By Jennifer L. Padgett, M.Ed.
. . . Students can process new concepts by “writing to learn.”
Many times, when we think of writing, creative stories and research papers come to mind—that is, we think
of writing as a means to convey infor-
mation or inspiration to others. That is
certainly a valid purpose for writing, but
writing can also be a means for the brain
to create new pathways to permanently
embed newfound knowledge—within
the writer. As our students’ school sub-
jects, such as science and history, become
more conceptually advanced and vocab-
ulary enriched, our children will require
advanced strategies to successfully mas-
ter new, more complex material.
Amy Benjamin, author of Writing in
the Content Areas, says it well: “Writing
equips the mind to think.” Use of notes,
bulleted lists, descriptive annotations,
and informal outlines is another way
that students can process new concepts
by “writing to learn.” Even though the
nonfiction text at hand may be well written and even though you, the instructor,
may be well versed in a particular subject area, your child should acquire additional tools with which to process new
First, it is important to note that chil-
dren learn how to be skilled writers by
reading and analyzing others’ work. Any
time I assign a new writing genre, I use
the following modeling process:
1. Choose the specified genre of writing (i.e., sonnet, persuasive essay,
outline, note-taking, etc.).
2. Together, study and discuss samples
of that particular genre of writing.
What is the purpose of this type of
writing—as a means of learning or
as a means of demonstrating or promoting what one has been learning?
3. With your child, write a sample of
the genre. Be sure and speak aloud
what is going on in your own head as
you write this piece together.