding of essential content. (See Instructional Strategies That Support Authentic Assessment Within the Domains of Writing [pdf])
Writing skills may be taught to a variety of learners at both the elementary and secondary instructional levels across all academic areas. Teachers who use this approach experience positive student outcomes, including the following:
Students demonstrate the degree of their understanding of what has been taught based on the content of their written products.
Students learn to manipulate words to form complete sentences that demonstrate an understanding of the text.
Written responses give students the opportunity to use key vocabulary from the text to increase vocabulary development.
Students learn to reference the text in order to retrieve examples as support for statements and opinions.
Students learn, review, and apply spelling, capitalization, and punctuation rules.
Written language skills are critical for mastering essential content in each academic area. Teachers must be deliberate, analytical, strategic, sensitive, and creative in their quest to integrate writing into their content area instruction.
Chapman, C., & King, R. (2003). Differentiated instructional strategies for writing in the content areas. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
Gravois, T., & Gickling, E. (2003). Instructional consultation team manual. College Park, MD: University of Maryland.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the national reading panel: Teaching children to read: Findings and determinations of the national reading panel by topic areas. Retrieved July 11, 2003, from http://nichd.nih.gov/publications/nrp/findings.htm
Schmidt, L. (2004). Is there a Hemingway in the house? Educational Leadership, 64, 42-45.
Wood, K. D., & Harmon, J. M. (2001). Strategies for integrating reading & writing in middle and high school classrooms. Westerville, OH: National Middle School Association.
See Instructional Strategies That Support Authentic Assessment Within the Domains of Writing [pdf]for additional resources and strategies.
Date: November/December 2006