Entries Tagged 'Writing Across the Curriculum' ↓
October 29th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts, Writing Across the Curriculum
This collection of historical fiction photo prompts lets kids step back in time to experience a slice of history.
Whether they’re sailing on the Mayflower, panning for gold in Old California, protecting a Jewish family during World War II, or creating their own “You Are There” historical adventure, these prompts will open the doors of their imaginations.
Or, enhance your studies of history by inviting your children to use these prompts for writing across the curriculum.
1. Pilgrim’s Progress
The year is 1620. Imagine that you and your parents are aboard the Mayflower, bound for a destination that’s an ocean away from friends, family, and every comfort you have ever known. Write a journal entry expressing your hopes and fears about starting all over again in the New World.
2. Gold Fever
Eureka! It’s 1849, and folks are flocking to California in search of gold. Imagine that you are a miner with “gold fever” living in a mining camp called Hangtown. Write a letter home telling your family about a typical day. What is life like in the camp? Is there law and order where you live? Have you been successful at prospecting for gold? Did you strike it rich?
3. Hiding Place
During World War II, you and your parents hid a Jewish family in your home in Holland to protect them from the Nazis. Who was this family? How did you keep them safe? Write a paragraph explaining why you chose to do this, even though it meant putting your own family at great risk.
4. Doorways to History
These may look like ordinary wooden doors salvaged from old buildings, but things are not always as they seem! You see, each door leads to a different place and time. Which door will you step through? What moment in history will greet you? What historical figure will be your guide? Write a story about your adventure.
If your children have enjoyed these exciting journal prompts, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
October 20th, 2014 — Writing Across the Curriculum
Writing. It’s everywhere! If you’re home right now, let your eyes wander over the room in search of words. What do you notice? A shopping list, perhaps? Mail? Picture books? Birthday cards? Cereal boxes?
Maybe you’re in a coffee shop. Look around and take in the menu, food packages, a stack of magazines, or the community bulletin board.
Breaking Out of the Rut
Even though there are many kinds of writing, we often get in a rut by limiting our children to stories and reports. When I was homeschooling my own kids, I wanted them to have all sorts of writing experiences. Unit studies were perfect for writing across the curriculum.
I still assigned more “traditional” writing, of course. But we also had fun with short, targeted, project-based writing activities that dovetailed writing with other subjects such as science, nature, and history.
These activities took the form of brochures and book jackets, magazines and diaries, obituaries and editorials, charts and posters. Tying our writing—both formal and informal—to our studies made writing practical. It also helped cement concepts and gave the kids many opportunities just to have fun with words.
Benefits of Writing Across the Curriculum
Explore a topic in greater depth.
These different projects and writing activities encouraged my children to dig deeper. My son, for example, created a newspaper about the Victorian era. He included news articles, advertisements, letters to the editor, human interest stories, and cartoons. Each required different kinds of research, helping him learn more about this time period than a report alone would accomplish.
Appeal to your kids’ interests and learning styles.
I don’t have to tell you that children learn differently.
- The kinesthetic child learns better when he can build, work with textures, or use various media.
- The auditory learner might like writing and performing songs, poems, speeches, or plays.
- Projects that include art, photography, or computer-related activities appeal to the visual child.
Children absorb information through their senses. The more ways a child handles information, the better he retains it. When assigning writing, it’s wise to offer lots of choices that develop well-rounded writers. Project-based writing gives all students the chance to write in the ways they learn best.
Make writing more fun.
Don’t get me wrong: reports are important. But I bet your child will be less resistant if, from time to time, he gets to write an advertisement, create a trivia game, or make a brochure about Pompeii or Ancient Egypt or Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Activities like these help him see that writing can be fun!
Ideas for Writing Across the Curriculum
Journals, book reviews, glossaries, and recipes can all find a place in your homeschool writing diet. Explore this list of 78 writing genres. Many don’t require much planning, so pluck out a few ideas and try them this very week!
- Alphabet book
- Animal stories (fiction or nonfiction)
- Book jackets
- Bumper stickers
- Business cards
- Day in the life
- Descriptive writing
- Dictionaries and glossaries
- Expository or informative writing
- Fact sheets
- Food packages
- Games (board games, trivia games, vocabulary games)
- Greeting cards
- How-to articles
- Instruction manuals
- Lab reports
- Letters (friendly letters, business letters, complaints, requests, thank-you notes)
- Math word problems
- Photo essays
- Picture books
- PowerPoint presentations
- Proverbs and sayings
- Quizzes or test questions
- Responses to literature
- Sports articles
- Want ads
Which of these sound like fun to you? Where will you start?
August 18th, 2014 — High school, Writing Across the Curriculum
Do you have a teen gourmet or budding chef in the house? Have any of your kids traveled overseas? These writing activities invite them to explore recipes, describe travel experiences with food, or write a restaurant review.
Encourage your high schoolers to explore their culinary passion or hobby with one of these projects that encourages writing about food and culture.
This article contains affiliate links for books we think your family will enjoy.
Writing Project: American As Apple Pie
A well-rounded study of a geographic region or period of history can include maps, literature, art—even food! This activity focuses specifically on American cookery, helping you learn about foods of the past, regional dishes, or even your own family’s everyday eating habits.
Search recipe files, family cookbooks, specialty cookbooks, and online sources to find some recipes that are uniquely American. Your collection should include at least 10 recipes that relate to a single topic or theme.
If possible, choose a theme that ties into your current history or geography studies. Here are several possibilities:
- Colonial American or frontier recipes
- First Ladies’ recipes (from one First Lady or several)
- Regional or cultural recipes (choose one, such as New England, the South, or soul food)
- Ethnic foods introduced by immigrants (choose one, such as Scandinavian, German, or Italian)
- Contemporary cookery (choose one theme, such as salads, cookies, or breakfast foods)
Once you’ve chosen your topic and gathered your recipes, prepare three of them. Then, evaluate each one by asking yourself some questions, such as: Was this recipe easy to prepare? How did the final dish look, smell, and taste? What did your family think of it? Would you make it again? Why or why not?
Finally, make a booklet of your 10 recipes, designing or decorating it to match your theme.
Writing Project: A Taste of Travel
Have you ever eaten haggis or blood pudding? How about fried locusts or Vegemite? These foods may sound weird to us, but in other parts of the world, someone else is probably gobbling them down right now! If you’re up for the challenge, this writing project invites you to take a look at unusual foods.
My children are now grown, but when they were teens, they spent many summers on overseas missions trips. Their travels gave them the opportunity to try some strange local foods they wouldn’t normally eat here in the States.
Our middle daughter went to Peru when she was 15. One evening, her team was introduced to cuy chactado, or fried guinea pig. It sounds nasty, doesn’t it? But she actually loved the chicken-like meat. Do you want to see a picture of cuy chactado? Click here if you’re brave.
When our son was 16, he spent a summer in Botswana. In Africa, people eat dried mopane worms as a snack. He wanted to experience all sorts of new things while in his host country, so yes—he really did eat a caterpillar. (I don’t think I could be that brave. But who knows?) You can see a picture here, but don’t click if you think it will gross you out!
Have you ever traveled internationally? Perhaps you’ve been on a missions trip overseas, visited grandparents or other family, or vacationed in a foreign country. Write about your culinary experiences during your travels, choosing one or more of the following topics:
Describe the weirdest food you ate. How did it look and taste? What was its texture like? What did you think of it? Would you eat it again?
What was your favorite new food to try? Describe it.
Did you experience any unusual mealtime customs or expectations? How does this culture approach food? Explain how different it is from the way most Americans eat.
Writing Project: Restaurant Review
Next time you go out for a meal with your family—whether to a fast-food place, local diner, or a nice sit-down restaurant, write a review about your experience.
The gourmet burgers might be fantastic, but the service is slow. Or the food isn’t great, but there’s a breathtaking view. Because a restaurant review is about more than just food, be prepared to take in the whole dining experience. Include details about atmosphere, service, and food so you can give an accurate review. Readers appreciate knowing both the pros and cons. You’ll probably find it helpful to take notes to help you recall your meal.
Write descriptively. Vague words like good, delicious, or bad don’t communicate a food’s characteristics. Instead, explain how a food tastes by using specific words to describe appearance, aroma, flavors, and textures.
Vague: For dessert, I had their delicious Molten Lava Cake and ice cream. It was a perfect way to end the meal.
Descriptive: Topped with a generous scoop of homemade vanilla-bean ice cream, the rich Molten Lava Cake was drenched in a warm, fudgy sauce. What a sweet way to end the meal!
Make your review personal. Be real! Then, with a parent’s permission, publish your review on a site like Yelp or Urban Spoon.
By Kim Kautzer
July 28th, 2014 — Publishing Project Ideas, Writing Across the Curriculum
Do your children tell you they hate writing?
Because kids learn differently, traditional writing assignments may not turn the crank of an artistic, kinesthetic, or logical learner. If this describes your child, maybe it’s time to take a break from book reports and essays and try a few project-oriented writing activities instead.
Projects that spring from a child’s interests—or that tie writing to other topics—add extra meaning to subjects like science or geography. To a reluctant learner, writing becomes less intimidating when it takes a back seat to an art activity or walk in the woods!
Nature studies should be an integral part of every homeschool. This week, let your kids explore the natural world through activities that are long on fun and short on writing. These nature inspired writing projects, which appeal to struggling and enthusiastic writers alike, make a great place to start!
1. Make a Nature Notebook
Charlotte Mason enthusiasts are especially fond of nature notebooks, but any student who is attracted to wildlife—or who loves to explore sand dunes, gardens, or woods—will enjoy creating a nature notebook.
Take the kids on a nature walk, or visit a botanical garden or zoo. Encourage them to observe and sketch plant or animal life and jot down rough notes or interesting facts they learn from posted signs or docent talks.
Later, beneath their sketches, your young naturalists can write captions or journal entries listing observed details, facts gathered from trusted sources, and their own impressions.
If you spend a weekend at the beach or mountains, the nature journal might be a thematic, one-time activity for your kids. But it can also be an ongoing, evolving project they add to regularly.
2. Make a Nature Craft: Explaining a Process
Invite your children to make a craft from items found in nature. Using their imaginations, they can create whimsical or practical items such as:
Painted rock animals
Diorama of a jungle, forest, or beach scene
Pressed-flower greeting card
Take a photo of the kids as they complete each step of the process. Then, using the photos as a guide, let them write the steps they took to make the craft.
Younger children can write simple, basic instructions. Older students’ directions should be clear enough that someone could follow the steps and make a similar project.
Kids who are totally into this activity may have fun printing out the photos to make an illustrated instruction manual or turning their how-to instructions into a mini book.
Check out these links if you need craft ideas:
Nature Crafts for Kids – Martha Stewart
10 Nature Crafts for Kids – Spoonful
Crafts Made from Nature – Kids Activities Blog
3. Make a Life-Cycle Book
If you’re currently studying about the life cycle of a plant, butterfly, frog, or other growing thing, your children can make a life-cycle mini book.
You will need a sheet of computer paper or cardstock, drawing pencil, colored pencils, and a book with pictures the kids can use as a reference when drawing.
STEP 1: CREATE THE BOOK
Make a simple 8-page mini book according to either the video or diagram below:
Video Tutorial: Make an Instant Book
PDF Diagram: Make a Folded Mini Book
STEP 2: DESIGN THE COVER
On the front cover, draw and color a picture that tells something about the subject of the mini book. Alternatively, cut and paste a photo to the booklet’s cover. Add a title, such as “Life Cycle of the Frog.”
STEP 3: ILLUSTRATE THE BOOK
On the inside pages, adding one illustration per page, draw and color up to 6 pictures to show each stage of the life cycle.
Leave room at the bottom of each page to write information. For example:
Apple: 1) seed, 2) seedling, 3) tree, 4) bud, 5) flower, 6) fruit
Moth: 1) egg, 2) caterpillar, 3) chrysalis, 4) moth
STEP 4: WRITE DETAILS
Younger children can write a word or two below each drawing. Older students should write 1-2 sentences that explain the life stage shown.
Enjoy getting out in nature this week and dabbling in one of these fun projects. Your children will be writing, but they’ll be smiling all the way!
March 12th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts, Writing Across the Curriculum
EXPLORE foreign cultures with your kids as they write about children around the world! These fun geography journal prompts will help jumpstart your adventures.
1. My Own Little Corner
If you lived in the Russian city of Moscow, your family might share an apartment kitchen with two other families, and you might fold up your bed every morning to save space! Imagine how your life would be different in Russia, and journal your thoughts.
2. School Days
If you attended school in Morocco, you would probably go home for a two-hour lunch break each day and return to school for classes until 5:00 p.m. Compare and contrast this schedule with a typical school day in your home.
3. Fiesta Dreams
If you lived in Mexico, you would probably celebrate El Día de los Niños (Children’s Day) on April 30. On this day each year, schools and streets overflow with colorful candies and piñatas, while music and laughter fill the air. Make a list of ten activities you would include in a “Children’s Day” celebration.
4. The Family Table
If you lived in Armenia, you might enjoy eating sarma—grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat. Don’t forget to try some tomato sauce and plain yogurt on top! Write an appealing description of this dish for a restaurant menu.
5. Cheers, Mate!
If you lived in the remote Australian outback, you might attend the School of the Air. A satellite network would allow you to view real-time classes on your computer, while web cameras and email would help you interact with your teacher. What would you like most about attending the school of the air? What would you like the least?
Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
October 23rd, 2013 — Writing & Journal Prompts, Writing Across the Curriculum
PIONEER stories of the wild frontier continue to enchant American children and teachers alike. This week, tempt your kids to sit down and journal with these pioneer writing prompts!
1. Westward Ho!
When pioneer families moved west, they packed only the most important belongings. Imagine your parents just sold your house and bought a covered wagon. You can keep only three outfits, two books, and one toy. Which items will you choose and why?
2. The Oregon Trail
Write a story using at least five of these words: Missouri, prairie, wagon train, dog, sunbonnet, Indians, campfire, thunderstorm, river, Idaho.
3. Little House in the White Snow
After one year on a new homestead, your family has built a sturdy, one-room log cabin. Describe this room on a winter evening, using your senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
4. The Language of Friendship
After settling into your new prairie home, you learn that your nearest neighbors are immigrants who don’t speak a word of English. Make a list of the first ten words or phrases you will try to teach your new friends. Now, make a list of three to five steps for how to teach these English words.
5. Now and Then
Farm life on the 1870s frontier was quite different from city life in the eastern states, where streets bustled with horses and carriages and homes were lit by kerosene lamps. In a letter to your cousin who lives back east, compare and contrast your old life in the city with your new life on a Nebraska farm.
Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
February 25th, 2013 — Homeschooling, Writing Across the Curriculum
SPRING is just around the corner, and with it the joy of finally stepping outside for hands-on learning. Like many moms, you probably look forward to a new season of field trips. But if you always assign the five paragraph “What I Learned on my Field Trip” report the moment your family returns home, your kids may not quite share your excitement.
If you already use a writing program, an extra report can be overwhelming to an elementary child. Reports can also frustrate a student who spent so much time enjoying her outing that she forgot to take notes. Why not follow up your field trip with a writing activity that appeals to your squirmy son, imaginative daughter, or inquisitive preteen?
Make a Word Bank
After a fun but tiring excursion and a long drive home, your child might be overwhelmed at the thought of writing a report the next day. He can easily show some of the things he learned simply by making lists or word banks!
First, encourage your child to think of one or two things that stood out to him. Was your third grader especially fascinated by the jellyfish at the aquarium? Help him make a list of adjectives, nouns, and verbs that remind him of this awesome creature. Perhaps you’ll want to do this together (out loud at the dinner table?). Or, set your kids loose in the backyard with sidewalk chalk, and take a picture of the word lists they create.
Write a Story
Perhaps your book-loving daughter has just waltzed through the halls of a Victorian home or romped through the fields and cabins of a living history farm. She’s already aglow with dreams of adventure in other times and places. Why not encourage her to write a short story inspired by her day?
Structure the assignment to keep it manageable. Ask her to introduce the main character and the character’s main problem in the first paragraph. The middle paragraphs should show the character attempting to fix the problem. The final paragraph should provide some kind of resolution or closure.
The story might follow a wealthy man attempting to send an urgent message in the days before telephones. Or, it might revolve around a farm girl who wants to make her mother a present for Christmas. Whatever the story, make sure your child includes historical details learned on the field trip, such as the clothing, inventions, or entertainment of the time.
Super Sleuth Research
If your student displays a scientific bent, a trip to the science museum is merely the first step in feeding his ever-growing curiosity. Instead of asking him to rehash what he just learned in a post-field trip report, consider assigning a series of questions and answers—all prepared by the student himself, of course.
Begin by asking him to write one, two, or three genuine questions based on his new knowledge. Which exhibit in the museum left him wanting to know more? Which train of thought did the docent leave unexplored? Questions should focus on hows and whys that require explanation, rather than simple when or where questions that can be answered with a single phrase. For example: Why had no one invented a practical light bulb before Thomas Edison? How do scientists agree on carbon dating?
After you approve the questions, set your student free to conduct research. Then, ask him to write one (or all) of his answers in paragraph form. When finished, have him check his own work for organization, clarity, and proper grammar!
* * *
Your home may be the training ground for budding artists, novelists, and scientists alike. By combining the hands-on learning of field trips with customized follow-up assignments, you are teaching your kids that writing is not only relevant, but fun!
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.
September 26th, 2012 — Writing Across the Curriculum, Writing Lessons
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Making a newspaper is a great way to learn more about a time period or even a specific day of a famous event. During our homeschooling years, we put together several, including a Jamestown settlement newspaper and a Victorian era newspaper.
This activity is perfect for an individual history project, but several students can also work together. Because there are so many different sections in a newspaper, there’s something for everyone, from the most advanced writer to the youngest child.
TIP: If your children are not especially familiar with newspapers, pick one up at the grocery store. Have them do this free Newspaper Scavenger Hunt (courtesy of Moms and Munchkins) before launching into their project!
Consider the period you are currently (or soon to be) studying. Create a historical newspaper that centers on a specific year, decade, or era. Whether children are working alone or together, their newspaper should include 5-8 articles or sections:
1. National news story
What was happening in the news at the time? (Consider political, social, and religious news of the day in your country of study.)
- Are you studying about Christopher Columbus? Then the national news story will probably be in Spain.
- Are you learning about the the Renaissance? Your national news story would be about events in Italy or France.
- Are you studying an American historical event? This news story needs to happen in the United States.
In addition to library books and other resources, web sites such as HistoryOrb.com, Animated Atlas, and Church History Timeline will help spark topic ideas. For specific help, try websites such as Roman Society, Elizabethan Era, Colonial Daily Life, or Victorian England.
Don’t forget to include a headline!
2. International news story
What was happening elsewhere in the world at this time? To find out, explore a timeline such as World History Timeline B.C. or World History Timeline A.D.
3. Letters to the Editor
Everyday citizens write letters to the newspaper expressing their opinions about current events. Your children might use this opportunity to tell why they think:
- the Church should not sell indulgences
- the Virginia Company is misleading new colonists
- Industrial-era factories shouldn’t hire child laborers
- the United States should practice isolationism
What sorts of jobs did people have during this time period? What were the common occupations of the day? What kinds of things did people buy and sell? Kids can do a little research to find answers to these questions. Then they can write:
- For sale ads
- Help-wanted ads (apprentices needed, etc.)
- Ads for lost animals, runaway slaves, traveling companions, etc.
5. Crossword or other puzzle
Most modern newspapers include games or puzzles for entertainment. Your children can put puzzles in their newspapers, too!
Crosswords are the most “educational” because they require the student to come up with clues. Invite children to come up with crossword vocabulary and appropriate clues that fit the time period. These websites will help them generate a printable puzzle:
6. Vital statistics
Newspapers often include information that tells more about the people of the day. As they create their own historical newspaper, your kids might want to include vital statistics such as:
- Casualty lists during war times
This can be especially interesting when they report about real people. What important people were born? Did anyone of importance get married or die? Was a notorious crime committed during this era?
7. Miscellaneous sections or news
Likewise, most newspapers have sections that provide other types of information or amusement. Invite your students to consider including:
- Advice column
- Doctor’s column
- Comic strips or political cartoons
8. Photos or other images
In addition to articles and sections, it’s fun to include images! Try a site like Historical Stock Photos.com for images you can download for free.
Edit: After posting this article, I received an email from the Historical Newspapers Database recommending Timothy Hughes Rare and Early Newspapers as a useful resource when creating your own historical newspapers. You and your students can look at pictures of real newspapers printed during the time period you’re researching.
Making a newspaper is a fun, educational way to practice new skills while writing across the curriculum. Have you ever had your children create a newspaper? What time period did you choose to write about?
Copyright 2012 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
August 6th, 2012 — Writing Across the Curriculum
SPECIAL PROJECTS can grow naturally from your children’s studies and interests. When they invest in a such a project, it can benefit them by:
- Providing the opportunity for delight-directed learning;
- Opening doors to more deeply explore a topic;
- Appealing to their unique interests;
- Allowing them to use their individual skills and abilities;
- Helping them experience greater success with writing.
When kids are inventive, artistic, or crafty, it’s important to find ways to incorporate those interests into other subjects. They’ll more readily embrace a history, science, or other writing assignment when they can use their gifts and talents alongside the writing.
Here are a few ways imaginative students can combine creativity with writing using these art-inspired writing projects.
1. Alphabet Book
Create an illustrated alphabet book or scrapbook representing a historical era, single historical subject, civilization or country, or science topic.
- First, make an alphabetical list from A to Z. Brainstorm and write down several words, phrases, or terms for each letter of the alphabet that directly relate to your overall topic. Narrow your choices and make your final selections before creating pages.
- Make one page for each letter. Choose a word or phrase that relates to your book’s theme. Example: xylem (Plant theme, letter X)
- Write a sentence that offers a brief explanation. Example: Xylem are plant tissues that transport water and minerals from the roots to other parts of a plant.
- Draw pictures or cut photos from a magazine or online source to illustrate the sentence and embellish pages.
Possible Themes: Japan, Incas, the Renaissance, the Civil War, the Victorian Era, nutrition and health, plants, rocks and minerals, weather
2. State Birds or Flowers Book
Research the birds or flowers for each of the 50 states, and make an illustrated booklet.
Include the name of the bird or flower. In your own words, write a few sentences telling interesting facts about each.
This activity will take time, so spread it out over several months, perhaps drawing and coloring two birds or flowers each week. This would also make a great family or group project!
Official US State Birds
Official US State Flowers
What period of time are you studying? Design and make a collage about a certain decade, historical era, invention, or historical figure. Collect pictures from online sources or old magazines such as National Geographic, which you can often pick up at library sales or thrift stores for pennies.
Alternatively, create a college that reflects the popular cultureof a particular time period. Your collage could include painters/artists, books/authors, sports figures, entertainers, musicians/music titles, and clothing for a certain decade or era.
Either way, prepare a written guide that explains the symbols, people, and other images you chose, telling the importance of each.
How to Make a Collage
14 Tips on How to Make a Collage (see “Paper Collage”)
Make Collage Art Using Magazine Clippings
4. Coloring Book
Do you draw or sketch? This would be a great way to use your artistic skills!
- Create 12-15 outline drawings that illustrate the life of a famous historical figure, the historic events of a particular era, sea creatures from an oceanography study, leaves or flowers from a plant study, or other subject-specific area you’re learning about.
- Add a caption to each page.
- Include an appendix for the back of the coloring book that features a brief paragraph about each of the coloring pages.
- Design and color a cover.
- Assemble the pages into a book, which you can have bound inexpensively at most office-supply or copy stores.
Consider photocopying the originals to create several coloring books to share with others.
January 21st, 2011 — Teaching Writing, Writing Across the Curriculum
Writing across the curriculum is a phrase homeschoolers hear more and more. With many students struggling under the weight of their various courses and moms juggling lesson plans and schoolwork for their large families, your response may well be, “That’s nice. But can it simplify my life?”
This article contains affiliate links for a couple of books I’m confident your family will love!
Two Birds with One Stone
Unfamiliar with the expression “writing across the curriculum”? Simply put, it means using writing assignments as a vehicle to help kids explore other areas of study.
Those who use a writing program “as is” tend to teach writing as a separate subject, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But if you’re teaching many children or you want to streamline your schedule, writing across the curriculum may be ideal for you.
Rather than approach writing as a separate discipline, students apply generic writing lessons to subjects like history, literature, or science. Not only does it boost writing ability, it helps them better understand the content and specialized vocabulary of a particular subject.
Writing across the curriculum increases knowledge of the subject matter while helping students develop critical thinking skills. To prepare for the assignment, they must do a bit of reading or research. As they take in the information, brainstorm, and write, they gain greater understanding of the topic.
Second, it makes everyone’s life simpler. Instead of a “writing” assignment here and a history or literature composition there, the two can be easily combined. The result? Less writing for the kids and less grading and lesson planning for Mom. Here are some of my favorite tips for writing across the curriculum.
Students can use writing across the curriculum to write descriptively by examining details of food, costumes, or objects from a culture they’re learning about. They can write about an oriole’s nest for science, a carved African antelope for geography, a coonskin cap for literature, or a Peruvian flute for music.
If you don’t have the object on hand, a vivid photograph can serve as an acceptable substitute. DK Eyewitness Books make excellent choices because of their clear, intricate photos.
Consider a news article. Students can use the five Ws—who, what, when, where, why—to explore an incident they’re studying in another subject. What a great opportunity to learn more about a historical event, archaeological find, or scientific discovery and write a short article about it.
Other kinds of informative writing, such as biographies, short reports, or historical newspapers can also dovetail with current areas of study. That’s what writing across the curriculum is all about!
Great Wall of China
Looking for more ways to write across the curriculum? Look no further than the personal narrative.
Encouraging children to write stories loosely based on their own family tree provides opportunities to study an earlier era.
Or, how about writing journal entries using the voice of a famous person from the past? Your student might choose to become Joan of Arc (history), Albert Einstein (science), the Apostle Paul (Bible), or George Frideric Handel (music). After reading about an especially exciting event in her subject’s life, the student must personalize the information to write a brief first-person narrative as if she herself were that individual. It’s journaling with a twist!
Alternatively, she can “interview” this historical figure and write a third-person narrative. Writing from a different point of view challenges critical thinking skills.
In junior high and high school, you can incorporate essay writing into just about every subject. It’s important for your teen to articulate an argument, write a defendable thesis statement, and support it with facts, logic, and examples.
Essays can describe, define, persuade, or discuss cause and effect. Students can compare and contrast battles, Bible characters, or ideologies. They can write an exposé on the Virginia Company and its dealings with Jamestown, an opinion about whether the earth is round, or a letter to the editor complaining about the conditions in London factories during the Industrial Revolution.
Projects and Activities
Look for projects and activities that involve writing but don’t necessarily result in formal compositions.
Here’s one idea: ditch the traditional—and boring—book report (“This book is about…”) and ask your child to make a mobile by cutting shapes from sturdy paper. On the front, have him color pictures of significant characters or scenes from the book, and on the back, write a colorful description or brief character analysis. When finished, he can string each shape with yarn and dangle the papers from a wire hanger. Such an activity can be adapted to all ages.
Your student’s talents and interests can also play a part in creating out-of-the-ordinary projects. Instead of explaining a process the traditional way, one clever student created an unusual instruction manual for a literature assignment based upon The Lord of the Rings: she explained how to make an Elvish sword. Rather than use notebook paper or a computer printout, she copied her final draft onto parchment paper whose edges she had carefully burned. Then she embellished each page, writing runic characters with a calligraphy pen to create a beautiful project worth keeping and treasuring.
- Draw and label a diagram for science to explain photosynthesis, a volcano, or the water cycle. Include a short written explanation of the process.
- Make a scrapbook of a historical period, famous person, or country (Renaissance, Vikings, Australia), or create one featuring art, music, or science. Depending on the nature of the scrapbook, elements could include daily life, journals, maps, timelines, sketches, flags, plant taxonomies, pressed leaves, photos, biographies, summaries, definitions, and news articles.
- Design a brochure about an historic location. Include drawings and brief descriptions about key events, people, and places.
Inside of “Come to California” brochure
Colonial newspaper advertisements
If “writing across the curriculum” has thus far been a mystery to you—one of those terms that everyone tosses around about but never actually defines—hopefully you now feel better equipped to give it a try with one or more of your children’s writing lessons.
You may decide to use each and every writing lesson for the purpose of writing across the curriculum, or you might only apply a couple of assignments in this manner. Regardless, everyone in your family will benefit.
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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If you’re a WriteShop I or II user, you’ll be excited to know there’s a Writing Across the Curriculum section in Appendix B to help you tie each WriteShop assignment into other subjects you’re studying. No projects here, but at least you can direct the lesson toward history or science and kill two birds with one stone! WriteShop Primary for your little ones and WriteShop Junior for upper elementary also offer Writing Across the Curriculum ideas with each lesson.