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Writing Across Curriculum - How Exactly?


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How do I implement this without overdoing it?
How much writing should be done per course? Per semester? 
What are some good strategies for working this into a homemade course?  
How do I know what is age-appropriate?
I loved Writing Revolution but failed at implementing it. At least I think I did. Are there any other books that might help? I have the WTM Instructor Text. 
My kids are going to be in 8th and 9th but I’m sure this could help elementary-age students as well.  

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I do it by following someone else's recommendations and then adjusting to fit my child. I really like SWB's and Karen Glass's approach to writing, so I sort of mash those two together. I schedule three or four days of writing per week and then my kids pick the subject they want to write about for those assignments. They can choose from anything they've read in other subjects, like science, history, literature, and sometimes we also make up topics on the fly (especially when learning to write essays). What ends up happening then is that I don't actually schedule a certain amount of writing into a course. It just ends up that as they rotate through subjects, they write something for each course (and it ends up being multiple essays or written narrations per course). Occasionally, I make an exception, like a final essay project in certain courses.

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I try to spread it out so they aren't doing complex writing assignments in multiple subjects at once (don't assign what I don't want to grade)... so if they're doing a big research project which includes a paper in science, they're doing something else in English and history with maybe short topic writing (a paragraph here, an outline there).... and it just sort of rotates around. 

 

We've used WWS1, BW Help for High School and Writing with a Thesis along the way but now (youngest is 10th grade) just content area writing. 

 

Edited because I swear I teach English.

Edited by theelfqueen
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1 minute ago, theelfqueen said:

I try to spread it out so they aren't doing complex writing assignments in multiple subjects at once (dont assign what I dont want to grade)... so if they're doing a big research project which includes a paper in science, they're doing something else in English and history with maybe short topic writing (a paragraph here, an outline there.... and it just sort of rotates around. 

Yes, in 8th or 9th this is what it looks like here mostly. I also try to use WWS around that age, but we don't do it in full in one year. We'll do it for awhile, but when we're doing writing in content subjects or doing more literature for English, then I'll put it aside. 

 

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@Plum We had this conversation about writing back before the world went crazy. I think I could have written your post. I read at least 10 books on writing, teaching writing, writing strategies, etc. I had done half of WWS1 with my 6th grader and I couldnt see the forest for the trees. We stopped for a bit, did some writing Revolution, had him write some essays, etc. But, even though I now felt like I understood the scope and sequence of writing and how to teach it better, it was still just hard for me to fit it all in. I felt like I was always playing catchup and not as prepared as I wanted to be. So we went back to WWS1 and I finally saw where it was going. We finished it out (mostly), I listened to her writing lectures, and realized that WWS is the course I want. Even if I dont like preassigned topics, I also am not interested in designing my own wheel, at least not for the foundational instruction of WWS. I think once we are done with the series, I will be much more inclined to blaze our own trails with guidance from The Lively Art of Writing and Engaging Ideas. 

This coming year, my rising 7th grader is doing WWS2, doing a 2-level outline once a week for history, and doing lab reports for bio. I have spent the past week working out our first quarter schedule and I am finally okay with where we are headed.

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10 hours ago, annegables said:

realized that WWS is the course I want

yeah and for trivia, we did it much *later* and with support, like me highlighting the lessons so she would catch importa t parts, using inspiration software, adding ideasfor AUDIENCE, etc

12 hours ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

agreeing with WTM on short papers per week.

also consider response journals. i did this a lot, sometimes with forms and sometimes a blank notebook. good when need a drip drip of writing for something weekly/bulk like philosophy, lit, or science/essay reading 

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On 7/20/2020 at 9:45 AM, Plum said:

... I loved Writing Revolution but failed at implementing it. At least I think I did. Are there any other books that might help? I have the WTM Instructor Text. 
... My kids are going to be in 8th and 9th...

I've never yet found a book that has most everything I need to teach writing for the middle/high school levels. What I am sharing in this post is from my own figuring it out as I go, plus tidbits from about a dozen different books and writing programs, plus ideas and tips from dozens of websites. (PLUS -- teaching 2 DSs all the way through, and SIX years of fuddling and struggling through teaching dozens of widely-diverse-in-writing-ability students in co-op classes. Trial and error, lol, and I think I'm FINALLY getting a fairly decent grip on teaching writing.)

I don't know your children and their specific abilities/needs with writing, BUT... if I were going to do writing across the curriculum, esp. for the late middle school/early high school ages which is the critical time for solidifying writing skills -- I would start with an overall plan or set of goals for moving forward with writing, plus types of writing assignments I wanted to accomplish, and then plug in the different subject areas as they fit in with the overall writing plan.

So, plan your writing FIRST, and then do specific assignments in different subject areas as they fit in well with your WRITING goals and schedule. 

For example, for the Writing portion of my Lit. & Comp. co-op classes my goals re: assignments is to shoot for:

1. assignments in all 4 areas of writing (Descriptive; Narrative; Expository; Persuasive)

2. assignments of different lengths:
- short (1-3-paragraphs)
- medium (3-5 paragraphs)
- medium-longer (6-8 paragraphs)
- long (3-6+ pages)

3. assignments of different types -- too many to do each of these in a year, so I select from:
- short oral presentation
- short expository (factual) paper with citations
- research paper with citations
- real life writing: resume
- reader response to a prompt question
- descriptive paragraph (+ concept of ordering the paragraph in a logical way)
- narrative essay 
- definition paragraph or short essay
- expository: how to paragraph or essay
- persuasive: cause and effect essay
- persuasive: argumentative essay (I have used old (pre-2016) SAT essay prompts)
- literary analysis: comparison essay
- literary analysis: character analysis essay
- literary analysis: explain a key quotation essay
- literary analysis: discuss a theme or literary elements and how they are at work
- literary analysis: personal application essay

In homeschooling my own DSs, I also included these types of writing assignments:
- public speaking -- doing presentations of various types and lengths
- science lab write-ups
- personal essays (for college admission or scholarship applications)
- paragraph responses about skills/abilities/leadership/extracurriculars in answer to scholarship questions
- debate: how to research/support arguments specifically for bill debate for their YMCA Youth & Gov't participation
- real life: writing: letters of different types:
   cover letter (example: to go with a resume or application)
   formal thank you (ex: for scholarship or help in college advising)
   formal complaint letter (for future, when having to deal with issues of different types)
- real life: presenting information or a plan/idea (for future when at a business meeting)


Another goal I have is to teach (and have students practice through the assignments) the various aspects of writing; examples:
- formatting (I have them use MLA format)
- writing is a multi-step process -- and we go over each step of the writing process in different classes and focus heavily on that aspect in different assignments: brainstorming; organizing; rough draft writing; revision; proof-editing
- paragraph structure and order of sentences (topic sentence; body sentence types (support, detail or explanation, and commentary); concluding sentence)
- essay structure (introduction with thesis; body paragraphs of points to support thesis claim; conclusion)
- thesis statement & its three parts: 1. topic 2. claim about the topic 3. direction (overview of main points of the essay body)
- commentary (sentence in each body paragraph that explains how/why the example supports the paragraph's point)
- concluding commentary (sentence at the end of each body paragraph explaining how/why the paragraph's point supports the thesis claim)
- "hooks" and conclusions
- topic sentence, supporting sentences, and detail/explanation sentences
- transitions
- using annotations as support for a literary analysis essay
- quoting and how to embed quotations within your writing
- plagiarism
- citations (in-text (parenthetical) citations, and a Works Cited page with full citations)
- what are valid/strong sources of research information (and what are sketchy ones, lol)


I also work to make these assignments work as practice for whatever writing topic we are covering in class. Examples:

- write 4 complete sentences, of the 4 type of sentences (declarative, exclamatory, interrogative, imperative)  
(complete sentence starts with capital, subject + predicate and a complete thought, ends with proper punctuation)

- turn choice of 3 annotations into complete sentences
practices annotation of literature, and turning those into complete thoughts that could be used in an essay

- descriptive paragraph; include details that involve at least 3 of the 5 senses
practices including specific details, as well as logical order -- describe from left to right, front to back, inside to outside, or some other logical order

- expository: process paragraph or essay ("how to" -- explain how to do or make something)
focus is on logical order of steps of the process, choice of best details to explain the process, logical order of sentences, and transitions to smooth flow between steps of the process

- reader response (1-paragraph) to a prompt question from the literature
practice having all the parts of a paragraph in correct order (topic sentence, support sentences and detail sentences, commentary sentence, conclusion)

- reader response (3-paragraph) fleshing out a thesis claim (something the student saw in the literature)
practices complete intro, body, concluding paragraphs; practices having a thesis claim (a big idea about the work), and supporting it with examples from the work, and developing commentary sentences to explain how/why the examples support the thesis claim (big idea)

- literary analysis (5+ paragraph)
practices developing an argument of support (thesis directions ) in support to the thesis claim (big idea student saw), about the thesis topic (the work of literature);  practices complete essay structure; can practice using/discussing a variety of literary elements -- discuss a theme; character analysis; comparison; cause and effect; explain a key quotation; result of how several literary elements are working together; etc.

- personal narrative essay
practices developing the story (narration) in support of "what I learned from this episode", which is expressed in the introduction and the conclusion) -- focus on beginning/middle/end, descriptive details; cause and effect connection

- resume
great real life writing; also a good assignment for practicing research and organizing facts (about yourself! 😄 ) and then following up with a short informational paper or research paper

- expository: short informational (factual) paper -- great assignment for practicing beginning in-text citations and Works Cited page; also great for practicing paraphrasing (writing in own words), and embedding quotations

- expository: research paper with citations -- one of the weeks I have them do the Works Cited page as the assignment to turn in, so they get all the bugs of formatting worked out; also a good assignment for practicing in-text citations -- when to use them and what do they look like

- revision
assign one of the past, longer papers for the student to re-work, using your feedback to guide them

 

On 7/20/2020 at 9:45 AM, Plum said:

What are some good strategies for working this into a homemade course? 

I'd first figure out where we were in my overall writing plan and what types of assignments would work well for us at that stage, and then look at each school subject and at the wide variety of writing assignments, and match up those that most naturally fit well together for a natural outgrowth of writing as part of the subject. Examples:

English
- literature: reader responses, from prompts, or from student's insights/discoveries
- literature: literary analysis essays of various types
- various essays: argumentative, personal/narrative, timed test essays, college admissions/scholarship application essays
- journalism/blog writing, if student is interested
- creative writing, if student is interested
- technical writing, if student is interested

Math (a bit tougher for writing to flow naturally out of straight up math textbooks)
- oral presentation ??
- possibly included in a Science fair paper as part of the presentation ??
- informational papers with citations -- on mathematician, development of a mathematical process, or historical aspect ??

Science
- lab report
- full-length Science fair paper as part of the presentation
- oral presentation
- informational papers with citations
- research paper with citations
- argumentative: cause and effect
- technical writing

Social Studies -- History, Geography, Government, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, etc.
- oral presentation
- informational papers with citations
- research paper with citations
- argumentative essays of various types
- cause and effect essay
- comparison essay
- definition essay

Foreign Language
- oral presentation
- informational papers with citations
- research paper with citations
- comparison essay
if fluent in the language and reading literature in the language:
- reader responses, from prompts, or from student's insights/discoveries
- literary analysis essays of various types

Fine Arts
- oral presentation
- process paper ("how to")
- informational papers with citations
- research paper with citations
- comparison essay
if doing an "appreciation" course, as in Film Appreciation:
- viewer responses, from prompts, or from student's insights/discoveries
- cinematic analysis essays of various types

Electives:
- oral presentation
- process ("how to") papers
- informational papers with citations
- research paper with citations
- possibly: argumentative essays, cause and effect papers, etc.
- possibly: technical writing
- possibly: real-life writing
 

On 7/20/2020 at 9:45 AM, Plum said:

How do I implement this without overdoing it?
How much writing should be done per course? Per semester? 

re: how to NOT overdo it
Well, I went for time, not # of assignments. So I shot for 30-45 min/session, 4 sessions/week. We worked until the assignment was completed -- that might be 1 day, or 1 week, or 8 weeks. And that yielded the amount of completed assignments that was a fit for each student.

I just readjusted here and there as needed -- added a short assignment to fill if we got done sooner than I thought (like, add a reader response paragraph to a prompt about the literature) -- or I would drop an assignment if we were needing more weeks to slowly plod through doing a multi-page research paper than what I thought we were going to do.

It's about QUALITY, NOT quantity. And working at the pace that allows each student to succeed at moving forward in writing.

When homeschooling my own DSs, I didn't hesitate to use the IEW method of "a small bite a day" -- so we would spread a 1-paragraph assignment into small bites, with one bite per day -- in middle school, taking multiple days to do 1 paragraph to polished completion: 
- day 1 = brainstorm + organize into a key-word outline (I was heavily scaffolding here)
- day 2 = rough draft from their key-word outline (students most wrote solo)
- day 3 = revision (I was heavily scaffolding here) and proof edit (I was lightly involved here)

As they gained maturity, experience, and speed, we could shorten that 1 paragraph up into 1 day, in 2 sessions (9th grade and up):
- morning: brainstorm, organize, rough draft write
- afternoon: revise, proof-edit

As they gained writing stamina, we started work on longer assignments (3-5 paragraphs), and we went back to 1 day per stage of writing. Later in the high school years, as they gained speed and endurance, we could shorted up those multi-paragraph assignments from 1 full week into 1-2 days.

When it came time for multi-page writing, we would take several weeks to slowly, at DSs' unique paces, work on the piece of writing till it was polished and done. Again, that went from late middle school taking 6-8 weeks, to late high school taking about 1-2 weeks.
 

re: amount of writing
With homeschooling just your own students, you can go at their pace, and probably do more, and faster, than I can do with my high school Lit. & Comp. classes. However, just to give you a very rough start in planning, I shoot for about 8-9 assignments during a 14-16 week co-op semester. I often have to tweak for remedial students, and if the majority of the class is struggling then I slow the following rough thumbnail down, and often in the second semester if most students are really moving forward, I can shift towards more longer assignments. 

8-9 assignments, in 14-16 weeks, roughly of amounts in these lengths: 
1-2 very short (1 paragraph)
2-3 short (1-3 paragraphs)
2 medium (3-5 paragraphs)
2 longer (6-8 paragraphs) essays
1 multi-page (3-5 pages) paper

 

On 7/20/2020 at 9:45 AM, Plum said:

How do I know what is age-appropriate?

This is more based on where are they in their thinking skills rather than specific age or grade. If a child is only in the beginning "logic stage" and doesn't have a lot of abstract reasoning developed yet, then argumentative writing and literary analysis essays which require making a "debatable claim" and supporting it with an argument of points supported by examples is going to be extremely tough for them -- they just don't have the skills for it. Just from my experience with lots of different students in my classes, I'd say the average writer is just beginning to be ready for this type of writing along about grade 8 or 9. However, I've had 10th and 11th graders who aren't close to having the switch flip yet, and I've had 7th graders already well-developed in this type of thinking and writing. It's a very individual maturing process.

So if the student is not ready for that type of assignment, spend the year on solid paragraph structure, getting used to going over the SAME paper MULTIPLE TIMES (lol), expository (factual) writing with citations, getting solid with formatting and how to set up the word processing document in format (margins, indents, type size and spacing, left justified, upper left heading, upper right automatic page numbering, centered title, what gets italicized and what is put in quotation marks, etc.). Do some real-life writing (it has purpose and meaning!); develop writing skills where they have an opinion -- AND support it with examples, facts, etc. -- the "because" from The Writing Revolution.

Also, a student can do more than you might guess, when given good scaffolding throughout the process. I can't tutor each of my class students through the process so sometimes I'm asking those remedial students to jump a wider gap than they are capable of. When I see they are struggling, I shorten the assignment or adapt it to something that requires less abstract thinking.

Also, I try and provide a ton of written feedback on their papers *with examples of what I mean* -- then for later papers I can say "look back at that previous paper for an idea of what that looks". Example of feedback: "You're missing a sentence of commentary here that explains how/why this example from the book supports or shows your point in this paragraph; one way you might do that is a sentence that says something like this: ____________."


re: helping to develop abstract thinking to be able to build supported arguments
The one thing I did from grades 8-12, almost every single week, was an idea I got from 8FillTheHeart, which was practicing timed essay writing. That one thing helped them get solid at building a supported argument (make a claim about the essay prompt, then support with points, with each point supported by facts and examples). Being timed meant they knew they didn't have to write very long (both DSs always hated writing) -- but it also helped them learn to think quickly. And because we did NOT grade these, AND we all 3 did them together, it took a lot of stress off. It actually got to be kind of fun -- I'm a naturally writer, but tend to be extremely wordy, and once DSs figured out how to build an argument, they got quite good at completing an essay, while I'd get caught by the timer only halfway through. 😄 

Also, we started small (10 minutes, one complete 1 paragraph with intro sentence stating your position, a few sentences of support for your position, and a concluding sentence). And over about 1.5-2 years we built up to 25 minutes, 3-5 paragraphs. Along the way, we would add a new element to include and practice (like, add a hook; add time & length; add detail sentences; add commentary sentences;  leave yourself 2 minutes at the end to go back and do a quick proof-edit; etc.)
 

So our overall Writing process when DSs were in grades 8-12 was that we worked through excerpts of various writing programs and did our own writing assignments, working for about 30-45 min./day on 4 days/week, and the 5th day we did the timed essay writing.

Also, we discussed *everything* all through the years just as part of our daily life. As DSs got older, we would have them support their thoughts and opinions -- "Interesting opinion... What facts or examples support your opinion?" -- (Or, fill in the "because _______" in terms of The Writing Revolution.)  So anything that helps students have an opinion and have to support it is great. That can be logic materials, debate materials/prompts, etc.

Bottom line: good writing comes out of good THINKING. If you can't think and build a structured, detailed discussion or argument, you're most likely not going to be about to WRITE well.

Very long-winded, but hope something in there is of help. Happy writing across the curriculum! 😉 Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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4 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

Very long-winded, but hope something in there is of help. Happy writing across the curriculum! 😉 Warmest regards, Lori D.

I just copied the whole thing and put it into my OneNote for future reference. Thank you!!!!

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13 minutes ago, Plum said:

I just copied the whole thing and put it into my OneNote for future reference. Thank you!!!!

I just made some corrections and short additions, so you might want to re-copy/paste to OneNote. 😉 


You're most welcome, and hope it helps! Warmest regards, Lori

Edited by Lori D.
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6 hours ago, Plum said:

I just copied the whole thing and put it into my OneNote for future reference. Thank you!!!!

ditto. That was an incredible wealth of experience! Thank you for typing all of that out.

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Ooph I didn't look at resources or standards for this. My second grader would do one paragraph over two days. One day for a very simple outline of main idea and details, one day to write it in paragraph form.

Now that he's starting third grade I've been transitioning him towards a paragraph in one sitting by having him write his intro and concluding sentences with his outline on the first day, and eventually I'll have him just do everything at once. 

Anyway, no fancy process it's just what happened here for my 7/8yo.

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I'm going back through my notes and thought I'd add this in case anyone else is thinking about how to do this. 

 

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Here's another awesome post from LoriD where she breaks down writing by grade/age along with a lot of helpful links. 

 

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This last one has a lot of broken links, but at least the titles help with the search. 

 

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26 minutes ago, Plum said:

This last one has a lot of broken links, but at least the titles help with the search. 

 

I went back into that thread and re-listed Creekmom's list of threads with new links, where I could, and have added links to some newer threads. 😄 

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