Who Owns the Writing Instruction?

Who Owns the Writing Instruction?

Overview

With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, The Next Generation Science Standards, and the C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards, many middle and high schools require their content teachers to teach writing within their discipline area, often resulting in role confusion, anxiety, and resistance.

“Teaching writing” – the job of the ELA faculty - is confused with “Teaching How to Write like a Historian, a Scientist, a Mathematician . . .”  - the job of the content faculty. Because content faculty are not usually trained in composition pedagogy, they may avoid writing instruction or worse – actually damage young writers by offering misguided instruction in mechanics and grammar.

Content faculty may be familiar with the writing conventions of their particular discipline. With raised awareness of their expertise and by identifying the rhetorical characteristics of their subject area, content faculty can learn instructional skills to support writing across the curriculum.

As a K-12 informational resource, the librarian holds a key position to raise awareness, reduce role confusion, provide instructional references, and improve writing school-wide. This module prepares pre-service librarians to understand and provide information to rectify the confusion of writing instruction across the secondary curriculum.

Preparation

Faculty can best prepare by researching issues surrounding the transition to writing across the curriculum. An excellent resource for teaching writing across the curriculum is Benjamin, A. (2005). Writing in the content areas. Eye on Education: Larchmont, NY.

At the end of this module, completers will demonstrate the following understandings:

1.      All subject areas need to teach writing.

2.      ELA faculty has specific knowledge, skills, and responsibility for composition instruction.

3.      Each discipline has its own writing conventions.

4.      Subject-area teachers have responsibility to teach the writing conventions of their discipline.

5.    Subject-area teachers can benefit by a) the clarification of their instructional role, b) awareness of their discipline’s writing conventions, c) instructional resources particular to their field.

6.      School Librarians have the skills and resources to raise awareness and provide instructional resources and assistance to help subject-area teachers with effective writing instruction.

7.      Adult learning theory informs effectiveness of professional development.

Prepare candidates for the module by re-framing and communicating the information from the Instructor's Overview to establish a purpose for completing the module in order to build the understandings listed above. 

Instructor Notes:

This module is designed as a framework for one week of instruction. Instructors should note that as a framework, the module can be developed and extended to two or three weeks. Suggestions for further development:

After the first discussion board assignment, students could further explore the relationship between math/science content writing and ELA standards using the Venn Diagram found at NGSS@NSTA (n.d) “Commonalities among the practices in science, mathematics, and English language arts.” Based on work by Tina Chuek. ell.stanford.edu. Retrieved on October 31, 2016 from http://nstahosted.org/pdfs/ngss/PracticesVennDiagram.pdf

The assignment for the summative PD tool can be enriched and expanded in several ways. For instance, all content-based writing instruction requires the use of evidence. Librarian candidates could be required to add information and resources to support pedagogy for the styles of using evidence particular to each discipline, including citing and referencing. Similarly, all content writing requires two forms of exposition: argument and informational; the assignment could be enriched to include requirements to address these areas.

The module could extend beyond the construction of the PD tool by having candidates create lesson plans for informational support sessions to hold with content faculty to facilitate their discussion and exploration of resources. The support sessions would have the same learning objectives as the informational tool activity and be able to use the same rubric with small modifications.

Actually, what does the Common Core say about who teaches writing?

This task asks candidates to examine various artifacts guiding writing instruction. From this, they will participate in a discussion board to identify the role of ELA teachers in comparison with content teachers and the content of their writing instruction.

Formative assessment of the learning objectives can be measured by the information provided in their discussion board posts and responses. Summative assessment will be measured in the final informational artifact.

For this assignment, examine various artifacts related to writing instruction and participate in a Discussion Forum.

At the end of this task, you will understand:

1.      All subject areas need to teach writing.

2.      ELA faculty has specific knowledge, skills, and responsibility for composition instruction.

3.      Each discipline has its own writing conventions.

Instructions:

Read and consider the resources below. Use the focus questions to guide your thinking about the resources. Jot down your bulleted thoughts in response to the focus questions.
 

1.      Look at the Common Core State Standards. Examine the Common Core State Standards for ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS for Writing (pp. 41 – 47) and Language (pp. 51 – 56.) Then examine the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (pp. 63 – 66). View the documents side-by-side to compare.

Focus Question – What are the similarities in both sets of Standards? What do the ELA Standards contain that is different that the Standards for History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects? What are the implications for writing instruction in the different subject areas?

2.      Examine the Vallenti syllabus and table of contents in the Hacker and Summers (2016) textbook (pp. 2 – 3) for a typical course in freshmen composition. On the Amazon page, scroll down to read the author bios. Note - you do not need to purchase this text. 

Focus Question – What is the content of this course? How is composition an academic discipline unto itself?

3.      Look at the Next Generation Science Standards and the C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards. Notice the crosswalks between the CCSS Writing Standards.

Focus Question - What is the role of writing instruction in these Standards? What are these Standards asking of Science and Social Studies Teachers?

4.      In your school, find and read the same-grade curricula for ELA, Social Science/History, and Science.

Focus Question – Are there similarities in the content of the different curricula? If so, what are they? What would you say is the main difference?

Discussion Forum: Considering Composition

The objectives of this discussion forum are:

1.      Hold students accountable to the assigned reading and thinking

2.      Structuring student thinking to articulate understandings about the differences in the writing instruction requirements for ELA faculty and content faculty.

3.      Understand that content teachers are not being asked to teach composition.

At the end of this task, you will understand:

1. There are differences between the writing instruction curriculum for ELA teachers and subject-area teachers.

2. ELA teachers are required to provide instruction in composition - writing as the subject area in itself.

3. Subject-area teachers are required to provide instruction in the kind of writing particular to their discipline.

4. Content area teachers are not required to teach composition.

Consider the following:

How would you define the writing instruction required of an ELA teacher? How would you describe the writing instruction required of a content area teacher? What is the difference?

In two to three well-developed paragraphs using a collegial tone and any necessary education terminology, explain your thinking regarding writing instruction. Please cite the references from your reading in your response. Please post by ____________.

Read over your colleagues’ posts and respond authentically to at least two of your peers. Your response should be at least one paragraph (written in a collegial tone) and related to your colleague’s post. Use any necessary educational terminology. Include questions and/or comments expressing your interest/questions/viewpoint, etc. to raise the level of the conversation and add to the groups’ thinking. Please post your response by ____.

 

 

Learning the Role of the School Librarian; Researching Writing Samples

In this task, candidates will find various discipline-related writing samples, work through an exercise to notice and articulate discipline-related rhetorical styles, and demonstrate their understanding through finding a sample and labeling its rhetorical characteristics.

Targeted understandings for this task are:

1.      Each discipline has its own writing conventions.

2.      Subject-area teachers need the knowledge and to teach the writing conventions of their discipline.

3.      Subject-area teachers can benefit by clarification of their instructional role and awareness of the writing conventions and instructional resources particular to their field.

4.      A team approach to writing across the disciplines supports content area teachers as they build confidence and skills in writing instruction.

5.      Library Media Specialists are especially placed to partner with content area teachers as writing co-teachers by offering samples, pedagogical resources, and the understanding of the difference between composition and discipline-related writing.

For this task, students will create a graphic explicating the discipline-related conventions. Set up an online mechanism for them to post and share their graphics.

Assign the following subject areas: math, social science, history, science, technical and vocational subjects.

As a follow up, host a screen share conference call for candidates to analyze each other’s graphics. (freeconferencecall.com offers this service for free). Lead the discussion to help candidates identify characteristics of the subject areas, particularly math, science, and social studies. Within the discussion, pose these questions: Why would subject area teachers have the knowledge of the conventions in their discipline’s writing? Why would it be their responsibility to teach those particular characteristics? How would they acquire the skills to teach these conventions?

Note: if this conversation needs to happen in writing, change the assignment to a discussion board assignment asking students to consider the questions above.

Formative assessment of the learning objectives will be labels in their graphic, student responses in the class discussion or the written discussion board. Summative assessment of these understandings will occur in the final instructional artifact.

At the end of this task, you will understand the following:

1. Each discipline has its own particular writing conventions and textual characteristics.

2. Subject-area teachers need to know these particular discipline-related conventions in order to include them as part of their writing instruction.

3. Because of their understanding of resources and texts, librarians can improve subject-area writing instruction by raising awareness of discipline-related conventions and providing instructional resources.

 

ELA teachers have writing as part of their content. Other disciplines have their subject area content, some of which involves writing. Historians write differently than scientists who write differently from mathematicians. Each discipline has its own particular conventions and stylistic markers useful for communicating its content.

So what makes a historian’s writing different from a biologist’s? From a mathematicians? From an economists? And how can the school librarian support historians to teach writing like a historian?

For this assignment, your will begin to understand librarians as a resource and partner for content area teachers’ writing instruction. Read several discipline-related texts to understand the different styles and conventions for different subject areas. Your faculty will assign a subject area. Consider what you can do for and with writing across the disciplines in your school.

1.      Read the AASL brief on the Role of School Librarians in Implementing the Common Core. Informally summarize your understanding of your role in supporting writing instruction for content area faculty. Use this summary as a resource for your work on this assignment. (Although you will not submit this summary, you will need it as a reference to complete the summative assignment.)

2.      Find some examples of the writing used in the subject area assigned by your faculty. Look at math books, science articles, history resources, etc. Find samples at various grade levels. Ask your content-area colleagues for examples of the type of writing typical in their subject area. What were some of the things they read in their content courses in college?

3.      Carefully analyze the examples using the question guide found in the resources below.

4.      Get online and research various resources providing instruction in specific discipline-related writing. Evaluate these resources. Compare the information with what you noticed from your own analysis.

5.      Create a graphic using a particular subject-area writing sample. In this graphic, identify, label, and explain particular traits, styles, and conventions of the discipline evident in this sample. To get you started, look at the exemplar in your resources below. Yours does not need to look exactly like the exemplar, but it has to achieve the same communication as the exemplar: someone looking at your graphic will know the characteristics of that discipline’s writing style. 

6.      Post your graphic to share with your colleagues.

7.      Examine your colleague’s graphics. Be ready to participate in a (video) discussion (board) to build understanding about subject area writing instruction.

Creating an Informational Tool about Writing Instruction for Content Area Teachers

With this task, candidates use the understandings about the writing instruction required of subject area teachers and the characteristics of that writing to create a product to raise awareness of the content area teachers about their responsibility for subject-area writing instruction and the particular writing conventions of their discipline.

Put another way, social scientist teachers need to teach how to write like a social scientist. Math teachers need to teach how to write like a mathematician. What do subject-area teachers need to help them out with writing instruction?

Summative assessment of understanding of learning objectives will be measured using the attached rubric.

At the completion of this assignment, you will understand:

1.      All subject areas need to teach writing.

2.      ELA faculty has specific knowledge, skills, and responsibility for composition instruction.

3.      Each discipline has its own writing conventions.

4.      Subject-area teachers have the responsibility to teach the writing conventions of their discipline.

5.      Subject-area teachers can benefit by a) the clarification of their instructional role, b) awareness of their discipline’s writing conventions, c) instructional resources particular to their field.

6.      School Librarians have the skills and resources to raise awareness and provide instructional resources and assistance to help subject-area teachers with effective writing instruction.

7.      Adult learning theory informs effectiveness of professional development.

In this assignment, you will create a reference tool for your subject-area colleagues to help them understand the kind of writing instruction they must offer and the resources to help them carry it out.

Read a few brief articles online about the characteristics of adult learners. You will find they start to repeat themselves; from these characteristics, you’ll get the general idea of how you’ll need to structure your artifact.

Keeping these learning characteristics in mind, create a brochure, web-page, or other accessible informational artifact you could use with colleagues to help them learn why and how to teach writing in their content area. Structure your artifact so faculty can use it independently or with you as a co-teacher. As a co-teacher, your role would be to provide teachers with instructional/referential resources and to coach students as they learn to use the written conventions in the subject-area. Teachers working without your co-teaching need to be able to benefit from the informational artifact independently.

Your informational tool will have the following components:

1.      Rationale for teaching writing in the content areas

2.      Clarification of difference between writing ELA writing curriculum and subject area writing curriculum.

3.      Information clarifying characteristics of various subject-related writing. (Hint, take advantage of the graphics you and your colleagues created. No one said you couldn’t share resources you’ve created. . .)

4.      Lists of recommended resources for information on writing instruction pedagogy for math, social science, history, science, technical and vocational subjects.

5.      Suggestions and examples of instructional activities teachers could use to build student subject-area writing skills.

 

Your informational tool will have the following characteristics:

1.      Evidence of attention to the characteristics of adult learners

2.      Inviting appearance and tone

3.      Clear, concise writing

4.      High quality, vetted resources

5.      Teacher-friendly resources: practical, quick, easily-applicable, concrete

6.      Error-free presentation – accurate citing, adherence to APA writing conventions and mechanics

7.      Capability of building understanding within ten minutes

8.      Easy for faculty to access

Note: see rubric to understand the quality expected of these components and characteristics.