Friday, May 21, 2010

Ideas for Increasing Writing in Class

This week, I attended the TOT ELA EOC exam. Ok, for those of you (like my husband) who may not know what that means, it is the Training of Trainers for the English Language Arts End of Course exam. This test will replace the TAKS test. I came away with my head spinning, mostly thinking about how English teachers can prepare their students for this test. I came across this page titled
"Using Writing in Mathematics" The light-bulb went off...these ideas and strategies can be adapted to fit any subject. I will reflect on the ELA slant...

I will mention my favorite ideas listed on this site.

1. Begin with affective, open-ended questions about students' feelings.

Sample Direction #1: Reflect on your participation in class today and complete the following statements:
I learned that I...
I was surprised that I...
I noticed that I...
I discovered that I...
I was pleased that I...

Sample Direction #2: Describe how you feel about solving _________ problem.

This could also be modified as a warm-up to class. For example, what have you learned about.....or how do you feel about verbs, writing, reading the classics.

2. Explain/write about key concepts learned in class, before class, or after class...

Sample Directions:

Explain in your own words what subtraction means.
Explain what is most important to understand about fractions.

Here are a few more oriented for English class:

"Explain what is a verb." "Explain what is most important about writing an introductory paragraph.."

This article also had neat ways of using writing with group work or team work.

3. As student writing progresses, ask students to write about their small group work.

  • Ask the group to write a summary of how they reached a solution, including any "false starts" or "dead ends."
  • Ask each individual to write an explanation of the group's work on a problem. Have the small groups discuss the individual explanations.
  • After a small group assignment, have students "explain and illustrate two different approaches to solving a problem."

The solution written about could be any type of open ended question. For example, who is a better leader in our story Lord of the Flies at this point? Or do you think Romeo and Juliet's plan will work? Or, how can Brutus gain more power away from Mark Anthony?

Bottom line...think of clever ways to increase writing in the classroom. Writing doesn't have to be a formal paper that takes days or weeks to produce. It can (and should be) a daily assignment that students can enjoy and use as a vehicle for learning!


  1. I think encouraging (requiring?) writing in all subjects is a great way to get students involved, thinking, and doing even more learning. You cover some great writing prompts and ideas in this post. Here are some other ideas for writing prompts and ways to use technology to encourage writing across the curriculum too:

  2. The increase in writing opportunities is a good one, so is an increase in reflection on learning. This is a winning combination in any classroom! Great suggestions fleshing out what it actually looks like.