This resource presents instructional writing and reading practices that support the content area learning of adolescent learners.

The Write for Texas guiding principles of effective writing instruction, developed for all teachers across disciplines, focus on building every student's understanding and ability to read, write, and think like experts—historians, mathematicians, scientists, and literary critics.

Guiding Principles of Effective Writing Instruction

  1. Use writing and reading to support student learning in all content areas.
  2. Teach students the thinking skills, processes, and knowledge needed to write effectively.
  3. Teach students skills for writing effective sentences in order to create coherent texts.
  4. Provide extra assistance and instruction to students who experience difficulty learning to write.

Download and print the handout packet for this resource by clicking the button below.

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Strong reading, writing, and thinking skills are essential for success in school, the workplace, and life. Yet many adolescents lack even the basic literacy skills to be successful. Merging writing and reading strategies with content learning not only strengthens students' literacy skills, but also maximizes and reinforces content acquisition. Instruction that provides students with multiple opportunities with support and guidance to write and read daily in all content area classes gives students "a chance to take a breath, pull their thoughts together, reflect on their thinking, and appraise their own level of understanding" (Daniels, Zemelman, & Steineke, 2007, p. 29).

This resource contains original content from the Texas Adolescent Literacy Academies: Focus on Writing (TALA Writing) professional development. Any handout numbers in this resource refer to the original handouts from TALA Writing. This resource also contains additional content for using writing and reading to support learning in the content areas—with a focus on English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.

You may complete this resource at your own pace. You may complete all sections in a single session, or you may log in multiple times as you work through the information and activities.


Content Area Informal Writing Activities

Writing and reading are introduced and taught primarily in the English language arts classroom. However, writing and reading are essential components of effective instruction in any subject. When English, history, science, and mathematics teachers use writing and reading to support learning, students begin to understand that writing is a process that reflects thinking and that writing and reading are strongly related. Students learn to think deeply as they develop their own ideas to more effectively convey their message and their purpose for writing.

Whether in the role of writer or reader, students begin to understand that reading and writing involve active, productive thinking to construct meaning and to communicate that meaning to others. As William Faulkner said, "I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it."

Whether you teach English language arts, history, science, or mathematics, writing provides students with a way to process what they learn. Integrating in your curriculum regular, informal writing assignments, sometimes referred to as "writing to learn," is one way to support learning. The purpose of this type of writing assignment is to teach your students how to actively think about, process, and comprehend content. These types of activities range from brief writing tasks to more structured note-taking strategies as students read discipline-specific texts.

Locate the Content Area Informal Writing Activities handout from the handout packet. Review the activities and content area examples on the handout.

Now you will have an opportunity to practice a quick-write, one of the informal writing activities on the handout. Locate the Quick Writing Rounds handout (referred to as Handout 1 in the video) and have it available to use. Review the first page of the handout before watching the video.

When you are ready, click play on the video below.

Think about the following questions and jot down your thoughts.

  • How could you use the quick-write activity in your classroom?
  • How could it benefit your students?

Research and Standards

This section examines research-based practices to enhance standards-based writing instruction in all classrooms. Two research summaries, Writing Next and Writing to Read, highlight the power of writing as a tool for improving both reading comprehension and content learning.

Please locate Handout 2: Adolescent Literacy Research Summaries from the handout packet and review it before watching the video below.

When you are ready, click play on the video below.

Across content areas, the state standards work together to facilitate effective instruction, including the use of writing and reading to support learning. Also, keep in mind that standards-based instruction at every grade level is the best way to prepare students for success on statewide assessments. All students benefit from high-quality instruction that is both focused on the standards and delivered consistently from one grade level to the next.

Please locate Handout 4: General Suggestions for Teaching Writing to Adolescent English Language Learners and Handout 5: Teacher Resources to Support English Language Learners. When you are ready, click play on the video.

Review the suggestions and resources on the handouts.

Effective Instruction

This section explores effective instructional techniques, including modeling how to read like a writer and using mentor texts.

Think about writing assignments you already incorporate in your curriculum and take a few minutes to jot down your thoughts related to the following questions.

  • How do you introduce these assignments and teach your students to write about content?
  • How do you feel about modeling writing in front of the class, including stopping to think aloud or explaining what you are thinking as you write?

When you are ready, click play on the video below.

Incorporating content-related models or mentor texts provides students with opportunities to learn from other writers and apply the same ideas or features to their own writing. Teachers who read aloud mentor texts and stop to verbalize their thoughts are explicitly teaching their students how to think and learn from texts and materials specific to their discipline.

Please locate Handout 9: Author’s Style or Craft from the handout packet.

When you are ready, click play on the video below.

In every subject area, how authors write to communicate information is just as important as what they write about. Take the time to study content-related mentor texts to help students identify the stylistic devices that authors or experts in your field of study use.

Locate the Content Area Informal Writing Activities handout. Templates for the graphic organizers described in the handout are available below in the RELATED ITEMS section.

Choose one of the informal writing activities on the handout that you would like to try with your students to reinforce or extend student learning of specific content in your curriculum. Plan how you will introduce the activity and explicitly model by reading and thinking aloud as you write in front of the class. Then, explicitly teach the activity to your students.

Afterward, write your thoughts about the lesson. What went well? What would you change in the future? What, if anything, about your students surprised you?