Writing in the Non-ELA Classroom

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Writing is a crucial life-skill. Students need to know how to write effectively in a variety of different forms and it is our job, as teachers, to make sure this happens. I know what you are thinking, “I don’t teach ELA and I didn’t sign up to assign or grade all those essays.” If you are reading this post then I assume that you probably don’t teach ELA classes and neither do I. However, I do teach writing on a regular basis in my classroom.

So why do I do this? I do this for a variety of reasons:

1. No matter where a student goes in life, they will need to write. They don’t have to be a doctor, lawyer, or ELA teacher in order to need writing skills. Anyone that applies for a job needs to be capable of answering questions on a job application, write a resume, or create an email to a superior. My job as a teacher is to prepare my students for life and writing is part of that.

2. Students need as much practice as they can get writing. Since writing is a skill, that means it can be improved upon the more practice and instruction is provided. I want to make sure I give them the opportunity for this in my classroom.

3. I think writing truly adds to my curriculum. I like for students to write in a variety of ways to show me their understanding of the subject I am teaching. This adds options for students to be creative if I am requesting a creative assignment or show me how much knowledge they have acquired if I am requesting a more evidence-based assignment.

We all understand that writing is important to our students but what are some ways that you can incorporate it into a non-ELA classroom?

Below are some ideas that will encourage your students to think critically, be creative, and practice their writing ability. I have listed an idea beside each (that either I have used or a colleague of mine has used) to help you think of unique ways you can apply these in your own classroom.

Example for U.S. History: Write a letter/email to a previous U.S. President telling them what the student thought about some of the things he did while in office (good or bad) and explain their position.

Example for Government: After learning about landmark Supreme Court cases, have students write tweets that summarize the impact of the case or the thoughts of the justices that wrote opinions. Although this is not a significant writing assignment, it definitely requires students to find the main idea and summarize it efficiently since they only get 140 characters.

Check out a free template to use for Tweets from Teaching With Mrs. P on TpT.

Children’s books/comic books
Example for any class: After learning about a subject, have students write a children’s book or comic book explaining the topic at hand. They can ultimately give these to younger students or merely use them to aid their understanding of the subject.

Example for Biology: Have students create journals about different plant species that are around your area. Have them take photographs of these different plants and write about where they found this plant, where this plant typically grows, and other interesting facts.

Blog Post 
Example for any class: Have students take a stand on an issue and write a blog post to persuade and/or inform people about this perspective. Students love to share opinions but make sure they understand the need for evidence to base their claim.

Example for any history class: Create a travel brochure about a historic place making sure to explain the significance of the location. I always make sure to include a good bit of writing requirements in this type of assignment but since it also involves adding illustrations, students often do not realize how much writing they are doing.

Check out my Interest Group Brochure Project to see an example. I have pictures of my student's work on the cover and in the previews.

Grant writing
Example for any history class: Have students research battles in a war. Tell them they are writing a grant for a historical site to be built. They must explain why their battle deserves to be the historical site commemorated and receive this grant.
You could also find real-life grants in other areas and have students actually write for these specific grants.

Resumes/job application
Example for any class: Whether it is an author, famous scientist, or significant historical figure, writing a resume or job application for this person really forces a student to understand what this individual was all about and what makes them unique.

Amanda at Mud and Ink Teaching, has a great lesson involving the students applying for jobs so check it out HERE.

Example for any class: Have students create a newspaper or magazine about a subject. I will always remember the interdisciplinary American Revolution newspaper that I did in 8th grade. I wrote articles for history, science, math, and literature but they all related to the American Revolution. I loved that project and it really showed me how most topics can relate to different academic subjects.

I created a newspaper project for my Modern U.S. History class many years ago to study World War I. You can check it out HERE.

Math problem
Example for math class: Although writing is not super common in math class, it can be used in helping student with metacognition. After students have completed a math problem, require them to write out each step in paragraph form as if they were explaining it to a friend. Then to really test out how well they did writing it out, they can trade papers and their friend can follow their directions to see if they got the same answer.

Travel directions
Example for Geography class or any class talking about a specific location: Have students think of a place they would like to go on vacation (or you give them the destination) and write out specific directions on how they plan to get to this location from their home. Give students maps or let them use technology to view the best routes available. Once they have explained how they would get to this location, also have them explain why they picked this route over alternatives.

Public Service Announcement
Example for Science or Social Studies: Have students write a public service announcement in relation to a current real-world problem. I suggest you give them a broad theme like the environment but allow them to research the details about the issue.

Example for Government class: Have students write a bill that should be proposed to either the state legislature or the U.S. Congress. Have them look at real-life examples to help them know the structure of how to write it.

I use the template provided HERE for my own classes.

Writing is important and it should not be left up to only the English Language Arts teachers to teach. If we all find unique ways to incorporate writing into our curriculum, it will better engage our students and help them to become the writers they need to be. If you liked this post, you might also like this freebie from Kim at Lessons in a Bubble.

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