Welcome to the NOMS WC Writing Across the Curriculum resource!

Writing is thinking on paper.
Anyone who thinks clearly should be able to write
clearly—about any subject at all.
--William Zinsser, Writing to Learn

What is Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)?

Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is an approach to learning that incorporates the practice of writing for all students in all content areas in order to:
  • communicate information
  • clarify thinking (or work through an idea or problem)
  • learn new concepts and information (taking notes, research)

What are the 5 Basic Principles of WAC?

The basic principles underlying a WAC approach include the following:

  1. Writing is the responsibility of the entire learning community.
  2. Writing must be integrated across departmental/content area boundaries.
  3. Writing instruction must be continuous throughout a child's education.
  4. Writing promotes learning.
  5. Only by practicing writing about an academic discipline/content area will students begin to communicate effectively about that discipline/content area.
Reference: WAC Clearinghouse, Colorado State University

What are the benefits of WAC?
  1. Because writing requires that students synthesize the concepts they are learning, it is a great way to assess student learning.
  2. Writing is the essential skill students need throughout their lives.
  3. Helping students learn to express themselves with confidence in all subject areas can contribute to feelings of self-efficacy.
  4. Students who write clearly, think clearly, and students who think clearly have a better chance of finding their way through the challenges of adolescence and beyond.
  5. Writing competently and confidently as a means of communication is powerful.

What makes a good writing assignment?
As you think about making up writing assignments, use these five guiding principles:
  1. Tie the writing task to specific content area goals.
  2. Note rhetorical aspects of the writing task, i.e., audience, purpose, format.
  3. Make all elements and requirements of the writing task clear.
  4. Make sure students get to see good writing models.
  5. Require structured peer review.
  6. Include grading criteria with the assignment.
  7. Break down the task into manageable steps with teacher checkpoints along the way.
  8. Time to share student writing and celebrate success!

Reference: WAC Clearinghouse, Colorado State University

Let's get started! After reading the steps below, click on this WORD doc to help you out.

Steps in the Writing Task Design Process:
  • Identify your content area topic.
  • Align content area standards.
  • Align writing standards (and Speaking &Listening and Language as required)
  • Work backwards: What's your product going to be? Two rules here:
    • Include choice!
    • Make the task authentic!
  • Structure the task -- consider the following:
    • Will there be a thesis statement (or claim)?
    • Are you teaching the writing of a "hook"?
    • How many paragraphs are you looking for?
    • If your writing is more creative, will you want an introduction? A conclusion?
    • What additional supports will you provide?
      • Word bank?
      • Concept bank?
      • Sentence stems/starters?
    • Where will you discover your model? Will you write one? Use a mentor text? Use previously created student products?
  • How will you score student work?
  • How will you allow students to share their work?
  • How will you celebrate their writing successes?

Click on the document below for a collection of pages from the CCSS-ELA standards for Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language in grades 6 - 12 as well as Literacy in History/Social Studies and Literacy in Science, and Technical Subjects for grades 6 - 12.

CCSS ELA Standards (6 - 12) - W/SL/L/SS/SCI

Really GREAT Resources!

  • Steve Peha has created an excellent guide for teaching writing across the curriculum!

  • The New York Times Learning Network provides high quality, relevant teaching materials focused on writing tasks associated with current and historical events. This link will take you to a guide for writing arguments in grades 6 - 12.

New York TImes -- Argument Writing Prompts

  • Interested in writing in math class? Check this out!

  • This document provides a look at expository writing structures useful in any content area class.

  • For making simple and quick formative assessment and feedback forms visit this web site!

Quick Formative Assessment and Feedback Tools