Why Writing is So Important for Your Students Across the Curriculum
I could go on for hours (maybe days) about this topic. Whether you teach elementary school, middle school, high school, or college and university classes, writing is The Essential Skill students need to achieve.
For this blog, I’ve chosen nine answers to the question, “Why is Writing Important?”
Let’s dive right in!
The Importance of Writing
Writing is a form of lasting communication.
How many of us have a letter or diary from a family member that is precious to us? I have something that is so incredibly special to me, and it’s absolutely irreplaceable.
Years ago, when my daughter was a 4 year old, bouncing all over the house with curly brown hair dancing around her face, she caught the attention of a friend of mine who was taking a writing course.
This friend’s professor told her to write a character description. My friend asked if I minded if she wrote the description about my daughter. I said, “No problem!” I didn’t give it another thought until about a month later.
My friend handed me a paper with the description of my daughter she had written. Oh, my word! It was amazing! Her description brought my daughter to life, and is a stage of her childhood I would have never remembered in such detail without this written description. It’s become a cherished family keepsake.
Letters from relatives, annual family newsletters, emails, and other forms of written communication can become treasures full of memories for others.
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Writing is a Record of Memories Past That Can Affect the Future
Do you remember reading in the news about a bundle of old letters that were found in a Paris apartment? A woman named Marthe de Florian owned the Paris apartment during the Belle Époque, and apparently was famous in the world of courtesans. Her granddaughter Solange lived there just before the start of World War II in 1939. Solange fled Paris, leaving everything behind.
When Solange died in 2013 at age 91, the estate had a treasure trove of valuable items and a painting of Marthe that sold for £1.78 million. But more remarkable than these treasures was a bundle of love letters tied up in a ribbon.
She had kept these letters for over seven decades. The letters recalled times past, passionate moments, and hopes and dreams. Three years after the discovery, author Alison Richman released her book The Velvet Hours, based on this apartment and the letters discovered within.
Of course, the heirlooms and pearls and paintings were valuable discoveries. But the discoveries that bring the most meaning are those that carry our stories. In this case it was the bundle of letters.
Writing Helps You Organize Your Thoughts
One wonderful thing about writing is you can say something one way, then back up and try it another way. You can write something out, then realize that perhaps you need to say it in a different order. You have the luxury of moving things around by cutting and pasting.
This makes writing instructions a super valuable exercise in the classroom. When students have to write instructions about how to do something, they have to stop and clarify the order in which they’ll write it. They also need to reread it to make sure the instructions are clearly stated.
Have you ever had your students describe how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Or how to get ready for school in the morning? Inevitably, the first drafts are missing a step or a key component. But with practice, students become better able to organize their thinking and writing.
Writing Is A Mindful Activity
There is absolutely no way a person can write effectively without being mindful. That’s strictly my opinion, but take a moment to consider it.
Has someone ever called you on the phone and needed to chat about something while you were working? Of course. It happens to everyone. Did you stop working while you talked to them?
Sometimes, people try to continue writing a report or filling out a form while they’re talking. But one of the two things meets with less than success. Either the conversation suffers or the written document suffers.
It’s imperative to focus on the writing in order to create something worth reading that communicates your points to your audience.
This is why I say that writing is mindfulness in action.
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Writing Helps You Connect With Your Audience
Since writing is a form of communication, we need a writer and an audience. Everyone wants their voices and opinions heard.
One of the first things writers learn is to consider the audience. By doing so, they are softening their mind, opening their thoughts to another point of view. When you teach your students to do this, they become better at writing opinion and better at debate.
Your students will learn the touchpoints to grab the reader’s attention. They’ll learn how to acknowledge what the reader may be thinking. They’ll learn how to connect what they know about their audience with what they want to say in writing.
Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills When they Write
When you can understand your audience and your reader’s point of view, you can use logic to create an opinion that stands on its own. On the other hand, you’ll discover if there is faulty logic in your own point of view. This applies to narrative writing as well as opinion writing.
In narrative writing, you might ask your students to create a satisfying ending to a story sans Deus ex Machina. When you do this, they have to think hard about what could be a possible solution. What could the characters be capable of doing to bring a resolution to the story?
This is another facet of critical thinking and of developing a clear organization in writing. Perhaps the only possible solution will require the student to go back and rewrite a previous scene. Yes, there will be groans. But this is part of the revising and editing process which students need to master. Afterwards, your student will be proud of the story when it’s done.
Writing Is A Fabulous Way To Improve Vocabulary And Reading Skills
I threw in a couple of words in the previous section that your students may or may not know. I purposely did that because as we write, we often need to find ways of expressing ideas that need more specific language. Precise writing is a vocabulary builder.
Also, once students have gained some proficiency in writing, they’ll be better readers. I once had a writing professor who told me, “Learning to write ruined reading for me.” What he meant was, every time he read a book, he could pick out errors or things he could have done better.
Of course, you don’t want to ruin reading for your students. Quite the opposite. You want them to love reading! This is why mentor texts are so important.
Mentor texts show students the magic that can happen with skilled writing. It also gives them something to strive for, to write like a particular author. In fact, most adult writing programs have the students study writing by masters or by best selling authors. Why? Because mentor texts are terrific teaching tools.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Writing helps develop mental skills such as critical thinking, organization, and vocabulary. 5 ideas for teaching writing across the curriculum without changing what you teach.” quote=”Writing helps develop mental skills such as critical thinking, organization, and vocabulary. 5 ideas for teaching writing across the curriculum without changing what you teach.” theme=”style3″]
Writing Helps Your Students Remember Things They’ve Learned
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” This famous quote by Benjamin Franklin is as true today as it has ever been. You can involve students in learning and learning to remember by having them write things down.
I’m not only talking about note taking. Note taking is important, and is an essential way to jot down important points and sequences of material. But having them writing about what they’ve learned will solidify and cement that knowledge to a greater degree than just listening and perhaps taking notes. This doesn’t just have to happen during writing class. It should happen in all subject areas.
Some ideas for writing about what they’ve learned across the curriculum:
- Writing a summary of a lesson (any subject)
- Writing an explanation of a process (math, science, P.E., the arts)
- Writing an opposing opinion (social studies, history, current events, after reading an informational text)
- Writing an opinion to justify an answer they’ve come up with (math, science, music, visual arts)
- Writing a narrative about a historical event (social studies, history)
These writing ideas work in math, (writing to justify an answer or explain a process.) They work just as well in science. Opinions can be written about music, art, current events, movies, or books. You can have students write narratives in a history or social studies class. You can have them write a summary of any lesson.
The beautiful thing about this is you’ll gain a greater insight into your students’ understanding of the topic.
Writing Is A Life Skill That Can Affect The World In Positive Ways
This is one of the most important things students need to know. Their voice matters. They can have a powerful voice through writing. Whatever they want to bring to the world, they can do it through writing.
Our students can change the future through the written word.