Two key elements to writing across the curriculum: language support and peer feedback

Writing is an essential skill  which  equips you with the communication and thinking skils you need in society. You are judged by the way you speak but also by  your ability to express your ideas in writing. Therefore, teachers at all levels are very concerned about this skill and ask students to write different pieces of writing across the curriculum. 

How can we engage students into writing in different content areas? In my view, there are two key ingredients to successful writing practice:

1) Language support has to be provided if we want our students to write about specific topics which require specific vocabulary and language patterns. 

Let me give you an example: a Biology teacher wants his/her students to write an essay on "Genetics influence on our personality". This is the final outcome of a unit which he/she has developed on Genetics. The specific vocabulary has been presented throughout the unit but students should  be told about the need to include it in their essay. They will also need some help with specific sentence starters/collocations/ linking devices ... You can find an example I have written for this topic here. The final essay could be similar to this model (taken from

2) Peer editing  in the classroom: I think it is worthwhile trying it. By no means does this involve  replacing  teacher's feedback. I suggest carrying out peer revision once in a while and combining it with self-assessment and teacher's assessment.  Through  peer feedback,  students will be more engaged because they will know they are writing for a larger audience, not only for their teacher. Besides, it is easier for them to accept comments from someone who is similar in age. 

 If you wish, you can start with a very simple template like this one I have included content-related items and form-related items on purpose so that both content and language are taken into account by students. I would not include all items the first time you start with peer editing. Just choose two or three items and always  ask students  to emphasize positive comments. The peer editing checklist will gradually include more items , which  will obviously depend on  the language  level, text type and topic you are developing with your students. 

After asking students to give feedback on their peers' pieces of writing,  I recommend you to give your own feedback on each student's essay. I reckon it is very positive to tell the student that you also share one or more of the positive comments the student made about his/her peer's written task - whenever possible. 

I hope the suggestions above will be useful for you. I also hope your students will develop a fondness for  writing. It would be wonderful if they felt  the same way as Anne Frank did:  "I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn"

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