Writing across the Curriculum

Writing across the curriculum is almost universally recognized as the ideal and appropriate way to teach writing. Unfortunately, even when schools mandate writing exercises in all subject areas, the process sometimes fails, either because teachers in some subject areas do not feel competent enough to correct student work or because the teachers in other areas do not hold the students to the same standards as those in a language arts/English class.

To encourage writing across the curriculum, the administration must not just require this without providing the opportunities to make this work. Teachers from different subject areas should be organized into teaching groups. The ideal situation then would be to have the subject matter integrated. This sometimes works really well in elementary and middle schools, but it becomes increasingly difficult at the high school level. Still, even here teacher partners can share ideas and student assignments. Students can read novels, historical works, technical works, or biographies which enhance the science or the social studies classrooms. They can journal or outline subject content. Creative writing or report writing can be incorporated into the assignments.

One thing which must be avoided, however, is that the English teacher becomes the one to grade all written assignments or is the only one responsible for spelling and/or grammatical errors. This can be unfair to the language arts/English classroom as content in science or social studies classes sometimes seems to take priority. However, if the English teacher can have as much input on content as the other teachers, everyone benefits.

As indicated, teacher partners should have time set aside to plan their curriculum together. During this time, a handbook of standards might be prepared with all teachers having input. Minimally, everyone should mark spelling errors and obvious grammatical mistakes. More importantly, however, everyone should agree that plagiarism will not be tolerated and that proper citations should be used. Student work can be submitted to different evaluators with the common goals of organization, development, technical correctness, and neatness.

Once teachers in content areas other than English realize that writing forces a student to think at a deeper level, to support his/her information with facts, and to brings thoughts into better focus, they will be more willing to participate in writing across the curriculum programs. Higher level thinking skills are necessary for good writing. The ability to evaluate and analyze are important for any discipline of study or, more importantly, for everyday life. These skills can only be developed with attention to them.

Writing across the curriculum takes time. Time is needed for teachers to prepare and evaluate curriculum. It is also needed in the classroom for students to write, to discuss their writings, and to edit. Still, this type of learning is more beneficial to the students and their maturation process. If one really wants to gauge student learning, having the students write is of utmost importance. With everyone working together with a singular focus, students realize the value of this type of assignments.