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Writing to learn in a ninth grade language arts classroom

1 June 1997


In the past twenty years ·researchers have been interested in what is referred to as writing to learn. Numerous researchers have speculated on the important role writing plays in aiding students to better understand and learn content material. When students have a full grasp of material and can use the stages of the writing process- prewriting, writing, and revision . to develop their ideas, they become better thinkers. When writing I f essays, students reconceptualize content in ways that cut across the specific infonnation presented, focusing on larger issues or topics. In doing so, they integrate infonnation and engage in more complex thought processes. Writing-to-Iearn classrooms are student-centered classrooms in which teachers act as guides. In this environment, students are active learners, constructing their own knowledge. This study explored how a ninth-grade English teacher used an analytical essay assignment to help students create meaning out of a six week unit on Animal Fann. The study answered the following questions: 1. How does writing help students make meaning out of content; 2. How do teachers use essay assignments to help students create meaning; 3. How do teachers guide the writing process, helping students to engage in increasing levels of complex thinking; and, 4. What is the role of the teacher and the student in a writing-to-Ieam classroom? In order to answer those questions, I observed and took notes on the teacher and the class as a whole. Additionally, I examined student writing sample.


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