Writing Across the Curriculum

Hi everyone! It's the end of the year- can you believe it? I want to wish you Happy New Year from everyone here at Adventures in Literacy Land! I'm Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead and I am stopping by to talk about writing across the curriculum.

Whether you are a reading specialist, a literacy coach, or a classroom teacher, you know writing is a major part of all of the content areas. I am currently working as a second grade teacher and we use the Everyday Math series. All of you Everyday Math teachers know that this program is language - heavy. Just this fall, we got the "beta" version of the new edition. This new edition is very, very writing heavy. There is a ton of work relating to the standard of mathematical practice for explaining your mathematical thinking which is part of the CCSS. Not only are students expected to explain their mathematical thinking in writing (not just during class discussions) from the very beginning of the year, but they are often given mathematical situations with fictional students and they have to explain how the fictional student may have thought through the problem. There are also some problems in the challenge section of the quizzes where they have to act as the teacher. Students have to read a math problem, look at what a fictional student did, and explain why he is correct or why he is wrong, and if so, how he could fix the problem.

Phew! I am exhausted just talking about it. Teaching it is no cakewalk and it has been challenging for the students. I am interested to see what happens next year when I get students who have been exposed to this new edition in first grade. 

Blogger and writer Deva Delporto said, "The Common Core requires students to think and learn in a much deeper way, and one of the best ways to facilitate that deeper learner is to get kids writing. Not just in English class, but all the time." Steve Peha, founder of Teaching that Makes Sense, commented, "The Common Core and its associated tests set a much higher bar  for student achievement...kids are going to have to be much better writers than they ever have been before. Writing regularly in all subject areas, but especially in math, science, and social studies, is going to be crucial".

What's my  take on why writing in math (and other) class is important? I like to think beyond the Common Core and beyond tests and school. When students grow up and begin looking for a career and success in their chosen field,  think about what they will need to succeed. Writing is one key to success with social media - which isn't going away anytime soon. Plus, if she is trying to convince their boss to give her new idea a chance, she is  going to need to explain it either in person or in writing why her idea will work. She will need to be proficient at explaining her thinking in writing. I also strongly feel that many of our current students will become entrepreneurs and/or be self-employed. In order to "sell" his new product to customers, or to investors, he will need once again to be able to clearly and thoroughly explain it.

So, let's talk about writing in math class. Why is it important? How can you help your students (and you)?
  • When students write in math class, they use higher-order thinking skills to come up with mathematical explanations that support their thinking.
  • When students write in math class, they are forced to really reflect on how math works, and not just (like I did) memorize the steps to solve a problem without having any clue as to how or why it works.
  • Writing in any subject area gives students more math practice, and more practice leads to improvements in writing. 
  • It gives teachers a glimpse into how students think about math. This gives us more information about our students and can inform our instructional decisions.
  • It gives teachers a way to communicate with parents about how their child is doing in math and about their progress in math.
  • It tells us if they understand and can use math terms.
  • It helps us see common errors in students' work and enables us to address them with the whole group.
Let's take a look at some student's writing in math and talk about how to support our students as they write in math, science, and social studies (I wish I had more examples of student writing but I did not come up with my topic until I was already home on vacation so I had to go with what I happened to have at home).

First, in math class, I have to say: practice, practice,  practice. Almost every day we do something like this as a class. The students also have a problem like this on many of their math journal pages. I also have incorporated rubrics to help students see their progress. The rubric needs to be in kid friendly language. We also look at exemplars so student can see different types of writing and can see what a successful explanation might look like. 

Check out this sample, the one for part C. He explains how he solved 9-7 by using both making a 10 and by working backward. To solve 9-7, he thought that 7 + 3 = 10, and he knows 9 is close to 10. His explanation gets a little confusing halfway through but it is clear he knows 7 + 3 can't equal 9, so to adjust for the fact 9 is 1 less than 10, his answer must be 2. (7 + 2 = 9). I know he understands the math but could use some help finessing his answer. We might try to write an explanation together that is a little more succinct.

Here is a different student's explanation for the same problem. He makes more connections, stating all the steps  that got him to the solution, and he is doing a nice job of starting out his answer by telling that he figured out that 9-7 = 2 because... Some students don't state which problem they figured out, leaving me to have to guess if they are talking about a or b. 

Here is an example of when a student has to read a sample problem and think about how a fictional student may have figured it out. This student did a fairly good job at explaining that 8 + 2 = 10 is going be the first step and then they need to add 2 more to get the answer to 8 + 4. I would probably push her a little to explain more about why she added 2 more (the 4 in 8 +4 is 2 more than the 2 in 8+2) but I gave her credit for this answer -it was only October! Everyone has to start somewhere.

I'm not going to lie, it is hard to me to explain and talk about these second graders' math writing. I think that I would benefit from working with a math coach myself or to do some professional development with an expert (can we get Marilyn Burns to come to my school?) .
Time after time, I have seen Marilyn Burn's book Writing in Math Class, as the essential go-to resource for teachers who need to teach students how to explain their mathematical thinking in math class. I guess it is time for me to go shopping! Click on any of the book covers to get more details or learn how to buy them. 

As for writing in science and social studies, I have a few social studies examples. I would not call the second grade social studies curriculum terribly interesting (basically geography and immigration) but we do learn about different holidays around the world. I like to incorporate narrative and opinion writing into social studies. Of course we did this assignment in December, so you know what holiday everyone wrote about...


One thing that I think is important in writing across the curriculum is to hold students to the same standards as they use during writing workshop or language arts. The checklist is the same we use during L.A. and I routinely send students back to edit writing in the content areas when they have no capital letters, punctuation errors, etc. A few things I am going to incorporate to help my students with their writing this spring: make them read their writing aloud to me or a peer before saying, "I'm done". They catch so many errors by doing that; having them then transition to reading it to themselves when they are done; try peer editing of writing in the content areas; edit backward- i.e. cover up all of the words except the last one, check for spelling and other errors of just that word, then work backwards, one word at a time, finally checking the entire sentence, then doing the last word of the previous sentence, and so on and so forth.

I am by no means an expert in writing across the curriculum, but I have been working hard to help my students with it this year. What are your favorite tips for helping your students? What is hardest for you? Please comment and let us know!


Research- How Kids can Research by Reading Level

Hi Literacy Land Friends!  Before Christmas Break, we were doing some research to help us write our All About Books.  I have a tip to share with you today.  While doing our research, we talked about where we can find information and of course the internet is a great way to go.  However, the material that the students have to read is just way too difficult for my first graders.  I am here to show you a way to help with that problem.  Is it full proof?  No- but it is a start.

Here some easy steps to follow.

Step 1:  Go to www.google.com

Step 2:  Type in the topic that you want to search.

Step 3:  Click on Search Tools and then tab that says All Results and go to Reading Level.

Step 4:  Click on the reading level that you want.  For my first graders, I would click on Basic.

Step 5:  The posts that will come up at the top will be the easiest to read and most kid-friendly. 

I searched Bats and I got websites such as:
Bats for Kids
National Geographic
Animal Discovery
It at least makes research a little easier:)


These Are a Few of My Favorite Posts

Wow!!  Can you believe "Adventures in Literacy Land" is almost a year old!  Looking back through the year we have had some amazing posts and so much information has been shared.  The feedback from all of our readers has been so inspirational and helped us to grow as teachers, learners, and individuals.

Since there are so many different literacy topics, we have tried to keep our posts as organized as possible.  One way that we have tried to do this is with the "Topics" page.

On this page you will find all the posts that we have written this year.  Just look for a topic that you are interested in or need more information about and click on the posts listed under that topic!

We are all looking for different information for different grades, kids, and needs.  But I wanted to share a couple of posts that have inspired me this past year. 

Topic: Comprehension
Anchoring Our Learning
This post really supported all the information I learned in Smarter Charts.  I loved the specific pointers about creating and using effective charts with students.

Topic: Early Reading Skills
Developing a Concept of Word with Emergent Readers
In this post, Carla showed some simple ways for me to build the concept of a word.  I can incorporate some of these ideas into my small group instruction.

Topic: Fluency
Fluency Folders for Little Ones
I love this post about ways to increase fluency with first grade students!  It connects to the Tim Rasinski work that I have also studied.

Topic: Fluency
Fluency Breakthrough
Emily shows how to use two different colors to highlight the characters in the story.  Great idea!! 

Topic: Instructional Strategies
Tackling Text Complexity
This post provides great description and explanation of text complexity.  I really needed this!

Topic: Intervention
A Window to Dyslexia
LOVED....THIS...POST!  I will never learn enough about dyslexia!  This post was so helpful to me.

Topic: Phonological Awareness
Counting Words in Sentences 
I work hard to focus on phonological awareness skills at the beginning of each reading group.  Andrea's post gave me some additional ideas!

Topic: Vocabulary
Vibrant Vocabulary
We do a very big Fancy Nancy unit with our little first grade writers.  Jennifer's post really connected to what we do and gave me some additional ideas

These are only a few of my favorite posts.  There are so many more that have helped me throughout the year.  I hope you can use the "Topic" page to help you find what you need for your students.


Incorporating Technology with Padlet

Hello Literacy Land Friends and Followers!  I'm Deniece from This Little Piggy Reads.  Today I'm going to share a website with you, Padlet.  There are a few reasons that I love Padlet.  First, it's incredibly user friendly for both me and my students.  Second, it's quick!  I mean super quick to set up a "pad".  Third, it is incredibly versatile and would work for a variety of grade levels and most subject areas.  Finally, it works on any device - phone, Mac, Google, tablet, etc...

For the first part of my post, I am going to explain the functions of Padlet with a video!  You can click the picture below to watch the video, or click HERE.

Now, I'm going to discuss all the uses of Padlet in a classroom.  There aren't many websites/apps that are applicable for PK - High School, but Padlet is!  In an Early Elementary Classroom, you might use it in place of a Bubble Map.  In an Upper Elementary Classroom it could be used as an exit ticket.  In a Middle School or High School Classroom, a teacher could easily use it for a novel study, literature circles or a socratic seminar.


If you are looking for ways to integrate technology into your classroom instruction, give Padlet a try!

Leave me a comment with your favorite way to integrate technology into your lessons!


Fun with Christmas Carols!

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea here from Reading Toward the Stars with some quick and easy ideas for using seasonal songs in your classroom.

I have been working with my kindergarten students with gaining concept of word.  This is something that our current reading program lacks, and it is heavily assessed throughout the year.  This past week we worked on using the song "Jingle Bells" for concept of word practice.  They used bingo markers to put marks under the words in the poem.

After doing that, we counted the words in each line and went back and read the poem, while they pointed to the dots as we said each word.

After reading through the poem, they then looked for various letters in the poem and marked them.

They really had fun with this and can't wait for the next poem.

This week with my older students, we are going to work on reading Christmas songs and not singing them.  This helps with fluency practice since the students have to attend to the words and think about what they are reading.

I am going to use my Fluency with Christmas Carols with them to help them with this.  We will READ the songs. Then they can fill in the blanks with words from the songs to practice.  You can grab this freebie by clicking {here} or on the picture below.

How do you use holiday songs in your classroom?

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

High Frequency Words vs. Sight Words with Jen from An Adventure in Literacy

We welcome another guest blogger to Literacy Land, Jen from an Adventure in Literacy is here to give us more information on the difference between sight words and high frequency words.

Hello Literacy Land readers! This is Jen from An Adventure in Literacy. I've had fun literacy teaching adventures in preschool special ed, kindergarten, as a K-2 reading specialist, and currently in first grade. I like to move around and gain different teaching perspectives from each grade I teach.  I'm excited to be guest blogging on Adventures in Literacy Land to share some activities I use with teaching high frequency words.

The terms sight words and high frequency words are often used interchangeably, but incorrectly, by teachers. I know, I know, it is so much easier to just call all those words our students need to know sight words, but I thought I would clarify the difference before getting started with the fun stuff .

High-frequency words are the most commonly occurring words in print. Fry's Instant Words and Dolch Words are examples of  high frequency words (the, of, and, to, in, etc).

Sight words are words that are recognized "at first sight". Any word can become a sight word once a student can read it instantly. As teachers, we want high-frequency words to become sight words so our students know those most commonly occurring words automatically.

The bottom line is we want our students to have a large bank  of words they know automatically. We want them to be able to read decodable and non-decodable words quickly and accurately at first glance. So here are a few instructional activities to learn those words.


One of the first steps in developing a large sight word vocabulary is having concept of word. Until students have a firm concept of word they cannot remember words in isolation. Carla did a great post a few months ago on developing concept of word. Many of the activities used to develop concept of word are also useful in building word knowledge.


I always tell my students "The best way to become a better reader is to read, read, read!". Reading and rereading text at a student's instructional or independent level provides repeated exposure to words in context . Children begin to remember words they have seen in context.  Reading A to Z is a subscription site that has a wealth of printable and projectable leveled books including high frequency word books. There are many other publishers with great high frequency word readers too. Repetitive text gives students repeated exposure to high frequency words or phrases.  Highlighting targeted words or playing "I Spy" with engaging pointers is always a hit and really helps students focus on that word in context.


Poems and songs offer many opportunities to read high frequency words in context. My students have a poetry notebook where they add a poem or song weekly.  They keep these in their book boxes for rereading and to help promote fluency.


Patterned writing with repeating phrases helps put the words in context and gives them meaning. Students always enjoy reading class books they have made. (I usually have the students do the writing, but these are some cuties from my days teaching preschool special ed.)



Teaching words through music gives students an auditory cue to go along with the visual. In kindergarten we had a class book called "The Words on the Bus" sung to "The Wheels on the Bus". As we learned new words we would add them to our song book and sing the words whenever we had a few extra minutes.


As teachers we do all of these great activities to make the words stick, but behold, there are still some students that just simply cannot remember the words. Or they may get stuck on just a few words.  It can be so frustrating!!!! High frequency words are tough for students because many of the words do not have concrete meanings that help students make learning connections. One of my favorite (and most successful) word activities is to have the students put those tough words in context on a word ring. This is individualized so it can be time consuming. However, the benefits far outweigh the time spent!

Choose a few words that the student is having trouble with. Write one word on the front of the card. I like to use these fun colored strips from Dollar Tree, but cut up sentence strips or index cards work well too.

Have the student come up with a sentence using that word. This part can take awhile, but DO NOT give the student a sentence-it must come from them so they construct their own meaning. (This is also a sneaky way to get them to practice constructing complete sentences.) Write the sentence on the back of the card making the target word bold. A double sided black sharpie is the perfect tool for writing the cards.

Punch a hole in the corner of the card and place the word cards on a ring. Read the word to the student and flip the card over and read the sentence. Repeat for the remaining words. Next, have the student read the word followed by the sentence for each word. Help them out if they get stuck. You will be pleasantly surprised at how well they are recalling the words because they have given them their own meaning.

I have my students keep the word rings in their book boxes so they are always handy to practice.  For extra practice I call them to read me their word rings frequently. Once the rings are made, it only takes a minute to read the cards so I can grab them at random times during the day. Even my struggling readers enjoy practicing the word rings because they had ownership is making them.
As students begin to learn the words you can have them transfer the known words to another ring or a word bank. Keep adding new words to the ring.

I'm a fan of the word rings because the custom sentences give students exposure to many high frequency words they may not have learned yet.  Reading the sentences also helps promote fluency, so double bang for your buck!

Thanks so much for letting me hang out in Literacy Land and share some of my reading adventures! I hope you've grabbed a new idea or two. Please share your thoughts and ideas for teaching high frequency or sight words in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!

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