Academic Writing: Media Writing & Website Design by Dr. Harry Stein

Media Writing and Website Design

Dr. Harry Stein, Manhattan College

Media writing is the very opposite of linear, left to right composition.  Media writing has 3 planning elements:

1. pick a medium or carrier of a message,

3. decide on the quantity of information in the message.  

Two quick examples:  what word messages about the causes of the American Revolution might be printed on a T shirt or a cup or an advertising billboard.  A tee shirt can not carry an essay.  The message has to be short and direct.

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Illustration #21A
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Illustration #21B

Illustration #21 shows a chain.  The chain is a set of interlocking parts and is especially suited to showing events, their causes, and effects.  The chain is the medium and notes are appended to each side of the chain.  This example uses a “triple T” organizer in the upper left where the student notes their topic, theme, and thesis claim.  

Beth Isenberg was a 7th grade teacher in the Yonkers Public School system.  She chose the medium of a cup to show FDR’s plan to remake American society during the Depression.  Illustration #22 shows a draft of her media writing. Note the “triple T” in the upper right and a time line at the bottom of the page.  

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Illustration #22

Ms. Isenberg used this cup media writing in 3 dimensions, the classroom, the assignment or on a test.  She gave students the cup and they had to put the pieces together.

Ms. Isenberg’s class also used the chain medium.

Academic Writing – Website Design

The final type of writing is website design.  Instead of asking students to compose an essay or research paper on a given topic ask them to create a website.  How?, they will ask.  Go to your IT person in the building or district and discuss your project with her/him.  Invite them into the class after you have had students go to one of their favorite sites and analyse the type of information at the site.  Did the site contain words, how many?  Did the site have data, pictures, or icons.  Did the site carry sound?  What colors or shapes were used?  Were vocabulary featured?  All web sites have design features and before we make one using history content students have to see their design features.

With the help of an IT person and planning the web site assignment over a long period of time we can begin to introduce new writing forms to our students.  All writing is symbol making.  When we underline or circle we are are writing.  When we star a word we are writing.  Writing is more than composing.  Writing occurs when we take our private thoughts and make them public.  Reading is symbol absorption.  Writing is symbol production.  Reading is silent and private.  Writing takes our private thoughts and proclaims them to an audience.  Writing is a risk-taking venture.  We expose ourselves to the critical eye or “I” of another person.  When we ask students to write they need the confidence of their own thoughts.

Finally, Illustration #23 shows a planning chart for academic writing.  It is broken into MP or marking periods, an MY exam (mid-year exam) and a final exam.  The chart enables the teacher to plan and record the types of writing activities for the entire year.  A similar chart can easily be constructed for a 9 week marking period.  The CATs strategy is noted enabling the teacher to place the activity in the C= classroom  A=assignment or T=the test.

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Illustration #23

A set of academic writing beliefs concludes the chart.


     Academic Literacy is not only an idea it is a series of social studies teaching and learning activities for our classrooms, assignments, and evaluations.  We need to link these activities to four other mandated ideas that affect teachers and students.  These are school district mandated planning procedures, the mandated observation and evaluation of teachers, required teacher professional development, and the general philosophies that guide education in the fifty states and 12,000 public school districts.

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Illustration #1 – Weekly Academic Literacy Chart

     Illustration #1 is a weekly Academic Literacy Planning chart.  It is a supplement to normal district plans that call for the identification of State standards, content teaching/learning objectives, selection of materials, and assessment.

     This planning chart identifies the four major elements in Academic Literacy, gathering and organizing information (I and II) critical thinking (III and IV) memory (V) and Writing (VI).  Using the Activities Handbook teachers can identify which activities they might use as students interact with content materials.

      At the bottom of the chart is a section showing how social studies teachers might coordinate with other faculty members.  Some students also go the remedial reading and writing teachers. NCLB, NO Child Left Behind or Title I) staff.  Some go to ELL staff, English language literacy.  If they know what content is being taught in a social studies class they can find similar content and use it for their skill objectives.  The inclass support teacher is assigned to be with special education students mainstreamed in a social studies class.

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Illustration #2 – Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching Theory

      Illustration #2 shows the commonly used Danielson theory for teacher observation and evaluation.  Academic Literacy activities are part of Domain 3 Instruction.  

      Illustration #3 is a framework for creating a permanent professional learning community in a school or district.

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Illustration #3 – Professional learning Communities in Schools

      Finally, Academic Literacy is always a tool in carrying out an educational belief.  The Aims of Education thinking of Eugene Maleska offers a wide variety of choices.    

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Illustration #3 – Framework for Professional Learning Communities in Schools
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Aims of Education
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