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Writing: A Core Skill
April 10, 2014 | Volume 9 | Issue 14
Table of Contents 

Writing in the Other Core Content Areas

Gerry Petersen-Incorvaia

How do you respond when your teaching team, principal, or superintendent says, "You must teach writing in your classroom?" As an arts teacher, my defenses go up and I tend to think either "I am already doing it" or "When do I teach my own content area?" Instead, those of us who don't teach English and language arts (ELA) and math can advocate how we create lessons that intentionally integrate the Common Core State Standards for writing into our content areas. Your content area is important. Moreover, students need to use reading and writing skills in your content area to truly gain the knowledge and abilities necessary to perform in that content area. Use this article as an easy and practical reflection guide to infuse writing in your classroom while still prioritizing your content area.

The writing process is similar to many of the processes, practices, and thinking found in content areas other than math or ELA. Knowing this helps a teacher assist students in transferring their learning from one content area to another. For example, as an arts teacher who sees students for about 40 minutes once a week, I know I cover the artistic practices listed in the Figure 1. However, I know arts teachers may not have time to do full writing lessons that include all of the writing process steps. By substituting imagination for prewriting; investigation for drafting; and the construction and reflection process for the rough draft, proofreading, revising, and publishing steps in writing, I have linked the writing process with artistic practices. I can easily have students draft a brief reflection to showcase writing during the artistic process. Figure 1 links you to resources for teaching your subject area's specific writing processes and serves as a reference guide to the steps within each subject area's specific approaches to writing.

Figure 1. Writing Process Steps by Subject Area



Science/ Engineering Practices

Social Studies

Artistic Practices and Thinking


  • Prewriting
  • Drafting
  • Rough Draft
  • Proofreading
  • Revising
  • Publishing
  • Ask questions and define problems
  • Develop and use models
  • Plan and carry out investigations
  • Analyze and interpret data
  • Construct explanations and design solutions
  • Engage in arguments from evidence
  • Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information
  • Examine source information
  • Apply evidence to support claims
  • Understand context
  • Evaluate multiple accounts and perspectives
  • Analyze sources
  • Imagination
  • Investigation
  • Construction
  • Reflection



Figure 2 lists the Common Core anchor standards for writing, with lesson planning questions to help you determine where and when you might infuse writing standards in your classroom. Remember, standards are not curriculum; your own personal curriculum and pedagogy bring the standards to life. Start small (i.e., one standard for one class), have fun, and see what works while keeping the focus on your content area.

Figure 2. Planning for the Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing

Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing

Reflective Questions for Lesson Planning in Non-ELA Classes

Text Types and Purposes

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • How might students write an argument in my content area?
  • Why would students need to argue a point of view or perspective in this content area?
  • What content-specific text, media, visual, or performance resources can be used as a resource or text from which to write arguments?

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

  • What real life scenario would a person need to write an informative or explanatory text regarding this content area?
  • How do I teach analysis within this content area? Is it important? Why?

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • How might a real or imagined narrative relate to this content area?
  • If applicable, what content-specific details are needed within a narrative?
  • If applicable, what event sequences would be appropriate in the narrative?

Production and Distribution of Writing

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

  • Is there a style, an organization, or a purpose that is specific to this content area?
  • How might I teach a content-specific purpose to writing in this content area?

Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

  • Knowing this as the writing process, how might I parallel this process with the content area's practices or processes?
  • Where do speaking and presenting in the content area fit into this process?

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

  • How might I use technology in my content area?
  • What types of technology are available?

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions to demonstrate understanding of the subject under investigation.

  • How might I ask higher-order thinking questions to elicit a written response from students in this content area?
  • What is the purpose for why students may need to write in this class?
  • How might writing help a student understand the topic at hand?

Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

  • What are some print or digital sources in my content area?
  • How might I teach students how to critique the credibility of sources? Why is this skill important to my content area?

Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

  • What scholarly journals are available in my content area?
  • What other types of informational texts in my content area can students use for research?

Range of Writing

Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

  • How can I fit shorter time frames for writing into my daily lessons?
  • Is there a time of year that would work better to infuse writing?
  • Who is the audience for writing in my content area?
  • Why is it important for a student to write as a scientist, historical researcher, art critic, or media consumer?

Gerry Petersen-Incorvaia is an education consultant and an instructor at Concordia University.


ASCD Express, Vol. 9, No. 14. Copyright 2014 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit


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