Writing Across the Curriculum:

Creative Writing Ideas, Tips, and Best Practices

Writing across the curriculum develops the benefits of content knowledge and skill in applying writing traits. Discover creative writing ideas by writing across curriculum areas. The history textbook, the science journal, the math equations: the material you teach on a daily basis all contribute to a vein of golden creative writing ideas, rich with nuggets of opportunity and possibility.

Let's take a look at the benefits of creative writing across the curriculum, implement those benefits through customized creative writing prompts, and then assist our students in launching into their content-writing adventures.

Creative Writing Across the Curriculum: Why Do It?

First, shaping those creative writing ideas in the content areas allows our students to gain content understanding. In Writing to Learn, William Zinsser explains, "Writing across the curriculum isn't just a method of getting students to write who are afraid of writing. It is also a method of getting students to learn what they are afraid of learning." From investigating the richest of ocean life forms to designing eco-friendly technology to studying endangered species, kids need to write it all down, making sense of questions and research.

Creative writing across the curriculum allows students the freedom to explore, on paper, their interests and passions. Content area writing is the foorbridge between wonderings and answers. We pose questions to be answered, we gather information, we write. We write to understand how life works; we write to make sense of the world; we write to figure things out. Creative writing ideas, implemented across the curriculum, help students not only become accomplished writers, but deeper thinkers.

Second, creative content area writing helps students understand, apply, and practice the traits of fluent writing:
  • ideas- the meaning and development of the message
  • organization- the internal structure of the piece
  • voice- the way the writer brings a topic to life
  • word choice- the vocabulary chosen for meaning
  • sentence fluency- the way words and phrases flow throughout the piece
  • conventions- the mechanical correctness of the piece
  • presentation- the overall appearance of the work

Lastly, creative writing ideas, implemented through writing across the curriculum, offer a plethora of practice in these writing modes:
  • descriptive (menus, travel brochures, letters, journals, catalogues)
  • narrative (novels, short stories, diaries, journals, autobiographies)
  • imaginative (mysteries, science fiction, fables, fairy tales, tall tales)
  • expository (essays, research reports, instructions and directions, resumes)
  • persuasive (critiques and reviews, editorials, advertisements)

Creative Writing Across the Curriculum: How to Do It!

The very best way to format a creative writing idea for a content area is through a RAFTS prompt. This technique was first developed by Nancy Vendeventer, a teacher from Bozeman, Montana, in the late 1970s. Since kids often need help narrowing their ideas to a manageable topic, organizing these ideas around a purpose, and using language to bring their thoughts to life, RAFTS provides students with focus, clarity, and energy in their writing. Structured, but not rigid, a RAFTS prompt gives kids the mental elbow room and freedom to write creative pieces- with a high amount of success!

Step-by-step, a RAFTS prompt includes:
  • a Role from which to write
  • an Audience to address
  • a Format in which to write
  • a Topic about which to write
  • a Strong verb that states the purpose of the writing

Each component of such a prompt also provides direct practice in each of the writing traits:
  • Role and Audience: voice and word choice
  • Format: organization
  • Topic: ideas
  • Strong Verb: directive of a writing purpose and actually encompasses all the writing traits

A RAFTS Prompt: A Step-by-Step Sample

First, let's choose a persuasive writing mode for our endangered species unit. Identify each component of the prompt:
  • Role: the endangered jaguar
  • Audience: land development company president
  • Format: persuasive letter
  • Topic: find someplace else to build and leave your jungle alone
  • Strong Verb: persuade

Next, write the prompt in paragraph form. Since we established our writing role as a first step, most RAFTS prompts begin with "You are..."

Last, discuss each component of the prompt with your students, providing time to write.

Creative Writing Across the Curriculum: How to Teach It!

As we've seen, a RAFTS prompt provides flexible structure for kids, as they gather all manner of creative writing ideas for their readers' appreciation. Once you've introduced your students to the basic idea of using RAFTS for writing across the curriculum and provided them a prompt, it's time to prod their thinking about their own creative writing ideas. Use these questions to jumpstart a lively discussion:
  • Understanding the role in writing the piece, what do students know about this role? How might this person speak and in what type of vocabulary or language?
  • In understanding the prospective audience, what do students know about their future readers? What information needs to be conveyed and in what voice? What reaction is desired from the audience?
  • What might be the best way to organize ideas to support the requested format? Should information be presented chronologically? As a comparison/contrast? Deductive logic? A central theme?
  • In addressing the topic, what details need to grab the readers' attention? What questions will the audience need answered?
  • In understanding the purpose of the prompt, what does the strong verb ask of students? Persuade an audience? Explain a step-by-step? Describe something? Narrate a story? Use their imagination?

Learning to write and writing to learn: they happen happily together when kids gather creative writing ideas for writing across the curriculum>

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