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Writing in secondary subjects

Added 23 Apr 2021 | Updated 18 Oct 23

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Why subject-disciplinary writing matters

The ability to identify and teach the literacy skills necessary within different subject disciplines is essential for supporting students' understanding and attainment.

Our suite of secondary training CPD provides professional development for school leaders and teachers focused on literacy within the curriculum.

For literacy leads and teachers in schools that have identified writing as a key priority area, our Disciplinary writing in the secondary curriculum course draws on the models provided here. Within the course we explore the cognitive challenge of writing, review the evidence base for what works in teaching writing, and provide strategies for building students’ motivation and confidence in paragraph writing, enabling them to evaluate their own work.

In addition, our wide range of training options includes an introductory course, What is disciplinary literacy?, as well as subject-specific courses that address literacy in mathematics, science, English, geography, history and PE.

Subject-disciplinary writing models

To help students understand expectations for writing within subject disciplines, we recommend that teachers use model texts to demonstrate text organisation and deconstruct language features that are aligned to their own subject area.

The resources available to download from the available files list on this page (premium members only), provide examples from different subjects and different genres to support teachers to develop and use their own models in the classroom.

Establishing context, purpose and audience

Three things determine the type of writing required for any curriculum task: context, audience and purpose. In secondary school, the context is the subject discipline.

  • Context: the subject and topic
  • Purpose: why am I writing?
  • Audience: who am I writing to or for?

Text type: What is the most appropriate format to use?

The following questions will support understanding of the overall text organisation:

  • Is there an introduction?
  • Does the text have a number of relevant points in separate paragraphs?
  • Has each point been elaborated?
  • Is there an appropriate ending?

As part of the modelling process, teachers may also pay specific attention to subject-specialist (tier 3) or academic (tier 2) vocabulary and one or two pertinent language features such as prevailing verb tense or use of discourse markers.

Additionally the model and plan can be used to co-create a success criteria sheet with students to use when planning and producing their own writing.

More on disciplinary writing

Explore how our CPD training course on disciplinary writing can help you.

Disciplinary writing in the secondary curriculum CPD

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