Contributed by Joe Pacitti, High School English Teacher
One of the more problematic issues related to writing instruction across content areas is process: how can we teach students to write well in the digital classroom? Increasingly, educators are focusing on purposeful writing in the real world: blogging, Tweeting, commenting, posting. While these are the most prominent forms of writing that all students encounter on a daily basis, I’ve been questioning what’s being sacrificed in my own room by jumping whole-hog into the digital arena.
Conversation – the lost art of talking to a student about his/her writing, in this instance – is essential to inspiring reflectivity. By conducting writing conferences, engaging students in face-to-face dialogue (both peer- and teacher-led), and then expanding the personal into the digital, students’ writings become more than a flash-in-the-pan moment on a Google Doc. Writing – good writing – requires multimodal learning processes, and only a few writing practitioners are advocating for a hybrid approach to teaching meaningful drafting and publishing.
As we wade through the quagmire of pedagogical texts together, I’d like to take a moment to direct your attention to one that has, in my many years as a writing instructor, improved student writing processes and products longitudinally:
- Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts (Kelly Gallagher)
If you’re asking how you can integrate sound writing practice into your classroom regardless of content area, this is the text for you. Gallagher introduces the concept of writing through a variety of modes – explain and inform, argue/persuade, etc. – using mentor texts as models.
Students interested in science can utilize published lab reports and articles from publications like WIRED to produce a piece that informs/explains the process of cellular mitosis; those interested in purchasing a new game system can create, using the pre-, during, and after-writing methods Gallagher delineates to create a fully-functional graphic and associated analysis to complete a side-by-side comparison of the PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U.
Most importantly, this text emphasizes the power of drafts and writing conferences – if you need a format for providing meaningful face-to-face feedback to your student writers, I highly recommend this text.