Writing Genres??? Writing in the Content Areas

sols_6Today was the third day in a back to school PD on writing in the science classroom. It has been wonderful and we are using a great set of materials. We are working with books developed by Besty Rupp Fulwiler.

Besty has two books out that help teachers to look at writing in science classroom. Her first book was Writing in Science  How to Scaffold Instruction to Support Learning. This was followed by a more interactive text and DVD that puts her thinking and research into action. (Writing in Science in Action)

My wonderings today were not about writing in science because it is really needed.   What I am wondering is how well do we as teachers help our students understand the different writing genres in writing? Do we really understand what it takes to write in different styles? Are we good science writers, history writers?

It has been years since I wrote a paper about my thinking on a topic of politics, history or a science concept. What does it really take? When have we slowed down to think about the specifics for this type of writing?

  • claims and evidence 
  • observational
  • comparison
  • cause and effect
  • conclusion – basic and more complex

As elementary teachers we are good at asking out students to write stories, poems and personal narratives.  We can coach this and some of us write in these genres ourselves.

But do we look at what it take to write history with primary source materials, or science writing where we are explaining our thinking. I have watched many classroom teachers say, “oh yes, we have science journals my students record each step we do with our experiment.”  This is procedural writing which is good but not deep critical thinking.

We need to help students learn how to write about their thinking and express what they are learning. Our young students need to be able to write what they observed, noticed and be able to make predictions. They need to share how their thinking has changed once they work through an experiment and what their evidence is for that thinking.

I wonder how well we do this?  Do we help students understand the difference between each of these types of writing and when we need to use each one.

Today had me thinking about my teaching of writing and where I need support to be sure I can support my students.  How do you support your students writing in the content areas? (science, social studies, etc)

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in genres in writing, journals. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Writing Genres??? Writing in the Content Areas

  1. Tara says:

    This is such important work, and yet many of us are struggling with how to go about it, and what this should look like our classrooms. We do a lot of journaling in social studies: diary entries, opinion pieces, idea banks…that sort of thing. It’s exciting t o think about, but work!

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