The Writing Journey, that is. One of the critical practices that CMSi recommends in our Cognitively Complex Instruction workshop is to include writing in classroom activities, no matter what the content area is. Writing builds cognitive skills, increases rigor, and enhances student engagement wherever it is employed. You teach Art? Have them write about their creations – what did they want it to express? How did they want people to feel when they saw it? Or perhaps you teach Math: How did they decide on that equation to solve that problem? Explain the process used. How about Science? Write up your proposed experiment and explain its results; analyze your findings to make a conclusion. Physical Education? Track your activity levels and write about which activities you thought were most beneficial and why. Kelly Gallagher’s article in Educational Leadership discusses writing as critical practice, and the many benefits for students who engage in writing across the curriculum.
Here’s a brilliant science activity we use to illustrate this concept in our Cognitively Complex Instruction training:
The principal of the middle school wants to know if parent complaints about people speeding in the school zone are valid. Middle school students had to design an experiment to measure the speed of vehicles in the school zone on their campus using distance and time to calculate speed since there was no radar gun available to them. They collected this data in front of their school using actual motorists driving in the school zone. In addition to writing up their hypothesis, and the procedures they followed, and creating a data chart, they were required to write a business letter to the principal summarizing the results and conclusions of their experiment which either validated or invalidated the parent complaints.
Note how the writing is integral to the assignment, and has a real-world context: they measured actual motorists in front of their school (super engaging and hands-on), and just like adults conducting surveys or collecting data, they reported out their findings to someone. The writing adds a whole additional layer of cognitive complexity at the highest level (Creating) and increases engagement (How can I best communicate my results to my client?)