AND SPEAKING AC ROSS TH E CU RRICU LUM
Look into the classrooms and around the campus of Vermont Academy these days and you may notice a subtle difference. Students are putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboard more frequently. They are finding more and more opportunities to have their voices heard, at community meeting and during class time in every subject. These changes are a result of the Writing and Speaking Across the Curriculum (WSAC) program, a new initiative launched at VA this academic year, to great success. To be sure, writing and speaking have always been an important element of a Vermont Academy education. This year, however, cognizant of the vast importance of these skills for students’ future success, the faculty have made a concerted effort to place greater emphasis on writing and speaking in the classroom. Any employer will tell you how crucial it is that their employees be able to communicate effectively, through both clear writing and confident speaking. No matter what major our students choose in college, or what field they enter as adults, these skills will be central to their success. Teachers in every department across campus have therefore begun to incorporate more opportunities for students to write and speak, both formally and informally. Assignments range from in-class freewriting warm-up exercises, to creative writing based on prompts, to extended research papers with formal arguments. Students give presentations and lead class discussions. While you might expect such assignments in humanities classes, teachers of math and science are likewise making greater use of writing and speaking in their instruction. Math teacher Russell Mayhew, for example, recently asked his pre-calculus students to write a project in which the students described the problem-solving strategies and technical steps of a complicated problem involving Ferris wheels and snow globes. “Math is practically useless if you cannot communicate it effectively. Math class offers a great opportunity for students to strengthen their ability to write clearly and efficiently,” Mayhew says.
Written by Erin Cohn, WASC Program Coordinator & History Dept Chair
ver mont academy
Vermont Academy's alumni magazine