Writing is thinking. When students read, they process the words to connect with them and assimilate the information. Writing is one of the best ways to practice processing and connecting because writing and literacy are inextricably linked. Delivering a written message about what they have read demonstrates students’ mastery of classroom material.
There are many ways to incorporate writing into the classroom; the key to teaching literacy is daily practice. Students who write every day build intellectual stamina, which frees them to focus on what they want to write rather than how to do it. These students perform better on tests, and they do not struggle to express their opinions in complete thoughts.
Using Daily Journal Writing in the Classroom
Many teachers who have started including writing assignments in their reading, math, science and social studies classes have found that students are learning differently. They are beginning to connect different subjects in ways they previously did not. Writing and literacy have lasting benefits for a variety of learners in different subjects.
Teachers have found that a daily journal exercise gives students unstructured and ungraded time to write without fear. They call this “safe writing” and use it whenever they need students to relax and think about challenging subjects or lessons. Daily journal writing has also helped students build up the stamina they need to write longer pieces that combine facts with narrative to deepen understanding.
Many teachers who use daily writing in their classroom also found that kids began to apply what they know about writing to their math assignments. Common core encourages students to write about how and why they reach a mathematical solution to a problem, and daily writing makes this easier. This means that even math teachers are teaching literacy.
Writing Can Increase Reading Skills
Reading and writing are interconnected skills, but many teachers and schools focus so intently on reading levels and improvement that they forget to emphasize writing. Students should be improving their writing and literacy skills by writing about what they read. Teachers can use approaches ranging from student blogs to book-review newsletters. The following are five easy ways to incorporate writing in your classroom:
- Use exit slips to informally assess what each student took from the day’s lesson.
- Have all students write out solutions to classroom problems, then read one aloud.
- Ask students to create a quiz based on what they read.
- Ask students to study their incorrect test responses and figure out how they got off track.
- Ask students to write down their questions during a lesson and then give them time to find the answers during the next class, as a homework assignment or with another student.
Teach Literacy in Authentic Ways
In the past, literacy instruction depended on worksheets and reading assignments that connected with only a few students. Now, however, reading and writing instruction looks entirely different. Students are free to select books that interest them and that pair well with their reading levels. Teachers then ask them to write about their thinking and metacognition while they read.
To increase the effectiveness of writing and literacy instruction, teachers should encourage students to use writing in authentic exercises that involve a real audience or reader. Some ways to accomplish this when teaching literacy include asking students some of the following:
- To debate a controversial topic with other students.
- To develop surveys for gathering information about what other students think.
- To review books, art and music on a blog or other public space.
- To reflect on their learning and set shared goals.
Creating a Positive Writing Environment
Writers write wherever they are. Helping kids become writers means showing them that writing is a beneficial activity. Writers need time, space and choice to feel free to create. Developing this positive writing environment is critical to successfully interweaving writing and literacy.
In order to create this kind of an environment, a good writing teacher must set aside time each day for classroom writing. It is also a good idea to let your students choose where they like to write best. For some that might be under a table, for others that is at a desk, wearing headphones and listening to music.
Students also need ready access to the tools required for success. Some people like drawing and writing, some need sharp pencils, and still others need computers. If everyone is writing during the daily writing period, that is all that matters.
Finally, teachers must write with their students. They must model what a writer does in order to effectively teach literacy skills that will lead to a writing-and-reading-literate classroom.
Learn more about the CSUSM online MA in Education, Literacy program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.