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How to Teach Writing in STEM Classes

Cynthia Roberson

 

STEM Writing InstructionTraditionally, the task of turning students into proficient writers has always been considered an English teacher’s job. Therefore, finding innovative ways to include writing in the ELA classroom appears second nature to most English teachers.

 

With the impending implementation of the Common Core State Standards, school districts now expect all teachers to play a vital role in honing students’ writing skills by consistently incorporating writing into their lesson planning.

 

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While this expectation doesn’t appear unrealistic, some teachers outside of the ELA content area find themselves in unfamiliar, as well as, uncomfortable territory. This sentiment grows steadily especially among STEM teachers who feel their math and science backgrounds haven’t sufficiently prepared them to teach writing. 

 

Have no fear! The successful integration of writing doesn’t have to be steeped in unease. In fact, employing a few simple tips over a period of time will allow STEM teachers to build a writing program easy to facilitate and maintain.

Use ELA Teachers as a Resource

When planning lessons or introducing new skills and concepts, educators often forget to use some of their most valuable resources – other educators. Reaching out to ELA teachers with established writing programs will save STEM teachers a great deal of time and potentially anxiety as well.

 

ELA teachers can provide insight into rubric creation, directions and expectations for writing, and proper format for formal essays.  They may even share valuable websites and hard copies of handouts to assist planning and lesson execution.

Teach Writing with Examples & Expectations

One of the most important components of teaching and learning is knowing the expectations of an assignment. By providing students with samples of a finished product, and in varying levels, they know what they are expected to produce in terms of quality and perhaps even quantity.

 

Also, determine if they are writing a paragraph or an essay and make sure they know the difference between the two before beginning the assignment. Again, show examples.

Always Use a Rubric

Rubrics accomplish two important outcomes.

 

1. They clearly outline the expectations of the given assignment while creating equitable and fair scoring. Once the product is graded students receive documented feedback regarding the reason for their grade and an appropriate guide to use for the next writing assignment. 

 

2.Moreover, rubrics eliminate possible confusion over what should be graded allowing you to focus solely on the components listed.

Choose Authentic Writing Activities & Topics

Writing assignments in any content area must make sense. Therefore, create meaningful and purposeful assignments based on the current topic of discussion or lesson.

 

Asking students to write an essay explaining procedure or a process or detailing a lesson taught the previous day in a reflection are just a couple of ways to foster writing in STEM students.

 

Although commonly used in ELA classes, journals provide students with consistent writing opportunities in STEM classes as well. Use journals to respond to questions, reflect on lessons, assess comprehension of new material and summarize reading.

Provide Creative Writing Options

As with an English or Language arts class, you may explore creative ways to motivate your students to write. 

 

Writing poetry, creating children’s books with illustrations or even writing and performing a play provide creative outlets of expression in classes that typically focus more on analytical and technical strengths. By giving students several options when assigning projects, you offer creative, as well as, traditional options of project completion. 

 

Your more creative students appreciate the options and you receive an array of final projects making grading more interesting. Bear in mind, writing doesn’t always have to be a serious, cumbersome task.  With a little effort and sufficient planning, you can make writing effortless, and maybe even enjoyable, for all of your students.

 

Share your tips for teaching writing across the curriculum!