Writing in the Classroom

In a chapter titled “Powerful Pens: Writing to Learn with Adolescents,” authors Fisher, Frey, and Edwardi outline ways that writing can be used in classrooms of all types. Many of these strategies were familiar to me either through my field work, my experience teaching Freshman Composition courses, or from other readings on pedagogy. I was especially interested in the applications in a geometry class where students were asked to write their thoughts about a word problem and analyze it before identifying their first steps toward solving the problem. The writing assignment allowed the teacher to easily identify missing, unclear, or misunderstood steps in the students’ thinking process. Although I do not agree with the chapter’s claim that “writing is thinking” (172), I do believe that student writing about their thinking process can provide insight for the teacher and help reinforce critical decision-making skills for the students themselves.

One way I might adapt this model in classroom is through learning journals. The journals would serve a variety of purposes at different times during the course, but during major assignments (e.g. research essays or presentations), I would ask students to document their process. For example, if they used a particular pre-writing technique, they would document how they used it and why. This exercise not only helps students plan their projects in an organized way; it also reinforces declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge about the writing process itself. Identifying the prewriting technique demonstrates declarative knowledge; documenting how they applied the technique to a particular assignment answers to procedural knowledge; and explaining why they used that technique demonstrates conditional knowledge.

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