________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2006


Exploring Writing in the Content Areas: Teaching and Supporting Learners in Any Subject.

Maria Carty.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2005.
123 pp., pbk., $23.95.
ISBN 1-55138-188-5.

Subject Headings:
English language-Composition and exercise-Study and teaching (Elementary).
English language-Composition and exercise-Study and teaching (Secondary).
Language arts-Correlation with content subjects.


Review by Pat Sadowy.

*** /4

Writing in the content areas is a daunting responsibility. Today's teachers know that writing can help students learn in any subject area, but they often find it difficult to include writing tasks appropriately. Maria Carty, who has worked as a classroom teacher and is now a program consultant for the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, has created this book to help teachers make writing an intrinsic, comfortable, and functional part of a course of study. She has written it primarily for teachers of content area subjects who want to understand why writing is important and want to help students succeed in writing tasks. She has divided the book into three main sections: Processes Involved in Writing; Purposes of Writing; and Providing Feedback. She has also included 16 appendices, comprising a total of 38 clear, attractive, reproducible blackline masters, and a subject index.

     The book is probably best suited for teachers of upper middle years and students beginning high school, though its suitability will depend a great deal on the amount of writing instruction students have had. As well, it will depend on how much the teacher has learned about cross-curricular writing instruction before he or she attempts any of the instruction offered within it. Content area teachers have not traditionally had much exposure to specifics about writing instruction. While Carty's book might prove somewhat complex to such novices, teachers with some exposure to process methodology will find the book a handy set of reminders or an invitation to try something new. With the current focus on formative assessment, one strong aspect of the book is its focus on providing feedback to students. This section goes beyond the traditional identifying of errors to helping teachers help students understand and modify problematic areas in their written work.

     With the growing emphasis on viewing and representing as modes of communication, teachers will appreciate Carty's section at the end of Part I in which she briefly describes a dozen different visuals by stating their purpose and components. Similarly useful is her section entitled “Pamphlets, Folders, and 3D Models: Other Ways to Present Information” (pp. 64-65). While the content in both of these sections provides for a plethora of exciting product possibilities, they might be easier for students or teachers to realize if Carty had followed some of her own advice and included sketches of them.

     There are other slight problems with the book. Many of the diagrams are too small, with their text being in what appears to be an eight-point font. The Word Wise sidebars which accompany various sections and which are intended to highlight key vocabulary about writing could be in a larger font than the regular text or could be bolded to warrant or effect the special notice expected. Useful examples are given throughout the book, but more would be better.

     Though this book may not convert the content area teacher intent exclusively on presenting facts within a subject domain, it will be very beneficial to a teacher intent on improving students' learning. The book is organized, but it is not a step-by-step “foolproof” manual. It assumes a solid level of pedagogical understanding, presenting a collection of strategies which a teacher can initiate or incorporate into an existing writing program. The style is straightforward and serviceable. It will serve beginning teachers as a menu of possibilities. More experienced teachers can dip in again and again and find something useful, too.


Pat Sadowy is a Senior Instructor at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, where she teaches curriculum and instruction courses in language and literacy at the middle years level.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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