Writing-to-learn has become an innovative instructional strategy at Canutillo ISD and the District’s success story has been published in the Write for Texas: Success Stories from a Literacy Initiative 2014-2017 publication.
This year, in collaboration between the West Texas Writing Project (WTWP) at the University of Texas at El Paso, Canutillo ISD led an ongoing district literacy initiative designed to support the improvement of reading and writing instruction.
The published snapshot showcases a successful aspect of the state-wide writing initiative at Canutillo to document and recognize the work of the Write for Texas site and to inform and inspire other educators to adopt similar practices. Canutillo English Language Arts (ELA) and Reading Coordinator Natalie Spalloni says it is a major honor to be included in the Write for Texas Literacy publication.
“The partnership with UTEP flourished into a professional collaboration across all our secondary campus educators,” Spalloni said. “It is refreshing to have a shared conception that writing to learn is a legitimate instructional strategy.”
The Canutillo Curriculum and Instruction team used educational articles to elicit dialogue about writing instruction in relation to collaborative strategies that the teachers practiced. In addition to supporting the teachers’ own professional learning, the activities selected could be adapted for student instruction.
Spalloni explained to the publication that writing across the curriculum typically refers to process writing that is meant to be published and reflects a purpose and format particular to a content area such as a Science lab report or a Social Studies essay. Writing-to-learn activities, however, are short, informal writing tasks such as a notecard, foldable or chart that help students think through or process learning about key concepts or ideas presented in a course.
Through the professional development offered by Spalloni, groups of teachers from very different content areas reached a shared understanding of the definition of writing-to-learn. They understood how the strategies could be used to promote and measure student learning. She said that teachers gave anecdotal reports about the positive impact of the workshops.
One social studies teacher who participated in a workshop about collaborative annotation was eager to implement the strategy the next day. A middle school teacher who was originally hesitant to implement writing to learn in science class later shared his success with using the techniques. He reported that student engagement had increased and he was impressed by the volume of writing that they produced.
“In the past, formal writing instruction was taught in isolation, but now we see how integrating either low or high stakes writing into all units of content instruction offers educators immediate, authentic feedback from students about their individual level of content understanding,” Spalloni added. “It is exhilarating when teachers from varying content areas see me in the halls and ask me if we are having a writing workshop.”
A link to the entire publication and Canutillo snapshot can be downloaded here.