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Writing across the Curriculum
By suggesting alternate topics for student paragraphs, you can adapt most WriteShop lessons to fit into a unit study, classical education approach, or literature-based curriculum.
This will not always be easy for the students, since their lesson instructions often ask them to write about a more specific, curriculum-directed topic. Teach them to think outside the box. “Black and white” thinkers will have the most trouble with flexibility.
Instead of describing a common household object, students can describe an object or artifact from history, such as an Egyptian bracelet, a sword or shield, a bowl or goblet, or a farm implement. DK books and Eyewitness Books contain vivid, detailed photographs that would work as suitable substitutes for real objects. If your student has trouble coming up with adequate texture words, perhaps you have fabrics, wooden articles, etc. for him to touch that will help him describe his relic more explicitly.
Apply this lesson to a science study by observing an object such as a rock, mineral, or geode; a leaf, pinecone, or flower; or a patch of bark or moss.
A domestic animal from history can take the
place of the student’s puppy or hamster. Perhaps he can describe an Egyptian
or Siamese cat, a Japanese koi (fish), or an Arabian horse, for example.
Rely on high-quality photographs if an actual animal is not available.
Lesson 3 Describing a Person
Suggest that students pick a famous person to
describe. Well-known figures like Lincoln, Washington, or Napoleon would
make good choices because their portraits are easily accessed in art and
history books. Once you have discerned the goal of the lesson you will be
able to steer your students in the proper direction.
Lesson 4 Describing a Circus Performer
Many historical figures lend themselves well to
this assignment. Books that contain clear, colorful drawings or photographs
of costumed people can serve as the foundation for this exercise, as can
costumed dolls. Consider any of the following as substitutions for a circus
performer: a Greek hoplite soldier, a Roman centurion, or another soldier
from any era; a king or queen; a Pilgrim or Puritan; a cowboy or gypsy; a
person from a country of study, dressed in native costume.
As a hands-on activity, students could prepare a
food from a certain time period or from another country they are studying.
Your library should have a number of cookbooks featuring foods from around
the world. Slumps, Grunts, and Snickerdoodles comes to mind as an
excellent children’s book containing colorful historical information as well
as tasty recipes from the days of the earliest American settlers.
Lesson 6 Describing a Season
This topic may prove a bit more difficult to work with. However, a creative mind will come up with possibilities. For instance, if you are studying either the Revolutionary War or the Westward Expansion, perhaps your student could describe the harshness of winter (Valley Forge? Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter?) It is important to remember that this is not a narrative assignment.
students to describe the season itself and not the
historical event that took place. The historical event should serve as a
background and no more.
Lesson 7 Describing a Place
Here, the student will write this composition in first person, adapting one of the lesson’s suggested sentence starters. Perhaps he can be a Hebrew in the desert during the Exodus, David Livingstone in an African jungle, or a Pilgrim in the Eastern woodlands. Students can use books with vivid photographs or watch scenic travel videos for ideas.
A landscape painting from your country or period of study can also provide the setting for your student’s “place” as well as offer an opportunity to discuss artists who painted during that time.
“Describing a Season,” caution students not to turn this assignment into a
Lesson 8 Explaining a Process
This lesson offers endless possibilities for the
creative student. Selecting a task from his history studies, he can explain
how to make candles, paper, or a quilt; how to load and fire a musket or
cannon; or how to joust in a tournament, build a log cabin, or make
pemmican. From science he can describe a natural process, such as how a
plant grows or how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
Lesson 9 Writing a Factual Report
The student can learn more about the animals
that inhabit his geographic region of study, whether he writes about a
giraffe, fox, or whale. Remind him to select a wild animal for his short
report rather than a domestic animal, as he chose in Lesson 2.
Lesson 10 Writing a Concise Biography
Any notable figure from science or history will
make a suitable subject for this assignment.
Lesson 11 Introducing Journalism
News articles should be written about an
important historical event or scientific discovery.
Lesson 12 Writing a Narrative of an Emotional Event
Students can write a first-person narrative from the point of view of a famous historical or biblical figure, explorer, or scientist. Caution them to follow directions, limiting narration to one setting, one short time frame, etc.
travels with Jesus would be too broad, but his denial of Jesus would
make a perfect topic. Other ideas include writing a first-person account of
Martin Luther nailing the Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in
Wittenberg, a plantation slave escaping to freedom, or a Pilgrim sailing on
the Mayflower (again, limiting the narrative to a single experience).
Encourage each student to put himself in the shoes of his historical figure
so he can understand and write about his or her emotions and experiences.
Lesson 13 Writing a Narrative of Another Person’s Experience
Lesson 14 First-Person Point of View
Instead of merely choosing to personify an
ordinary object from a historical period, students can consider objects
whose “experiences” could be considered exciting or interactive. A silver
bowl fashioned by Paul Revere would certainly work, but his saddle could
narrate a more spine-tingling tale! Students could personify a mortar or
pestle, a Roman shield, Thomas Edison’s light bulb, Ben Franklin’s kite, or
an old English waterwheel. Encourage their imaginations!
Lesson 15 First-Person Point of View
Choose a Bible story, one of Aesop’s fables, or
another short literary narrative that has at least two points of view.
Lesson 16 Third-Person Point of View
This is probably the most challenging lesson to
adapt. Students must write this third-person narrative from different points
of view. If you can think of a creative way to customize this assignment,
feel free to do so. If not, ask students to write the composition as
Lesson 17 Describing an Object
This assignment asks the student to select a multifaceted object that has a little more detail than the one he picked for Lesson 1. Perhaps he could describe a monument, building, or statue. An exotic headdress, jeweled crown, or interesting period costume would also make excellent subject matter. Again, use an Eyewitness book, National Geographic or Smithsonian magazine, or other detailed photograph, since the object will probably not be available firsthand.
Science studies lend themselves to observing objects like Saturn or the moon; a flowering hydrangea bush or needle-covered pine tree; a cumulus cloud; or a butterfly, beetle, or spider web. When the object is not readily observable, use a good photograph.
See suggestions for Lesson 7.
See suggestions for Lessons 9 and 10.
Lesson 20 Exaggeration
In the early 1600s, the Virginia Company
exaggerated the truths about the Jamestown settlement in order to lure
settlers across the ocean. Suggest that students choose a historical site
like a castle, fort, inn, or mine to “propagandize.” Ask them to think about
claims that lured people to places like Africa, India, China, or the New
World, or even to California or Kentucky, and to incorporate these ideas
into their exaggerated paragraph.
Lessons 21 and 22 First-Person Point of View, Parts 1 and 2
This lesson asks students to observe and write
about the same event from the first-person perspective of two different
individuals. Consider viewing a feast from the point of view of an Indian
and a Pilgrim, a Roman patrician and a slave, or a medieval lord or lady and
a servant. During the first Civil War battle at Manassas, wealthy citizens
rode out to the battle site to picnic and watch the “show.” Journalists also
came to watch and record. Both of these perspectives would make for
excellent paragraphs. Suggest events such as the plague of frogs, a battle,
a medieval joust, a coronation, or a performance by a Baroque musician.
Again, no matter what event they choose, remind them that observers,
not participants, write the paragraphs.
Lesson 23 Narrative Voice
Students experiment with changing narrative
voice and tense. See Lesson 9 for topic suggestions.
Encourage students to choose a popular child’s
toy of the time period as the subject of their advertisement. It does not
have to be a toy; other ideas include any invention, discovery, or object
from their history or science studies. (You will have to adapt the lesson
instructions if the object is not a toy.)
Lessons 25-30 Essays
The supplemental section of your Teacher’s
Manual (Appendix B) contains many suitable topics for writing across the
curriculum. Examples include discussing the significance of a famous battle
or contrasting two artists from a particular period.
Kim Kautzer and Debbie Oldar
Do you have a topic you’d like us to address in future articles? E-mail us and we’ll do our best!
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