Writing Across Curriculum Is A Valid Component
In many states, education officials are thinking of ways to open schools in the fall. There has been much debate on which is the best way to proceed.
I’m sure you have probably heard of the Common Core Standards.
According to coretstandards.org “The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live. Forty-one states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have voluntarily adopted and are moving forward with the Common Core.”
The site also presents the standards.
¯ Research- and evidence-based
¯ Clear, understandable, and consistent
¯ Aligned with college and career expectations
¯ Based on rigorous content and application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills
¯ Built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards
¯ Informed by other top performing countries in order to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society
These standards look great on paper, but implementing is where the real challenge is. One component of the standards is writing across the curriculum. I am all for this component, but I think it needs to be implemented the same way in every classroom. Herein lies the rub. Writing across the curriculum is a tough task. Writing is a tough task period. Getting students to put their thoughts down on paper in English class is a tall order, but for the same group of students to journal in math class may prove twice as difficult.
The reason, in my opinion, is the students need to have a better grasp of the content. Once they do, they make the content a part of their lives.
It can be done.
Take for instance in math class when a student is asked to journal and about the Pythagorean Theorem, a-squared plus (+) b-squared equals (=) c-squared. At first glance, the student would probably sit there, and maybe voice his displeasure by saying it’s math class, not English class. If the teacher is good at getting students to connect school work with their own lives, then he may know the student may have an interest baseball. With that knowledge, the teacher can ask the student what is the length of throw a third baseman has to make to the first baseman, while standing on third base. The teacher can say that the distance between each base is 90 feet, and the foul lines form a right angle at home plate. Given that information, the teacher can throw in some math vocabulary by asking to the student what is the hypotenuse, or the distance of the throw will be.
Or maybe, the teacher can ask a football player what the area of a football field is, excluding the end zones.
Even a drummer can get in on the action by journaling about the circumference of a circle. The student can use either pi (3.14), multiplied by the diameter or 2, multiplied by pi, multiplied by the radius to find the circumference. Most drumhead manufacturers give the diameter of heads to be used on drums. The standard sizes on a standard drum set include a 14-inch snare, 12- and 13-inch mounted tom toms, and a 16-inch floor tom, and a 22-inch bass drum. Given those diameters, a student easily can find the circumference of a circle. Because the student plays the drums, he can understand how circumference is connected to how he may compose music.
If students can write about these, then they can probably write about anything in math class. The barriers about writing have to be overcome. The teacher may not be looking for perfect grammar or punctuation. Rather, the teacher may be looking for how the student is developing and using his critical thinking skills.
Remember writing is a life skill, a formal communication tool, and communicating through writing can be powerful and effective. In order to make writing across the curriculum work, students have to learn how to draw on their own experiences to make new experiences, and learn how to think critically and creatively.
It’s that easy.
It’s that hard.