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Writing Across the Curriculum Checklist


When the right structures are put in place, every teacher can be a literacy teacher.


The most important thing we can do to engage students in critical thinking is through rigorous writing instruction across the curriculum. We know that when students write across subjects, they achieve tremendous academic growth. But launching such a district- or schoolwide literacy initiative can be daunting. 

Our team of educators has spent years helping schools launch cross-curricular writing initiatives, and we know that when the right structures are put in place, every teacher can be a literacy teacher.

With this checklist, you will discover 12 things that you, as an administrator, should do before launching an initiative to support writing across the curriculum.

Read More: The Writing Across the Curriculum Guide for Administrators >>

Before launching an initiative to support writing across the curriculum, you should:

Identify a clear process to implement literacy and writing across the school or district.

Tip: When creating the school schedule, you can set up literacy time in each content area class – whether it’s 10-15 minutes per day or a couple times a week throughout the unit – to support teachers in fitting literacy into their schedules.

Identify goals for the literacy initiative and make the goals well-known to teachers.

Tip: Do you hope to improve test scores? Prepare students for college and career? Help students connect their lessons to real-world concepts? Make these goals well known and assess progress on student writing with beginning, middle, and end-of-year benchmarks.

Schedule regular, non-evaluative check-ins with teachers. 

Tip: Understand that it takes time to set up an effective literacy initiative across the curriculum. By setting regular, short meetings with teachers to gauge how the initiative is going, you can provide actionable support early on in the process, and iterate on the initiative for a more successful implementation.

Ensure your team understands the difference between writing across the curriculum and writing within the curriculum.

Tip: Writing across the curriculum means that students are writing in non-ELA courses. Writing within the curriculum is more about helping students write on a specific piece of content. When a grade practices writing across the curriculum, teachers can align their lessons with other classes. While the math class is learning about surface area and volume, for instance, perhaps the ELA class is learning about how identity is impacted by the space our bodies take up in a room.

Design school teams to support literacy instruction for all students.

Tip: Before your staff takes on a writing across the curriculum initiative, make sure they have time for collaboration and understand what literacy in their particular department means. Instill common values about literacy – and its implications for their subject – among teachers. Cross-curricular unit planning is a great way to support teacher collaboration at the start of such an initiative.

Ensure there is a structure in place to provide equitable technology access to teachers  and students. 

Tip: If your school is not 1:1, implement a shared, online calendar to designate which classes have access to devices at certain times. Verify that all classes have equitable access. 

Provide your teaching staff with processes tocollaborate on literacy instruction and  monitor student progress. 

Tip: Designate each Friday lunch as a time for teachers to share their learnings on the literacy implementation from the prior week. What worked especially well? What didn’t? Which students could use more support? By bringing together ideas from across the school, all teachers can learn more from each other and share ideas on how to iterate classroom best practices.

Ensure your leadership team has access to tools and training on literacy instruction. 

Tip: Not everyone has a background in literacy. And while literacy instruction is accessible, it can be overwhelming at first. Before a literacy initiative is launched, ask your leadership team to complete professional development directly related to writing across the curriculum, and to prototype what literacy instruction will consist of for teachers and students in each subject area and grade level.

Set the expectation that teachers provide students with regular, personalized, and  actionable feedback. 

Tip: Writing can be overwhelming for many students and teachers. However, students won’t be able to improve their writing without clear feedback. Let your teachers know that feedback could mean providing one strength for the student to celebrate and one growth focus for the student to work on. Feedback can also be a quick check-in between the student and teacher.

Encourage your staff to use technology on a regular basis. 

Tip: Before rolling out a cross-curricular writing plan, encourage your team to use Google’s suite of free apps (like Google Drive, Google Cal, Google Docs, and Google Spreadsheets) where they can. Many literacy programs can be used in conjunction with these applications, and Google Docs especially can help students and teachers to collaborate on written work.

Give students and teachers access to adaptive learning spaces. 

Tip: A school wide literacy initiative should not include just writing. Students must discuss and debate the topics they write about as well. Whether this means rearranging desks for Socratic discussion or bringing in low-cost furniture to support silent reading, make sure classroom environments can be flexible and purposeful.

Identify a personalized literacy program to help your teachers meet the goals of your  school or district. 

Tip: Every teacher can be a literacy teacher, but they need the appropriate support to get there. Identify common barriers to teaching literacy (perhaps it’s the time spent searching for authentic texts, a lack of clarity around alignment, or difficulty providing feedback) and provide your team with the tools to remove or ameliorate these barriers.

Mallory Busch
Mallory Busch

Mallory Busch is ThinkCERCA's Editor of Content Strategy. A graduate of Northwestern University, Mallory came to ThinkCERCA from stops in audience strategy at TIME magazine and news applications development at Chicago Tribune and The Texas Tribune. She holds degrees in Journalism and International Studies, and was a student fellow at Knight Lab in college.