WRITING. What pops into your mind? As a teacher? As a student? Likely the answers stem from our conception of formal writing. As the focus is generally becomes learning to write, writing to learn sometime gets tabled, is reserved for literacy classes or stands in the intimidating shadow of formal writing.
“Writing” takes on a whole new meaning with writing to learn. With short bursts of free flow writing, students can map their thinking. Whether it be in lists or sentences, the process encourages students to organize, clarify and extend their understanding. Isn’t that what we want students to do in all content areas?
In class we discussed how thinking aloud while reading to make thinking/comprehension strategies visible can be so useful, so to can writing to learn make the thinking process and comprehension process more visible. In so doing students become active in questioning and revising their thinking process in attacking and conceptual understanding of the material at hand, not solely the material.
I wholeheartedly believe writing to learn and understand is a powerful tool that should be integrated into all subject areas. Furthermore, using language to shape understanding, reasoning and critical thinking can be so illuminating for teachers and students in the learning process. I found Steve Peha’s example in his (amazing) article “Writing Across the Curriculum” to be the perfect example of the sheer power of writing to learn.
The student gave the answer to the following problem.
Here’s how the student explained their thinking.
Without this, the teacher would have likely gone into a lengthy explanation that further confused the poor student even more.
Gaining an insight into how our students think with a few minutes of writing. To me this is incredible and definitely a must!