Three Easy Strategies for Tying Writing to Learning

17

Writing is a subject to be taught. In fact, writing well is difficult and requires the focused attention of educators and their students. You cannot simply assume that students will acquire writing skills naturally as they mature. WriteAtHome’s online writing courses exist for this very reason–to help students develop skill as writers through regular practice and professional coaching on writing.

But writing isn’t simply an end in itself. It is a content area of sorts, but more than that, writing, like reading, is itself an educational tool. Learning to read enables students to learn across all subject areas. In the same way, writing is an instrument of education that can and should be used across various subjects. Unfortunately, teachers and home educators tend to use writing this way too rarely.

Write to learn is a catch phrase among educators that captures the idea of employing writing activities across academic content areas to stimulate and facilitate learning. Informal writing activities have the added benefit of providing teachers with a means of evaluating student comprehension of a subject.

Too many of us think of writing in the formal sense. We assign papers — essays, reports, term papers, etc. and grade them formally. There is an important place for this practice, of course, but there are also countless ways to integrate informal writing into a student’s daily learning activities. Making writing, like reading, a normal part of a school day forces students to engage actively with the material while building writing fluency at the same time.

Below are three easy-to-apply and informal write-to-learn strategies that can be used in almost any subject.

Learning Journals

There are numerous ways to use journals in fostering learning. One strategy is what is known as Double-Entry Journals or Learning Logs. Any kind of journal will do — a spiral-bound notebook, a composition book, or a three-ring binder works just as well as a leather-bound diary. Whatever you choose to use, students should create two columns on each page by drawing a vertical line down the center. The left column should be titled Notes and the right titled Reflections and Questions.

Students should be encouraged to take notes during lectures, reading assignments, videos, and so on in the left-hand column. In the right-hand column, students should write any thoughts or questions that arise as a result of the information they have recorded. Reflections and questions often begin with phrases like “I wonder…” or “Does this mean…” Encourage students to consider the implications of what they are learning, how the information matters to the subject as a whole or how it might apply to their lives personally.

Here’s an example of what a Learning Log might look like:

There are many varieties of learning logs. Another way to do it is to write a direct quote in the left-hand column and the student’s thoughts in the right. Here’s an example of that kind of log.

However you use them, having students interact thoughtfully with whatever they are studying in a journal is an excellent way to improve comprehension and retention of the material while helping students develop facility with the written word.

Writing Summaries

Another popular write-to-learn strategy is summary writing. This is particularly effective with individual reading assignments. Ask students to read a chapter and then write a summary.

Once students get used to writing summaries, little else is necessary, but younger students and students new to the idea of summaries will require some extra help. Here are a few ideas.

  • Show examples. It’s easy to find summaries online. Sparknotes.com provides free summaries of a wide variety of literary works. Wikisummaries.org has summaries of all kinds of books contributed by readers. The Harvard Business Review website posts summaries of books and articles written about business.
  • Write one together. Before you assign a summary to your student/s, work on one together. Form an outline of the article, chapter, or short story you want to summarize, deciding together upon the most important information to include. Then you can either write the summary sentence by sentence, or write separate summaries individually, comparing them later.
  • Give some structure. When students are just getting started, you should provide some structure or scaffolding for them. There are various graphic organizers available for free online to guide them. Here’s one example:

Admit Slips and Tickets Out

These strategies are often used in school classrooms, but they can work in a homeschool as well. The idea behind an Admit Slip is for students to write quickly and informally about what they already know about a subject before studying it. This not only prepares students to engage meaningfully with the subject and gives practice with informal writing, but it also provides the teacher with important information about what the student already knows.

You can use pre-designed slips for this, or simply ask students write what they already know about the topic on a sheet of paper.

Example:

Prompt: What do you know about Greek mythology?

Quickwrite: I know the Greeks thought there were lots of gods who lived on a mountain called Olympus. The leader of the gods is Zeus. I know the goddess of love is Aphrodite and her kid is Cupid. The god of the sea is Poseidon, but I think they call him Neptune too. There was Apollo and Athena and Hermes was the god who sent messages. He had wings on his shoes. I know a lot of this stuff because of the Percy Jackson books.

Give the student a time limit or a sentence limit for the Admit Slips.

Tickets Out are similar, but they are used after a lesson to assess what students got out of the experience. A Ticket Out asks students to summarize in a few sentences what they have learned. You might even ask for a single sentence about the most important thing they learned that day.

These three informal write-to-learn strategies can be integrated into any subject on any school day. They are excellent for spurring students to engage actively with the text, making learning less passive. It’s important that you see this kind of writing as a tool for learning and not as a writing development exercise in itself. In other words, don’t correct or grade these exercises. Focus on the content. If you must point out errors, do it casually.

*****

I’d love to hear from you. What do you think of this post? Leave your comments in the Reply section below.

 

 

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Itamar Serpa Fernandes
    Itamar Serpa Fernandes03-25-2017

    Hi there, I check your new stuff on a regular basis.

    Your writing style is witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

  2. Itamar Serpa Fernandes
    Itamar Serpa Fernandes03-24-2017

    What’s up i am kavin, its my first time to commenting
    anyplace, when i read this article i thought i could also make comment due to this good
    piece of writing.

  3. make money in 2 days
    make money in 2 days03-24-2017

    Simply desire to say your article is as astounding. The clearness in your post
    is just excellent and i could assume you’re an expert on this subject.
    Fine with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please continue the rewarding work.

  4. Williams
    Williams03-24-2017

    This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post.
    Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!

  5. Janessa
    Janessa03-24-2017

    Hello there! This blog post couldn’t be written any better!

    Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!

    He constantly kept preaching about this. I’ll forward this article
    to him. Fairly certain he will have a great read. Many thanks for sharing!

  6. make money online
    make money online03-24-2017

    When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time
    a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!

  7. buy lottery
    buy lottery03-24-2017

    Your style is very unique in comparison to other people I’ve read
    stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you’ve
    got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this web site.

  8. credit track record
    credit track record03-23-2017

    Hey there! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a
    quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy
    reading through your articles. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over
    the same topics? Thanks for your time!

  9. Jasper
    Jasper03-23-2017

    Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem
    to get there! Thanks

  10. Georges Sadala
    Georges Sadala03-23-2017

    Thanks for the marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.
    I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually
    come back sometime soon. I want to encourage you
    to ultimately continue your great work, have a nice holiday weekend!

  11. suitable advisor
    suitable advisor03-22-2017

    If some one wants expert view on the topic of blogging after that i suggest him/her
    to go to see this webpage, Keep up the pleasant job.

  12. Markus
    Markus03-22-2017

    Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your website
    and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Any way I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently quickly.

  13. Onita
    Onita03-20-2017

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this outstanding blog!

    I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to
    my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this blog with my
    Facebook group. Talk soon!

  14. Jonnie
    Jonnie03-20-2017

    It’s awesome for me to have a web page, which
    is good for my knowledge. thanks admin

  15. Silvia Odete Morani Massad
    Silvia Odete Morani Massad03-20-2017

    Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to assert
    that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts.

    Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently quickly.

  16. Rosalind
    Rosalind03-19-2017

    Its such as you learn my thoughts! You appear to understand so much about this, such as
    you wrote the e-book in it or something. I believe that you just could do with some % to
    force the message house a little bit, but instead of that,
    that is excellent blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.

  17. Augusto de Arruda Botelho
    Augusto de Arruda Botelho03-16-2017

    This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to
    seeking more of your fantastic post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!

Leave a Reply

If you like a post, please take a second to click "like," and comment as often as you like.
We promise not to correct your grammar!