Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Disciplinary Literacy

Writing: Big Ideas


Reading and writing are intricately related and are often viewed as “two sides of the same coin” (Graham & Perin, 2007; Tierney & Pearson, 1983). According to Langer and Flihan (2000), “Because writing and reading involve the development of meaning, both are conceptualized as composing activities in the sense that both involve planning, generating, and revising meaning—which occurs recursively throughout the meaning-building process….” However, the cognitive demands required for each activity may differ as they relate to varied purposes and strategy use for constructing meaning. Readers interpret and make sense of an author’s words and ideas about a topic. Writers generate text to represent their own ideas and thinking.

There is an increased emphasis on writing across the disciplines in middle school and high school, where students write for a variety of purposes and audiences. Sometimes, the writing tasks are assigned for students to demonstrate their learning and for teachers to assess the quality of their learning. But the authentic purpose of writing is often to promote deeper understanding of a topic through organization, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of key ideas. This writing may be in response to texts they have read or to reflect on processes and procedures they used for a given task. In essence, students take ownership of their learning through writing.

Writing to learn requires an understanding of the purpose, audience, and organizational structure for various writing tasks. It also requires an understanding of the ways of thinking and communicating within each discipline. In this unit, you will review the process of writing and the cognitive and affective dimensions of this process; common types and purposes of writing in all disciplines; examples of disciplinary writing; and writing assessment practices.