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Clint Heitz

ASCD Express 13.16 - The Keys to Content-Area Writing: Short, Frequent, and Shared - 17 views

  • Examine your students' background knowledge on a new topic of study by asking them to write about it. Pass out index cards and instruct students to fill only one side with their related thoughts and experiences. Provide a minute to write followed by a minute to discuss their ideas with a nearby partner. Collect the cards and set them aside until the end of the unit. Then, ask students to revisit their original notes and, on the backs of their cards, describe how their thinking has expanded or changed on this issue. The initial card writing gives you an insight into background knowledge, while the final card writing offers students insight into their thinking and learning.
  • If we continue to believe that we must collect and grade every piece of student writing, our exhaustion will result in students writing far less. Sure, if necessary, we can award points, checks, or stamps, but these should simply be records of whether the students gave a good-faith effort (full credit) or not (no credit), not grades that attempt to assess the writing (Vopat, 2009).
  • Offer students an intriguing content-area prompt. For example, if the topic was e-waste, you might ask students to write about the importance of e-devices in their own lives or you might project a photograph of a mountain of discarded, obsolete cell phones. Let students think and write for a minute or two. Then, working with a partner, have each student read aloud what they wrote and discuss their ideas. Another very social writing activity is written conversation. Starting in groups of three or four, students silently respond to a content-related prompt, writing for several minutes until most class members have about a third or half a page of writing. Then, within the group, students pass their papers to their right. Now, each student must read the previous writer's thoughts and expand the conversation by exploring ideas and asking questions. After a few minutes of writing, papers are passed again, and the conversation continues to blossom as more and more ideas and responses are added. When the paper returns to the owner after several passes, each student gets to read a very interesting conversation that began with their initial written response. Of course, this written conversation could continue as an out-loud discussion, as well.
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  • If you want students to be better readers, writers, and thinkers in every content area, then writing every day in every class is key. Be sure to make that informal and spontaneous writing short, frequent, and shared.
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    "Examine your students' background knowledge on a new topic of study by asking them to write about it. Pass out index cards and instruct students to fill only one side with their related thoughts and experiences. Provide a minute to write followed by a minute to discuss their ideas with a nearby partner. Collect the cards and set them aside until the end of the unit. Then, ask students to revisit their original notes and, on the backs of their cards, describe how their thinking has expanded or changed on this issue. The initial card writing gives you an insight into background knowledge, while the final card writing offers students insight into their thinking and learning."
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