WRITING ACROSS THE CURRICULUM Writing in the Content Areas Bill Rodawalt 10/28/2010
Assume nothing about the students’ abilities to write • If we simply give students topics or prompts without taking the time to teach them the writing process, the lesson will fail. • Most students in our district do not regularly write papers for their classes. • They need help in organizing their thoughts.
Bad Writing Prompts • Write a 3 page paper about ________. • Write about your favorite color? • Write about your favorite hobby. • Write about what you want to do after you finish school.
Typical writing mistakes • Topic becomes repetitive • My favorite animal is my dog because he is fluffy. • Boring • Your dog is BORING!! • How much more interesting if you just tell me about your pet alpaca because he is fluffy. • Even better. My favorite animal is my pet alpaca because he supports my family with his wool.
Writing Prompts • Should be relevant to the kids. Follow student interests. • Should be focused enough to be dealt with in the format of the assignment • Should be a topic that students can readily research given the constraints of the school
Writing good prompts • Start with the kids’ interests and move them to your topic. • What is their favorite activity? (World of Warcraft) • Find a painting they like. (Starry Night by Van Gogh) • Ask them about a product they use regularly. (Suave Skin Therapy) • A career they are interested in. (Carpentry)
Ask questions to get them in your realm • BIOLOGY or PHYSICAL EDUCATION: What muscles do you use playing World of Warcraft? the abductor pollicisbrevia • ART or CHEMISTRY: What is your favorite part of the painting and what color is it? the moon, icterine • CHEMISTRY: Look on the label for a chemical in Suave Skin Therapy. magnesium aluminum silicate • SHOP or CAREERS: Find a class at the university that could help you in carpentry. home weatherization
DEVELOPING THE TOPIC • The most common complaint from students is that they do not know what to write about. • Notice that we came up with answers that we a bit unusual. We could have just as easily picked yellow for the color, but that is not as interesting as icterine. • The Guthridge Writing System teaches them how to systematically develop their subject, by giving them a formula for a topic.
Elements of the Guthridge System New and Interesting ideas: i.e. icterine instead of yellow Enthymeme: A structured topic sentence which gives students a starting point for their papers. And structure for sections of their papers. Organic Outline: Also sometimes referred to as a “shopping list of ideas Implied Questions: Those questions that the reader is expecting you to answer, given your topic.
Enthymeme The classic enthymeme takes the form of: I like X because Y My favorite X is _________ because Y I learned about X by doing Y The most important X is _________ because Y
Sample topics • My most important muscle is my abductor pollicis breavia because it allows me to win duels in World of Warcraft. • My favorite color is icterine because Van Gogh uses it in his painting Starry Night. • My favorite chemical is magnesium aluminum silicate because it keeps my hands supple for playing the clarinet. • I am applying for a grant to take a class in home weatherization because I am interested in becoming a carpenter.
Organic Outline Starry Night My favorite Color is Icterine • My name is Bill • My mom was a nurse • My dad was a preacher and contractor • I have always been interested in art • I went to college in Toledo • I got my masters degree at Indiana University • I have two cats named Roscoe and Splat! • I like to sing • Sort of a jaundiced color • Word comes from the Greek ikteros which means jaundiced • The color is often used as a descriptor for birds such as the Icterine Warbler and the IcterineGreenbul • RGB color 252/247/94 • By a Dutch post impressionist painter • Oil on Canvas • Depicts the stars and moon and aurora • Hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York • Main field of dark blue with swirls around the stars and moon • City and trees in the foreground
Implied Questions Starry Night My favorite Color is Icterine • My name is Bill • I was born in Ohio • I have 3 sisters and 1 brother • My mom was a nurse • My dad was a preacher and contractor • I have always been interested in art • I went to college in Toledo • I got my masters degree at Indiana University • I have two cats named Roscoe and Splat! • I am 48 years old • I like to sing • Icterine is a shade of yellow • Sort of a jaundiced color • Word comes from the Greek ikteros which means jaundiced • The color is often used as a descriptor for birds such as the Icterine Warbler and the IcterineGreenbul • Sort of a greenish yellow • RGB color 252/247/94 • Painting by Vincent Van Gogh • By a Dutch post impressionist painter • Painted in 1889 • Oil on Canvas • Depicts the stars and moon and aurora • Hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York • Main field of dark blue with swirls around the stars and moon • City and trees in the foreground
A note on implied questions • Sometimes a paper will be so complex, that the student will not know the implied questions. • EXAMPLE: Describe the importance of a particular Supreme Court case. • SOLUTION: Supply the implied questions. • What was the original case about? What did each side say should happen? What did the Original court decide? Was there an intermediate court decision? When did the case occur? When did it get to the Supreme Court? • For this particular assignment I supply the kids with 25 or more implied questions.
Each Section of the outline is a section of the paper • Each Column represents a separate topic • Anything mentioned in one paragraph should not be repeated in the next paragraph • This segregates the ideas and sets up a structure to the writing.
Wrap Up • Start with Student Interest • Move the topic towards your topic of interest • Put the topic in the form of an enthymeme • Break the enthymeme into an organic outline • Research the topic and answer the implied questions • Organize the information sequentially, from general to specific etc. • Work on transition sentences • Write from the outline