Coaching Writing in Content Areas

Allyn & Bacon
William J. Strong  
Total pages
June 2011
Related Titles


From one of America's most respected writing professors-practical, motivating strategies for making writing a tool for learning, and for integrating it into content area instruction. This resource helps new and veteran teachers work smarter, not harder. Prompted by a “near-total neglect of writing” in content areas outside English, and drawing on the work of expert teachers, Bill Strong shows how write-for-insight coaching strategies enhance content learning. The clear, personal voice of the book-coupled with its rich examples-has made the first edition a “thumbs-up” favorite with National Writing Project sites across the nation. Early chapters of the book show how expressive writing can spark active learning; the later chapters demonstrate how public writing can extend student knowledge, preparing students for future success in academic and employment arenas. Written by a masterful teacher of teachers, the book's friendly, thought-provoking style is appropriate for both in-service and pre-service teachers in diverse disciplines.


• Practical, classroom-tested strategies help learners make personal learning connections in all content areas. • End-of-chapter “Write for Insight Activities” offer tools for instructors and workshop leaders to use in pre- and in-service courses. • Model prompts and rubrics help teachers develop imaginative tasks and rubrics tied to each content area. • Research-proven strategies for coaching struggling readers and writers are discussed and demonstrated. • Expressive writing activities like note-taking, drawing, summarizing, brainstorming, and metaphor-building are illustrated in content area contexts • Strategies for managing student groups and coaching students to take pride in revision are offered in later chapters. • Alternative formats to the traditional research paper-and strategies for avoiding Internet plagiarism-are included. • A “Coaching and Judging Writing” chapter helps content area teachers avoid the “Red Pencil Blues.”

New to this Edition

• NEW! “Writing in a Digital World,” (Ch. 10) showcases how some content teachers now use technology to engage tech-savvy students. • NEW! Profiles of expert content-area teachers illustrate write-for-insight coaching in real-life settings. Examples in the areas of health, science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts are included. • NEW! New samples of writing prompts, rubrics, and student writing broaden the range of coaching illustrations. • NEW! “Flexible teaming” and “wall text” are introduced as coaching strategies, and an extended vignette illustrates these strategies in action. • NEW! A simplified and streamlined framework of discourse categories is provided in the Preface, making the material more accessible for content teachers. • NEW! A new Epilogue overviews 11 research-based strategies for teaching writing to adolescents. • NEW! Updated references and a reorganized Table of Contents are included.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dan Kirby     

About the Author  


PREFACE     Introducing Insight    

New to This Edition

Now a Small Confession   

Writing and Skiing           

Learning Together            

Why Writing Matters       

Good News from NAEP      

Writing on the Home Front              

Mapping the Chapters       


Write for Insight Activity 


1  Writing from the Inside Out          

Remembered Writing       

Narration as Knowledge  

Prompting Narrative       

Literacy Autobiographies 

Reflecting on Narrative   

Content Area Examples   

Narrative Insights          

Write for Insight Activity


2  Challenging the Hidden Curriculum         

Teacher as Writer             

Resistance to Writing       

The Hidden Curriculum of Writing               

Roots of the Hidden Curriculum     

Writing without Grades    

Note-Taking and Note-Making        

Resisting the Hidden Curriculum  

Making Learning Personal             

Writing-to-Learn Samples

Thinking Outside the Box

Write for Insight Activity 


3  Exploring Expressive Writing      

Windows to the Heart        

Opening Expressive Windows         

Quotation Prompts             

Guided Imagery  

Dramatic Scenarios (Cases)            


Dialogue Writing               

A Reader/Writer Dialogue              

Write for Insight Activity 


4  Tapping the Power of Metaphor   

Valentine's Day  

The Power of Metaphor     

Exercising Metaphor         

More about Metaphor        

Using Semantic Charts     

Using Pattern Poems         

Metaphors in Prose           

Metaphors of Teaching     

Write for Insight Activity  


5    Helping Basic Writers Succeed    

Basics of Good Teaching  

Wall Text Basics

Back to Human Basics      

Developing Transcribing Skill       

Using Content-Based Dictation       

Summarizing and Paraphrasing     

Teaching Basics Strategically        

Sentence-Combining Basics            

Workshop-Style Teaching

A Bridge to Literacy          

Write for Insight Activity


6  Designing Assignments and Rubrics        

Darth Vader in Action       

Assignments by Design    

Assignments to Motivate  

Ten Design Principles      

Context + RAFT = CRAFT               

Case Study of an Assignment          

Content Area Writing Tasks          

Darth Vader Revisited       

Write for Insight Activity 


7    Managing the Writing Process     

Coaching Writing              

Visualizing the Writing Process   

Understanding the Model  

Guiding Cycle 1 Activities (Prewriting)        

Guiding Cycle 2 Activities (Revising)            

Prompting Self-Assessment            

Bumps in Process Teaching            

Managing Collaborative Writing    

Write for Insight Activity 


8  Coaching and Judging Writing      

Responding to Writing     

Thinking about Assessment            

Coaching versus Judging 

Getting Ready to Coach     

Up-Front Coaching             

Coaching as Response      

Audiotape Coaching           

Getting Ready to Judge     

Judging Portfolios             

Coaching as a Lifetime Sport          

Write for Insight Activity 


9  Researching Outside the Box

A Research Story               

Personalized Research     

The Saturation Report      

A Student Saturation Report           

The I-Search Paper            

Multigenre Research Project          

Challenging Advanced Students     

Traditional Guided Research           

The Problem of Fakery     

Write for Insight Activity 


10  Writing in a Digital World 

Cultural Divide   

iPod Inspiration  

WebQuest Nation               

PowerPoint Pedagogy        

A Gift of Glogs    

Guerrilla Journalism        

Classroom Demonstration               

Blogging Basics

Exploratory First Steps

Write for Insight Activity



Revisiting Insight       

Listening to Students        

Coaching with Insight       

Leveling with Students      

The “Writing Next” Report             

Listening to Research

Write for Insight Activity


APPENDIX A Literacy Autobiography Case Study


APPENDIX BBob Tierney's Concept-Trigger Words


APPENDIX CMacie Wolfe's Cubing Activity


APPENDIX DGeneric Graphic Organizers  


APPENDIX EContent Area Writing Assignments  





Back Cover

This practical resource is designed to help new and veteran teachers work smarter, not harder. Written by one of America's most respected writing professors, Coaching Writing in Content Areas is packed with Write-for-Insight strategies. These motivating, ready-to-use strategies help make writing a tool for learning, integrating it into content area instruction.


In this coaching guide, Bill Strong draws on the work of expert content teachers. Early chapters show how expressive writing can spark active learning; the later chapters demonstrate how public writing can extend students' knowledge, preparing them for future success in academic and employment arenas.


The clear, personal voice of the book coupled with its rich examples made the first edition a “thumbs-up” favorite with writing project sites across the nation. Now the second edition has been updated to include:

  • A new chapter, “Writing in a Digital World” (Ch. 10).
  • Profiles of expert content-area teachers in real-life settings, including examples in the areas of health, science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts.
  • New samples of writing prompts, rubrics, and student writing.
  • Fresh examples of “flexible teaming,” “wall text,” and “cubing” strategies.
  • A simplified and streamlined framework of discourse categories in the Preface.
  • A new overview of 11 research-based strategies for teaching writing to adolescents in the Epilogue.
  • Updated references and a reorganized Table of Contents.

Praise for the first edition:

“Bill Strong presents a clear and compelling case for using writing to learn as a tool across the curriculum. The author's anecdotes and his rich, descriptive writing draw the reader into this thought-provoking text and the wealth of practical strategies and activities presented give content area teachers concrete ideas to implement in their classrooms.”

-Carol Booth Olson, UCI Writing Project, University of California, Irvine


“William Strong's …book…is easily the freshest, smartest, and most readable addition to the secondary Writing Across the Curriculum literature in recent years. Beautifully written and intellectually engaging, Write for Insight's 10 chapters lay out processes and procedures to guide content teachers interested in integrating writing into their curricula but unsure how to proceed.”

-Kathleen Dudden Rowlands, “A Review of Write for Insight: Empowering Content Area Learning, Grades 6-12,” The WAC Journal


Write for Insight is a gift from one of the elders of the literacy tribe. This…book by William Strong is loaded with ideas and strategies for all teachers to use writing 'as a tool for learning (or refining) content knowledge' (p. 8; emphasis in the original).”

-Tom Romano, “Professional Materials: Write for Insight: Empowering Content Area Learning, Grades 6-12,” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (Copyright © 2006 by the International Reading Association)


William Strong has worked in middle school and high school literacy instruction for over four decades. Besides presenting hundreds of workshops and many conference talks, he has authored a dozen books and teacher resources, including Coaching Writing: The Power of Guided Practice (Heinemann, 2001). Bill was the consulting author in composition for the Writer's Choice textbooks (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2001) and the series consultant for English Matters! (Grolier, 2000), and he served for ten years on the National Writing Project Advisory Board. In addition, Bill founded the Utah Writing Project at Utah State University and directed it for 25 years while also teaching courses in content area literacy, English education, and writing. Both his teaching and research have received college-level awards, and professional groups have honored him for his statewide leadership in pre-service and in-service teacher education. He enjoys downhill skiing, motorcycle touring, and working with school districts and National Writing Project sites. Readers can contact the author at or

Reader Review(s)

I found many helpful examples and suggestions. I would definitely recommend this book to our literacy coach for use in future training sessions.


The concepts and examples were up-to-date and mirrored some of the materials I've read in other publications or heard in workshops I've attended. The concept of using writing as a learning tool is very timely for the introduction of writing into content area classrooms.


The book offers a wide range of examples that span the struggling writer, the resistant writer, and the motivated writer.


Madelaine Kingsbury, English Teacher, Overbrook High School, Philadelphia, PA



This book has the feel of an English-teacher-oriented book, although it clearly has ideas and implications for ALL secondary teachers.

The market appears saturated with books on how to teach content area reading and literacy, with writing, as Strong incorporates it, as an afterthought.  There is clearly a need for Strong's book in the market of writing across the curriculum.


I definitely did enjoy the author's tone overall.  It is always personal and never patronizing. The author attempts to reach all content area teachers, a truly difficult challenge, which he meets with good success.


I strongly recommended it to my student teacher who is looking for more writing ideas for her classes (she loved the idea of students writing a dialogue between animals on the food chain). 


The discussion on note-taking and note-making was excellent and immediately useful for teachers.  I already use Cornell Notes in my classes, and this is a natural transition. 


The Formats for Writing chart on page 46 is invaluable.  Excellent.


I am an English teacher, and my students would eagerly do ANY of the writing assignments in this book….


Margaret Carlock, English Teacher, Lecanto High School, Lecanto, FL