Texts and Lessons for Content Area Writing

Texts and Lessons for Content Area Writing
By Nancy Steineke and Harvey “Smokey” Daniels
(Heinemann, 2016 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Linda Biondi

“What Do Mealworms Taste Like?” “101 Ways Animal Have Served the Military” “Here’s How You Sell a Haunted House.”

Articles that are attention grabbers. Articles that will have even the most reluctant reader wanting to read more. Articles that will spark classroom discussions.

That’s what Texts and Lessons for Content Area Writing by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels and Nancy Steineke is all about. It’s about finding stories that will engage the adolescent reader and writer. It’s about providing mentor texts that will have students checking the Internet for more information instead of posting Instagram pictures.

The writing challenge for subject area teachers

It is indisputable that our students must become proficient readers and writers to successfully meet the rigorous curriculum demands and be adequately prepared for college and citizenship. This book is a resource to help teachers provide students with meaningful and engaging texts as they learn to use literacy strategies.

In addition, the Common Core State Standards (2010) require that “beginning in grade 6, the literacy standards allow teachers of history/social studies, science and technical subjects to use their content area expertise to help student meet the particular challenges of reading, writing, speaking, listening and language in their respective fields.” Content area literacy is a HOT topic!

In the past, all reading and writing instruction was the sole responsibility of the language arts teachers. Most certainly, content area teachers made sure the students cited resources, used paragraphs, learned how to take notes, and write a well documented research paper. But fully developing students who can “read, think and write” in the subject area is a recent challenge.

This book can help

Trying to “cover” curriculum in content areas and “teach writing” is daunting. However, it is important for content area teachers to recognize that they are not teaching gerunds, nouns, verbs and comma usage, but helping develop students who can “read, think and write” in the subject area.

Don’t have enough time? Each of the lessons is written so you can use the steps and language with the provided text or with other texts and can complete it within ten to forty minutes.

The book is broken down into three sections: Writing to Learn Content, How to Use This Book, and Strategy Lessons. The lessons are grouped into a definite chronological order:

• Chapter 3: Setting the Stage for Writing
• Chapter 4: Sparking Thinking with Quick Writes
• Chapter 5: Writing Before, During and After Reading
• Chapter 6: Taking Note
• Chapter 7: Digging Deeper into Texts
• Chapter 8: Time for an Argument
• Chapter 9: Writing for Understanding
• Chapter 10: Closer Writing about Content
• Chapter 11, 12 and 13 are Text Set Lessons for narrative, informative/explanatory, and persuasive/argumentative writing.

The lessons are written with the busy teacher in mind. All of the activities and teacher instructions are written in sequence and detail. Every section is labeled by genre, source, teaching strategy, minutes required, grouping (pairs, small groups, whole class), applicable standards, lesson timing, background on the writing strategy and topic, prep before and during the lesson, and web resources, tips and “shoptalk.”

Heinemann’s web support feature for this book includes downloadable copies of all the texts, articles, forms, prompts, and images that accompany lessons.

Overwhelmed by writing lesson plans and wondering how are you going to fit them into your already crowded calendar? Nancy Steineke and Smokey Daniels have your back!

Linda Biondi is a fourth grade teacher at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, NJ and a long-time Morning Meeting practitioner. She’s also the recipient of several educational grants, a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project, and a participant on the NJ Department of Education Teacher Advisory Panel and with ECET2 Celebrate Teaching.



MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.