Friday, March 26, 2010
Reading & Writing Across the Curriculum
One of my popular workshops at teachers conferences is "Writing Across the Curriculum: How Short Fiction Supplements Science and Social Studies Instruction." In one hour I review the main elements of short stories and read from mentor texts which exemplify well-written characters and settings. We discuss how language arts teachers can collaborate with social studies and science teachers to help students write a story taking place in another country or time period, or one that includes scientific facts.
During the workshop I assign the teachers a writing task. I give them reproducibles from my book, Teaching the Story, and ten minutes to brainstorm a character from another time or place, and another ten minutes to begin developing a scientific setting. These teachers at the North Carolina Reading Association Conference, several of whom serve young adults in the juvenile justice system, enjoyed the activity. One said that it was the most useful workshop she had attended in two days, another wished it had been longer (a frequent "complaint,") and a third said he would try it in his world history and US history classes.
Here are some examples of what teachers at the Virginia Gifted & Talented Conference wrote during this same workshop:
SOCIAL STUDIES EXAMPLE #1
"As the night wore on, she continued to walk; exhausted by the miles behind her, yet encouraged by the thoughts of her final goal…freedom! She got her bearings from the Drinking Gourd and reflected back on the letter that started this journey…
I cannot believe that the purveyor of our goods was, in fact, a Negro man by the name of Thomas Bethune."
by Elizabeth Bourie, Norfolk Public Schools; Martha Nicholson, Alleghany Count Public Schools; Anne H. Moore Robious Middle School, Chesterfield County Public Schools.
SOCIAL STUDIES EXAMPLE #2
"Maria Rosetti takes a wheezing breath and hoists her grandson onto her lap. He goes gazes into her red-rimmed eyes and asks her why his last name is being made fun of.
Maria gazes into the distance and the memories come flooding back…
She is 11-years-old and still walking wobbly-legged from the month long boat ride from Italy to Ellis Island. She straightens her skirts and smoothes over the tatters. Maria feels the gap in her teeth from losing her back molar. She feels the rosary beads around her neck and gains strength from that. Glancing around, she makes sure her two younger brothers and sisters are following her parents and grandmother."
by Amanda Prettyman Rude
SCIENCE EXAMPLE #1
"Shortly before earth rise, the only thing they could hear was the sound of their breath from the re-breather. He had long since learned how to bound over the dusty surface in spite of his awkward suit.
Soon he was far from the safety of the dome and his destination loomed closer. Standing at the rim of the deep, dark crater, he gazed down at the wreckage."
by Jacqui Cecalupo , Holeymead Elmentary, Albermarle County; Liana Spring, Baber Buter Elementary, Albermarle County.
SCIENCE EXAMPLE #2
"He was 6’ 4” looming in the doorway, adorned with a large scary gun, his walkie-talkie strapped to his hip and a strange looking meter around his neck. The lead filled walls silenced the outdoors. As we settled into our seats, the quiet was punctured by an occasional electrical zapping- like a huge bug zapper for humans."
by Anne Moore, Chesterfield County Public School and CBG Teacher at Robious Middle School; Martha Nicholson, Allegheny County Public Schools; Elizabeth Bourie, Gifted & Talented for Norfolk Public Schools.
Teachers are frequently amazed at the ideas which they generate and agree that writing short fiction would reinforce language arts, social studies, and science skills. For more information on this topic, see the most recent issue of Talking Story, where Joyce Hostetter and I highlight several books and activities which reinforce reading and writing across the curriculum.
Talking Story, writing across the curriculum, North Carolina Reading Association, Virginia Gifted and Talented, Joyce Hostetter