Calling All Contents

Thursday, October 23, 2014
by Lori

Today's post is for every teacher in every content. My message to you is simple. Writing in all content areas is crucial to student success, but we have to set our students up to do this well. This post is not just for the ELA teacher [gasp!]. It's for any teacher wondering how to write in their content area.

Quality academic writing puts us in a quiet moment with a complex idea where we must generate a thought. Good teachers support their students by building up to those quiet moments and helping them to debrief afterward.

Here are 3 scaffolding questions that can achieve the goal of incorporating writing in all content areas. 

1: Begin with a stimulus. It could be anything. A piece of art. A set of data. A map. Anything. Instruct your students to read or study the stimulus.

2: Ask an analytical question. A big one.

  • ELA--Do you think the author makes a convincing argument?
  • Math--What type of graph would best represent the data?
  • Social Studies--How have opportunities for women changed over time?
  • Science--I don't know....something science-y. 
3: Ask students to respond to the following quesiton on a post-it for one minute. Tell them that if they feel themselves begin to explain, then they should allow themselves to stop. 
  • What do you think?
  • After students write, they should turn to a partner and share.
  • Then, tell your students that you are going to put another minute on the clock and allow anyone to make any changes. This is especially necessary in an area like math or science where there are very concrete (and very wrong) answers.
4: Tell students to keep that post-it in front of them and point to it. Ask this next question.
  • Why do you think that?
  • Allow students to write for another minute. Naturally, they are likely to return to the stimulus and write something specific about it. 
5: Tell students to point very emphatically at that last post-it. The more emphatic the better. Now ask this question and allow two to three minutes of writing time.
  • What does that mean?
  • Here you are asking students to explain the connection that their evidence has to their original response. You are asking them to interpret their evidence and show that it supports their idea. This is hard. Be patient. Model as often as you can.
The great thing about these scaffolding questions is that they are easy to use and they can be used independently or combined for a more lengthy response. 

And...pssst...ELA teachers! This is our favorite Curly way to generate a quality SAQ. 

See what we did there?? You're welcome! :)

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