Writing Across the Curriculum, Principal Stanley Teitel’s initiative to improve students’ writing skills, is continuing in full force this term. The program, which was created last October, aims to help students become better writers by giving them more opportunities to write in every major subject class. This has now been extended to all classes.
“The ability to write and express oneself in a coherent manner is incredibly important,” Teitel said.
At the beginning of the school year, Teitel administered a pocket English grammar manual to every member of the faculty to aid in the implementation of the policy. “These were recommended to me by the English department,” he said.
Biology teacher Dr. Daniel Pilloff plans to make use of his copy of the manual. “Once I identify common mistakes on students’ papers the manual will come in useful,” said Dr. Pilloff, “Although, keep in mind, this is not a grammar class.”
Teitel himself is taking an active role in incorporating writing into the curriculum of his freshman physics class. “Every one of my exams this year has a writing component,” he said. “This way there’s no outside editing; I can get a clear view of how the students write and then move on from there.”
Dr. Pilloff has also incorporated a sizable amount of writing into his curriculum. “I give my students the Biology Department New York Times portfolio project, which requires them to summarize articles from The New York Times that pertain to biology,” Dr. Pilloff said. “I also provide them with examples of both good and bad summaries.”
Many science and math teachers reacted positively to the policy. “When you ask a student to write, you force them to synthesize information” Dr. Pilloff said.
“The major controversy surrounding the policy is whether or not it augments learning in specific disciplines, and the current consensus is that it does,” biology teacher Dr. Jonathan Gastel said. “The writing of students needs to improve.”
For some teachers, student writing is an integral part in the study of their subject. As a result, they have not had to alter their curriculums in any major way. “We currently have a writing rubric in all of our classes. Obviously we would like the students to be able to write well in the target language,” Assistant Principal Foreign Languages Arlene Ubieta said.
Students seem to have mixed but overall positive reactions to the policy. “I think it is a little excessive, but then again, writing is very important for many classes,” junior Konrad Wojnar said.
“I don’t see any reason against it,” junior John Bowler said. “It probably will help us become better students.”
When asked if he had noticed any improvement in the writing abilities of the students in his freshman physics class Teitel said, “No, but keep in mind that they are freshmen. I would expect a change towards the end of the year.”