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Writing Across Curriculum ATTACK WAC Presented by Holly Wille January 5, 2009 My disclaimer I am not an expert I have no formal training with elementary (I’m a mom) I have used most of these strategies My students have responded positively to WAC

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writing across curriculum
Writing Across Curriculum



Presented by Holly Wille

January 5, 2009

my disclaimer
My disclaimer
  • I am not an expert
  • I have no formal training with elementary (I’m a mom)
  • I have used most of these strategies
  • My students have responded positively to WAC
    • however I can’t say that it has improved the reading comprehension of my students
    • I have not formally collected data
quick write
Quick Write
  • Take a moment to journal about the ways you use writing in your classroom.
why have i researched wac
Why have I researched WAC?

• IT serves as a link between learning & comprehension

• IT ties together reading and learning

• IT helps kids practice writing & to express their thoughts

• IT is research based & connects to many of today’s education initiatives

what does research say
What does research say?
  • Writing is the main connector between reading and comprehension
  • When writing students become active rather than passive learners
  • Writing is student-centered rather than teacher-centered
  • Writing encourages students to self-question, activate prior knowledge, infer, and use their imaginations
  • Writing allows students to demonstrate mastery
  • Writing allows students to make connections between what they know and what they are learning
what else does research say
What else does research say?
  • Writing fosters critical thinking skills
  • Writing develops higher cognitive functions such as analysis and synthesis
  • Writing creates a permanent record of students’ thoughts and attitudes
  • Writing allows students to organize thoughts and draw conclusions
  • Writing affords opportunity for deep reflection without the fear of punitive response from a teacher
  • Writing builds confidence about a student’s knowledge of the subject
what have i done to research wac
What have I done to research WAC?
  • My ICDP for 2007-2008 focused on WAC and incorporating strategies
  • I researched, wrote and presented strategies that work, including WAC, during my graduate program
  • I have attended sessions at HS Summit and The Model School conference on WAC
something to ponder
Something to Ponder…
  • “Thomas Jefferson once claimed that the purpose of education was to prepare citizens to participate in a democracy. By teaching students to think and to take ownership of what they read, teachers can prepare students to participate in their society, to make decisions based on information and personal reflection, and to make their own choices. In teaching writing to learn skills, teachers may best be fulfilling their role as educators” (Gammill, 2006, p.760).
Learningto Write


Writing toLearn

sentence stems
Sentence stems
  • Writing is….
  • Learning is…
  • The difference between learning to write and writing to learn is…
learning to write
 Formal

 Follows writing process

 Expectations of proper grammar, usage, mechanics, etc.

 Usually lengthy

 Not everyone is an expert in the writing process

Learning to Write
writing to learn
Writing to Learn

 Informal

 Catalyst for further learning & meaning making

 Focus is content

 Not intended for publishing, but rather for learning

 Safe and non threatening

what are some strategies

Reading Journals

Guided Writing/writing prompts

Word jar

Quick Write

Sentence stems

Structured Note-taking


While You Were Out

Bio poems

Concept maps

Framed Paragraphs

Sentence Synthesis

Picture walk

Word Maps

ABC List


A Song to Remember

One good question


Mid lesson correction

The pass around

Think pair share

What Are Some Strategies?
  • What do you know, what do you want to know, what have you learned & summarize what you learned in a chart format
  • K, W are done before reading or lesson
  • L is during reading or lesson
  • S is done after reading or lesson
  • Pre, during and post writing
reading journals
Reading journals
  • Students keep reflection journals as they read
  • Can be broken into journaling per paragraph, section or chapter
  • Try using a note card or a bookmark
guided writing or writing prompts
Guided writing or Writing prompts
  • Provide a probing or thinking question for students to respond to
  • I modeled this in our quick write
  • Other examples:
    • Tell me everyway in which you use money on an average day.
    • Where does your water come from?
word jar
Word jar
  • Put new vocabulary in a jar or envelope
  • Group students into teams
  • Each member of the team draws out a vocabulary word and defines it
  • As a team a meaningful paragraph is written
structured note taking
Structured Note-Taking
  • Students create a T-chart
  • They document main ideas and keywords on the left
  • They explain details on the right
  • At the end of the lecture or reading, students write a brief summary
listen stop and write
  • Reading/lecture is broken into sections
  • After each section students write key learnings
  • Do something with the writing
    • Share small group
    • Make posters
    • Write on white board
    • Make power points
    • Make mini books
    • Link it chains
    • Mobile
while you were out
While You Were Out
  • Students pretend a peer was gone
  • They are asked to write how they would explain the day’s learnings to the absent student
  • Can actually be used to catch up absentees
  • Format/template can be on a created phone memo pad


Contact teacher

Check the make up tray

Get classroom notes


bio poems
Bio poems

- Creative way to write or summarize

- Follows a format

1. First name

2. Four traits

3. Relative of

4. Lover of (3)

5. Who feels (3)

6. Who needs (3)

7. Who fears (3)

8. Who gives (3)

9. Who would like to see (3)

10. Resident of

11. Last name

concept map
Concept map
  • State a general topic
  • Branch off it
  • Structured brain storming
  • Helps organize thoughts
framed paragraphs
Framed paragraphs
  • Provide structure and guidance in writing paragraphs
  • Give the beginning of sentences and leave out supporting content or details for students to fill in
sentence synthesis
Sentence Synthesis
  • Teacher chooses 3-4 key words from the lesson or reading
  • Teacher asks students to construct meaningful sentence(s) using the terms
sample sentence synthesis
Sample sentence synthesis
  • Vocabulary terms
    • Natural selection
    • Adaptation
    • Evolution
  • Evolution is genetic changes over time, both natural selection and adaptation are examples of evolution. In nature, some genetic traits are naturally selected and these adaptations can enhance an organisms survival chances.
picture walk
Picture walk
  • Show students a picture and have them write about what they see, what they think or how it makes them feel
  • Can be used as an introduction tool
  • Can be used to review vocabulary
  • Book walk - chapter walk - beginning summarizing step
word map
Word Map
  • Key Term with 3 Questions
    • What is it?
    • What is it like?
    • What are some examples?
    • POSSIBLE ADD - make a drawing

Another sample of a word map

What is it?

What is it like?




abc list or abc soup
ABC list or ABC soup
  • Write out the ABC’s and students write a word or statement about content covered for each letter of the alphabet
  • Write out a vocabulary term recently learned and have students write a meaningful sentence about content for every letter of the vocabulary term
abc sample
ABC Sample

I - Ionic bonds are formed when electrons are transferred.

O - Oxidations numbers tell us the charge on an ion after it has gained or lost electrons.

N - Non-metals bond with non-metals by sharing electrons.

  • Students write 4-5 headlines that summarize the day’s learnings
  • The headline should catch my eye

News You Can Use!

sample of headlines
Sample of headlines

• Ionic compounds: transfer of electrons leads to new substance

• Water water everywhere and not a pure drop to spare

• Cells are full of life and organelles

a song to remember
A Song to Remember
  • Students choose a well known song
  • Students rewrite the lyrics based on content
sample of song to remember
Sample of song to remember

Title: Child Labor Blues

*Sung to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”

Many children had to work

Morning, noon and night

Parents also had to work

Getting low pay

Boys sold newspapers

And shined people’s shoes.

Girls cooked and cleaned and

Sewed garments too

Florence Kelly worked

To pass laws;

Limiting child labor so

Shorter hours they worked

one good question
One good question
  • Ask students to reflect on a lesson or reading
  • Have students formulate in writing a thoughtful question(s) about the lesson or reading
  • Can be used at end of lesson or reading or at the beginning of a new day to review
  • Unique and creative way to organize learning
  • Role, Audience, Format and Topic
  • Students take on a role for a specific audience in a specific writing format over the topic or content being studied
raft sample
RAFT sample
  • Turkey The Axe Last words My last requests
  • Horn of Other table Introduction No one knows what
  • Plenty settings I do
  • Pilgrim’s Husband List of I’m preparing food
  • Wife Complaints for how many?
  • Axe Other tools Speech to Time to look sharp!
  • in the shed Inform
  • Cranberries Grocery shoppers Speech to I’m sweet – buy me!
  • Persuade
mid lesson correction
Mid Lesson Correction
    • Mid lesson have students write what they have learned so far
      • OR
    • Pose a question specific to your class goals
      • OR
    • Ask students to predict in writing what they think you will cover in the second half of the lesson
      • OR
    • Ask students to list three questions about the lesson
    • Uncover misunderstandings
    • Guide new discussions
    • Tap into interests
    • Assess readiness
the pass around
The Pass Around
  • Pass around a note card with a newly learned concept statement on it
  • Have students add a statement to the card
  • Have students pass the card to the right
  • Have the students read all the statements and add a new statement to the card and pass it
  • This can be done is rows
  • In the end have rows trade cards and read them
think pair share
  • Pose a thought-provoking question to the entire class
  • Allow students to think for a short time about the question and jot down their answers
  • Have students share their ideas with the person sitting next to them, and the two try to come to consensus
  • The pair writes a new answer
  • One member of the pair shares their idea with the class
when to use wac
When to use WAC?
  • Bell Work
  • Pre-assessment
  • For readiness grouping
  • At intervals in a lesson
  • When transitioning to a new topic
  • Exit or entrance tickets
  • Anytime for emphasis or to enhance a discussion
take a stand for writing
Take a Stand For Writing!
  • I understand why writing is important!
  • Writing makes too much work for teachers!
  • Writing to learn has a place in every classroom.
  • Writing to learn has benefits for students with disabilities.
  • There is very little connection between reading and writing.
  • I could implement one writing to learn strategy tomorrow.
  • I will implement one writing to learn strategy tomorrow.
things to remember
Things to Remember
  • Just as you wouldn’t grade your own lecture or class discussion - informal, safe writing doesn’t need to be graded
  • If it is graded, use checklists and/or rubrics to outline expectations
  • Each student is held accountable
final thought
Final Thought
  • “Writing to learn helps students think about content and find the words to explain what they comprehend, reflect on how they understand the content, and consider what their own processes of learning involve. Without doubt, the development of writing processes and skills is valuable throughout the entire school experience and beyond” (Knipper, 2006, p. 469).
No matter what you take from today

-To try WAC or not remember to INSPIRE


contact information
Contact information
  • Holly Wille

E-mail hwille@edge-cole.k12.ia.us

Phone 563-928-6412

  • Beers, S. & Howell, L. (2005). Using writing to learn across the content areas. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD.
  • Duke, N.K., Gates, V., Hall, L., & Tower, C. (2007). Authentic literacy activities for developing comprehension and writing. The Reading Teacher. 60(4). 334-355.
  • Gammill, D.M. (2006). Learning the write way. International Reading Association. 59(8), 754-762.
  • Knipper, K.J. & Duggan, T.J. (2006). Writing to learn across the curriculum: Tools for comprehension in content area classes. International Reading Association. 59(5), 462-470.
  • - Tobias, S. (1994). Interest, prior knowledge, and learning. Review of Educational Research, 64, 37-54.