As talked about in Caitlin and Jessie’s blogs, I, too, decided to “enter the conversation” and get some ideas from fellow classmates. After checking out the blogs of my peers, I found Diane’s latest blog on Writing Across the Curriculum very interesting. As mentioned, we discussed this controversial topic as a whole in our LLED 411 class. Like she said, one issue I’m worried about is crossing into someone else’s territory. I found Diane’s idea of how to make suggestions, using moodle and/or pickle, to fellow teachers very beneficial.

When responding to the idea of WAC, I took a different point of view than most of the other students in my class. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for WAC, but I think that if it isn’t done properly, it could have a negative effect. I feel that if students are forced to write research papers and essays in science or social studies classes, they could easily get burned out. By forcing them to write in a formal style about topics they may not be interested in, they could run away in the opposite direction. I would like to see WAC in place that encourages creative writing. For example, during class, Elizabeth talked about a friend of hers who had some kind of science class. The teacher incorporated writing through a Sci-Fi short story assignment, and in that assignment, the students were required to use certain vocabulary terms and definitions. That is why I’m dedicating this blog to giving suggestions on how to implement WAC properly.

So how am I “entering the conversation”? I’m going to answer the following questions using information I’ve found from online resources.

What exactly is Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)?

Writing Across the Curriculum is the practice of writing across the academic board, or in other words, the incorporation of writing into subjects other than English.

What are the different kinds?
There are two types–Writing in the Disciplines and Writing to Learn

Definitions from one source:

“Writing in the Disciplines (WID): Writing in the disciplines is premised on the idea that students become better readers, thinkers, and learners in a discipline by working with the forms and conventions specific to it. A biology teacher might ask students to write lab reports, for example, while an art teacher might assign artists’ statements or gallery reviews. Journalistic articles, business plans, memos, and oral histories are additional examples of genres common to particular fields.”

“Writing to Learn (WTL): Rejecting the notion that writing serves primarily to translate what is known onto the page, advocates of writing to learn suggest teachers use writing to help students discover new knowledge—to sort through previous understandings, draw connections, and uncover new ideas as they write (NWP & Nagin, 2003). WTL activities may also be used to encourage reflection on learning strategies and improve students’ meta cognitive skills. Examples, … include journals, learning logs, and entrance/exit slips.”

Here are definitions from a different source:

“Writing in the Disciplines (WID) This approach recognizes that each discipline has its own unique language conventions, format, and structure. In other words, the style, organization, and format that is acceptable in one discipline may not be at all acceptable in another. WID believes that to participate successfully in the academic discourse of their community, students must be taught discipline-specific conventions and should practice using these conventions. Some common WID assignments are reports, literature reviews, project proposals, and lab reports. WID assignments can also be combined with WTL activities to help students think through key concepts, ideas, and language of in their disciplines.”

“Writing to Learn (WTL) This pedagogical approach values writing as a method of learning. When students write reactions to information received in class or in reading, they often comprehend and retain the information better. Writing can also help students work through confusing new ideas and apply what they learn to their own lives and interests. Also, because students write more frequently, they become more comfortable with writing and are able to maintain or even improve upon their writing skills. WTL assignments are typically short and informal and can be performed either in or out of class. Examples include writing and reading journals, summaries, response papers, learning logs, problem analyses, and more.”

What are the benefits of WAC?

  • improved writing skills
  • improved thinking skills
  • having an understanding of content
  • improved literacy
  • impressive positive correlation between the frequency of informative writing assessments and academic achievement in every subject area
  • deepened comprehension
  • able to analyze and synthesize knowledge
  • improved communication

What are some assignments or ideas on how to implement this technique in secondary schools?

Quick Writes
These are short pieces of writing designed to focus students’ thinking.
Teachers can use quick writes to:

  • assess prior knowledge before instruction in order to set the stage for new information. Read these “Entrance Slips” anonymously before instruction to set the stage for new ideas. (create a list of keywords, a list of questions, 3 things I know/don’t know)
  • give students time to write briefly on the day’s topic before contributing to class discussions.
  • pause in the middle of instruction to check for understanding, or to make connections and predictions. (paraphrase, ask a question)
  • summarize main points, form opinions, or reflect on what was learned after instruction. (“Exit Slip” 3-Things I Learned, 2- Things I Wonder About, 1- Thing I Could Teach Someone Else)

Evaluation tips:

  • First, model “incomplete”, “adequate”, and “excellent” responses (check minus, check, check plus). Look for content, quantity, appropriateness, elaboration, etc.
  • Assess as complete/incomplete, correct/incorrect, or trade for peer review.
  • Evaluate content only, never for grammar.

Journals or Learning Logs
Journals and logs give students an informal place to explore and interact with class content.

Students can:

  • summarize newly acquired knowledge.
  • write vocabulary terms in your own words.
  • define what was most interesting or confusing.
  • create a list of questions or possible topics for future research.
  • explain math or science problems or terms in writing.
  • make connections (between new information and prior knowledge, experiences, or opinions).
  • write your own study or test questions (trade for peer response).

Evaluation tips:

  • Define grading requirements. Well-kept journals could be a boost to the final grade or could be given a test grade status.
  • Choose only one part to grade at a time.
  • Use notebooks or loose leaf binders to hold work.
  • Respond to entries; highlight insights; comment in margins.
  • Write to content-focused prompts for homework.
  • Take notes during lectures.

Double-Entry Explorations
These are more involved journal entries, in which the paper is divided into two columns.

On opposing sides of the column students can:

  • list math problems, theories, science experiments, vocabulary words, student or teacher generated questions, drawings, copied or summarized passages from text, etc.
  • explain importance, draw connections, make applications to real life, solve problems, create a running list of questions, re-write in their own words, etc.

Journal Evaluation Tips:

  • Define grading requirements. Well-kept journals could be a boost to final grade or could be a given test grade status.
  • Evaluate content only, never for grammar.
  • Collect a different half or third of your students’ journals at a time.
  • Consider using a loose-leaf binder to more easily collect writing.
  • Ask students to highlight favorite entries before turning in journals.
  • Occasionally respond with your own writing or comments. Use different color highlights for most thoughtful entries, ideas for possible exploration, or needs more attention.

**information found at
http://www.thewritingsite.org/resources/curriculum/ideas612.asp

List of websites used during my research:
http://www.thewritingsite.org/resources/curriculum/default.asp
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/671/1/
http://courses.durhamtech.edu/tlc/www/html/Resources/writing_across_curriculum/writingcurriculuma.htm

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