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LANGUAGE ARTS :: RESOURCES :: WRITING HANDBOOK :: INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

Writing is exciting because it's productive and creative; it's where the rubber hits the road. You can't write and not think. There are no cliff notes for writing. Written expression is one of our primary means of reflecting on what we think and what we know.

- JIM BURKE, teacher and author


OVERVIEW

Writing has become a valuable tool in the high school classroom for engaging students in thinking, showing understanding, creating, communicating, and learning. Over the past ten years writing across the curriculum programs have become increasingly common in colleges and universities as well as in secondary schools. Why the move toward using writing in content area classrooms? As Scarborough (2001) points out, research suggests that writing supports increasingly complex thinking about subjects that students are learning (Langer & Applebee, 1987) and that it has been shown to improve the learning

of content (Maxwell, 1996). Traditionally, however, writing has primarily been a tool for demonstrating learning (literary analysis of the theme of Hamlet, essay question about World War I, summary of a chapter in a science textbook, instructions about how to prepare a meal, or a biographical essay about Dali). It has only been in the past thirty years that in schools we have come to see the power of writing for personal expression, writing as a tool for thinking, and writing to discover. When we blend two purposes for writing, writing to demonstrate learning with writing to help facilitate learning, we open the content area classroom to the many ways diverse writing can benefit both students and teachers.

This handbook is designed to support teachers of all content areas as they incorporate writing into their classes in ways that facilitate teaching of course content, encourage students to develop as writers, align with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, and use writing as a tool for thinking. Divided into sections, the handbook provides explanation and examples of writing instruction grounded in current research and best practice.

The INTRODUCTION defines the concepts "writing across the curriculum" and "writing to learn," explains what is meant by the "writing process," discusses the philosophy behind the use of writing in the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, and examines purposes/audience for writing.

The TEACHERS TOOLBOX is written in question/answer format and presents issues that arise when writing is used in all content areas with answers that promote effective writing instruction through the teaching of course content.

The ASSESSMENT section of the document examines issues of evaluation and assessment and provides instructions on how to design effective assessment with examples.

The SCENARIOS offer snapshots of writing as part of classrooms across the curriculum.

The RESOURCES section is presented in the form of an annotated bibliography listing texts, online resources, and software that teachers may find helpful as they plan for the integration of writing into the curriculum.