Thursday, January 31, 2008

Exactly What Is "Writing to Learn"?

Hello there!

My apologies for the long lapse in posting another entry. I felt I had to complete my next multi-genre assignment before I created another blog, but so much is going on that I couldn't get to my that assignment! I want to make this experience a habit by posting as often as I can, and a weekly entry was my original goal. I will try to pick that up!

In January, Carolyn and I conducted a professional development workshop focusing upon writing in the content area. Many good ideas were shared with facilitators and participants alike. I think these tools, strategies, etc. are worth passing forward. One important concept is realizing the difference between "writing to learn" and "learning to write."

Quoting Kate Kiefer of Colorado State University, "writing-to-learn activities are short, impromptu or otherwise informal writing tasks that helps student think through key concepts presented in a course." She further iterates that these are brief writing tasks that often take less than five minutes of classtime. This illumination brightened attitudes of several teachers who perceived writing in the content area as creating, assigning and grading an elaborate essay that focused upon some aspect of their curriculum. While this is not an unworthy aspiration, it is not the only kind of writing that supports students' writing improvement.

The North Central Regional Education Laboratory shared the following research about "writing to learn":

  • Student achievement on state assessments, exit exams, and other measurements greatly improves.

  • Students demonstrate growth in core academic learning.

  • Students' comfort level in school increases, and students become more encouraged and optimistic about their future.
Today, I encourage you to click onto my WikiSpace to see all the ideas for Role/Audience/Format/Topic (RAFT) assignments ( There are a variety of ideas for many content areas, and so I encourage readers of Link 2 Literacy to share them with colleagues. Furthermore, I have included Kate Kiefer's Writing Across the Curriculum website for additional "writing to learn" ideas.

Please let me know if this posting has been useful to you, and have a great day!