Reading Ruddell, Chapters 8 and 9

If there is one topic about which I have become passionate since beginning my teacher training, it is the idea of writing across the curriculum. It isn’t just that it makes what I do (teaching writing) seem like the most important job in the world (though it is). I am convinced that writing is an essential aspect of learning in any subject, for so many different reasons. Writing is connected with three learning styles: linguistic, visual, and kinetic. It provides a mechanism for reaching every level of Bloom’s taxonomy. And writing is the primary means by which we communicate ideas, no matter what the topic. In our increasingly digital society, we rely on writing more and more; we rely on speech and body language less and less.

So it will come as no surprise to anyone that I am a huge fan of many of the strategies Ruddell mentions in Chapter 8. I have used RAFT many times, and I can vouch for its effectiveness. Most of the time, when I have used RAFT, and when I have seen it in other textbooks, the teacher provides the RAFT elements. However, Ruddell has them do brainstorming exercises to come up with roles, audiences, etc. of their own. I think Ruddell’s modification can work well in many circumstances, but sometimes, we want students to look at a topic from a specific perspective, and in those cases it makes sense to design the RAFT with fewer choices for the students to make. In the lesson plans I am creating for this course, I include RAFT as an element of my WebQuest. Students have to use the clues they find in their quests to create a narrative based on a RAFT that I will provide for them.

I also include learning journals in all my lesson plans, using what Ruddell calls the Quote of the Day method. Each class begins with a quote that students use as a writing prompt that is designed to help them make connections. For example, in my lessons on To Kill a Mockingbird, I use some quotations from Martin Luther King to help students connect the setting of the book (the 1930s) to the Civil Rights issues that were occurring at the time when the book was written (1960). On other days, I will use more contemporary quotations or video clips. The main thing though, is that when the bell rings, students should be in their seats writing, and this writing is always our starting point for discussion.

I have less to say about Chapter 9 on assessment and evaluation. I certainly think authentic assessment is a good idea. Everything else is just politics.

Reference

Ruddell, M. (2008). Teaching content reading and writing (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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