Writing Across the Curriculum: Why to do it, Reason #1

In my previous post, I talked about the induction program I am currently doing through the Claremont Graduate University school of education. One of the things I would like to do in this blog is discuss some of the teaching strategies I am learning about in this program. In this post, I would like to introduce Writing Across the Curriculum and discuss one of the reasons WAC is a valuable practice to implement in schools.

Writing Across the Curriculum is a set of teaching practices guided by the idea that writing across the disciplines enhances student learning (Michigan Department of Education). According to the Michigan Department of Education:

  • Writing promotes learning.
  • Integration of writing and the writing process promotes student participation, a diversity of student voices, and engages students as critical thinkers while promoting their texts as important resources and thinking tools.
  • Effective writing instruction integrates disciplines.
  • The opportunity to write in every class develops good writers.
  • Using writing as part of instruction can be used in every classroom.
  • Only by practicing the thinking and writing conventions of an academic discipline will students begin to communicate effectively within that discipline.

The basic idea is that writing is such an important part of learning that it should be included as an integral part of all subjects, not just language arts classes.

In my experience, many subject teachers are resistant to the idea that every teacher should be teaching writing. I can understand why. Teachers already have so much on their plates; how are they supposed to also be responsible for this incredible task of teaching writing? And I will be the first to say that it is my job (the English teacher) to teach students how to write. It is my job to teach them all the skills that come with using the writing process and conducting research. It is my job to teach them how to write essays and how to master skills such as paraphrase and summary. I will work my hardest to do that. But the reality of today is that if we are going to prepare students who have the abilities necessary to succeed in this 21st century world, we need to make them write as much as possible.

There are so many reasons writing should be taught across the disciplines. To me, the most obvious reason is that we now live in a world that immerses us in texts. We encounter texts on a daily basis as we read and search the internet. We create texts in the form of presentations at work, not to mention all of the writing done in business settings such as reports, memos, and proposals. Not everyone is going to be a writer as a profession, but so many professions require the skill of writing. By using writing more in all the school subjects, students will be presented with a more relevant learning experience since this is what they can expect in their future after they graduate from school. This is my first reason for why WAC should be incorporated across the disciplines:

Writing in disciplines such as math, history, science and others gives students experience practicing professional forms of writing that they are most likely to have to do in their futures.

Language arts writing is so important to the development of students’ thinking skills. The ability to synthesize information comes from practicing the writing skill of summarizing. The ability to present a logical argument comes from practicing outlining and essay organization. The ability to take creative risks comes from practicing creative writing tasks such as story telling and poetry. Practicing these skills takes up much of our time in language arts classes. Unfortunately, time is limited, so we do not get to devote a lot of time to practicing forms of writing like reports (such as lab and field reports), proposals, pamphlets, memos, and journal articles. However, I believe that students will be more successful when they leave school if they have some experience practicing these forms of professional and business writing. There are many opportunities in other subjects to create tasks that require students to practice these forms of writing. In addition to giving students practice in real-world forms of writing, these types of tasks also help to create a meaningful context for learning subjects such as math, science, history and other disciplines. If we can create tasks modeled after real world situations, learning will feel more relevant to students; it will be easier to answer the question: what is the point of learning this?

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