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Writers Write to Inquire, Communicate, Learn, and Understand Across Subject Areas

Writing Across Content Areas in 5th Grade

In fifth grade at the Malta Avenue School, writing is a valued means of expression across all content areas.  Writing reveals thinking and inspires reflection.  Through writing, students practice organizing their thoughts, understandings and ideas in every discipline and in the communication of their life experiences.  They learn to say what they think, know and wonder about, with intentional clarity and purpose, through practice.

The expectation that writing will be a part of all learning, engages students in rich, personally meaningful experiences across all content areas and connects those abilities to life beyond the classroom walls. Across all writing genres, students utilize notebooks, draft, edit, revise, collaborate  and share on a daily basis.  (refer to table)

Students leverage technology to compose, collaborate, learn and share.  They constantly reflect on the best ways to say what they mean and know with clarity.  The process of written expression helps them organize and synthesize their learning so that it makes sense to them and to their audiences.



In mathematics, the “Flipped Classroom” model, requires that students view videos of their upcoming math lesson, then compose a summary of the lesson in their Math Journals for homework. (see template for Notebook Response p.5) The next day, they share their responses with the whole class to begin the lessons.  The sharing includes conversations around the topic that help correct misunderstandings and clarify new concepts and skills.

Learning how to express knowledge, or pose questions in writing helps children make sense of mathematical concepts and skills in ways  that deepen understanding and engagement. By revealing and discussing misunderstandings before they are “mistakes”, anxiety is reduced and  learning math becomes a collaborative exercise with multiple points of entry.



In science, when students design experiments, they “write like scientists” following the scientific process and relying on evidence. They develop concise hypotheses, record detailed observations, and evaluate the results. They write in Science Journals or on shared Google docs to describe processes and ideas. They make charts, graphs and tables to represent their findings and they design slide shows to present their “studies” to classmates. 

Students may also conduct research on science topics such as the elements of the periodic table, ecosystems, and health.  This new knowledge can be communicated  in countless ways.  Speeches, plays, informational posters, videos, models with explanations, even poems. The expectation is that their new knowledge will be presented to an audience and shared with the school community. That adds a personal sense of purpose and meaning to their work.

Social Studies

Writing in social studies includes recording observations of artifacts and documents. Students learn to compose organized responses to document based questions citing specific text evidence to support their claims.  In collaboration with the Library Media Specialists, students learn to take research notes, cite sources and develop writing around topics related to the grade-level social studies modules.  They present their learning in multiple written and visual formats, based on their research.  These projects may include the  integration of  various video and presentation platforms to share with audiences. Very often this work is presented to the school community as a “Museum”.

The expectation that writing will be a part of all learning helps guide, and organize thinking as it builds fluency in meaningful personal ways.  It imparts a sense of ownership and purpose that provides the foundation for life long self-directed learning.

Writing in the content areas: Summary
  • Math Notebooks - explanations of learning and thinking (see below)
  • Compose answers to “Represent real world and mathematical problems” 
  • Express reasoning and solutions to word problems
  • Writing word(story) problems
  • Step by step explanations or directions

Specifically refer to Writing Standards 5W2 and 5W3

  • Dialogue Journals (Writer’s Notebooks) to express personal experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas
  • Write in response to literary text
  • Write in response to Informational text
  • Poems
  • Plays
  • Posters
  • Advertisements
  • Menus
  • Letters
  • Directions


Learning Standards

Specifically refer to Writing  Standards 5W1 and 5W2:

  • Express results of observation-based research
  • Conduct text-based research to develop hypotheses
  • Respond in writing to the elements of the scientific process
  • Create projects and activities to teach results, research and understandings to classmates and community

Social Studies

Learning Standards

Specifically refer to Standards 5W1 and 5W2, 5W6 and 5W7

  • Conduct text-based research to explore an event, idea (democracy), person, place or thing (inventions).
  • Include writing about multiple perspectives on historical events or figures