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Content-Area Writing. Shorter Public Writing Projects. People Research. What it is:

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Content area writing

Content-Area Writing

Shorter Public Writing Projects

People research
People Research

  • What it is:

    Because “traditional term papers plunge students into the hardest kind of research too soon,” (143), Daniels, et. al. suggests we give students lots of practice gathering and analyzing concrete, tangible, human, and fun data.

    • Types of Concrete Research:

      • Questionnaires and Surveys

      • Interviews

Questionnaires and surveys
Questionnaires and Surveys

Seventh Graders at Burley School in Chicago:

  • Study tools of the genre by reading a variety of surveys in newspapers and magazines.

  • Teach about different item types and scoring systems.

  • Help students design and administer their own instruments and put them to work.

Examples of questionnaires
Examples of Questionnaires

  • One group of 7th graders investigated people’s attitudes toward poverty.

  • Another studies whether people thought female soldiers should be allowed in combat.

  • All collected data and sifted and categorized it, turning it into reports, graphic displays, and presentations.

  • Look for big teaching topics; use a Likert-scale (strongly agree, somewhat agree, and so on).

  • Break down results by demographics.


  • Ask “experts” or other selected informants.

  • In math, interview adults about what kinds of mathematics come up in their job and present findings using quotations, bar graphs, pie charts, etc.

  • In social studies, implement family history projects that feature interviews with elders. See History Comes Home (Zimmelman et al 2000).

  • For science, interview selected community members about their attitudes concerning a timely topic such as recycling.


  • What it is:

    • The marriage of factual research and imagination.

    • Historical fiction and science fiction are example genres.

    • Students research a topic and weave a story around the facts to educate readers while entertaining them. (See, for example, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Parkor Gore Vidal’s Lincoln).

Faction continued
Faction, continued

  • When to use it and why:

    • An alternative assessment (replacement for a unit test?

    • guided research project (with 3-5 articles on a specific topic)

    • extension activity (independent research activity).

    • Gives students a chance to personalize their learning, connecting their research to prior knowledge and experiences.

Content area writing

  • Role: Who am I, and how will I react to the information from my own viewpoint? (Depends on content/discipline)

  • Audience: Who needs to read this? Whom am I trying to persuade? What is the purpose of the writing—intertwined with role.

  • Format: In what genre do I plan to (or need to) write?

  • Topic: What subject am I covering? What information do I have to share? What is the focus of my format?

Raft when and why
RAFT: When and Why?

  • Closure activity: A way for students to demonstrate what they have learned.

  • Provides a way for students to share their knowledge more creatively.

  • Provides opportunities for students to make choices and connect themselves with their work, making it more authentic and keeping them engages.



  • What is it?

    • Tri-fold with inviting graphics and quick-read text.

    • A short piece that requires students to condense text to the most essential information yet write it in an interesting style aimed at an audience that might know nothing about the topic and includes an “inviting” graphic design.

Brochure when and why
Brochure: When and Why?

  • Summative activities for a unit or line of inquiry.

  • Review activity before a test or alternative assessment in lieu of an exam.

    • Science teacher in Tinley Park, IL uses them to reread their notes before a test, giving “less sciencey” students a chance to excel.

Newspaper front page
Newspaper Front Page

  • What it is:

    • Using a publishing program or even Microsoft Word, students create a couple of short yet interesting articles that leave the reader wanting more.

    • After finishing The Iliad, students in a freshman English class paired up and wrote accounts of the Trojan War as if they were reporters from either Troy or Greece.

    • Students could also write in a variety of genres on a discipline specific-topic: ad, letter to the editor, column, feature, comic, news story,etc.

Newspaper front page cont
Newspaper Front Page, cont.

  • When and Why:

    • Summary activity at the conclusion of a unit.

    • Might also include an advice column, editorial, or feature article to provide opportunities for writing in multiple genres.

    • Provides a firsthand opportunity to study how objective news can still have a bias.



Web page or wiki
Web Page or Wiki

  • Connect students with multi-modal literacies

  • Highlights writing can do outside of school every day.

  • Students can teach one another.

  • May be used with big projects that take place once or twice a year because can become time-consuming.

  • Public nature of work makes it motivating for students.