"I wrote my way out / Wrote everything down far as I could see / I wrote my way out / I looked up and the town had its eyes on me."
So sings the character of Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway musical Hamilton, when he reflects on how as a teenager, his writing talent got him passage to America. Later, his expressive craft enables him to make such an impact that the country honors him with a spot on the $10 bill.
Although most of us aren’t as prolific writers as Alexander Hamilton, the ability to express our thoughts and reason critically is still essential to being successful in modern times. Simply put, writing opens doors.
Many schools' curriculums now focus more on writing. Standards across the nation now require more writing, and new assessments place value on more robust and varied forms of writing.
“Writing is by definition social,” The NCTE’s Conference on College Composition and Communication states in their position on writing assessments. “Learning to write entails learning to accomplish a range of purposes for a range of audiences in a range of settings.”
Whether or not students pursue jobs that require daily writing, the skills they gain by writing regularly in school are essential to success.
Good writers, for instance, know to use language that speaks to their audience. When applying for a job, the difference between getting an interview and getting passed over may come down to how effectively a cover letter speaks to its reader.
To prepare students for success in their professional, as well as personal lives, we must help them engage in complex cognitive tasks that extend past basic recall, comprehension, and understanding. In our ever-changing world, these evaluative skills matter immensely.
“Even the most basic Google search requires productive struggle and persistence,” ThinkCERCA’s CEO Eileen Murphy argues.
When it comes to writing in various fields, the structures for achieving success vary. Writing like a researcher requires different background knowledge and analysis of evidence than reasoning like a poet, or a lawyer, or a computer scientist might require. And as citizens, consuming varied information with a critical lens in a polarized society is more imperative than ever.
As we recognize the importance of gaining writing skills beyond ELA, I invite you to watch our webinar on writing in content areas.
Students need to move to higher levels of thinking. They need to be able to produce and create. By teaching effective writing in content verticals, we can help open doors for them.
A former special education and English teacher, school administrator, and district leader for Boston Public Schools, Kavita is an expert on teacher training, Universal Design for Learning, and bilingual language learners. In addition to her work at ThinkCERCA, Kavita is a Cadre member at the Center for Applied Special Technology, where she teaches courses on UDL and provides training to districts and universities across the U.S.