Equitable Literacy Through a PBL Lens Part 3: Explicit Instruction & Text-Based Writing

This is the third in a series of three blogs focused on Equitable Literacy Instruction supported through Defined Learning and Project-Based Learning processes.


Writing instruction is sometimes viewed as the English teacher’s job. After all, aren’t we the grammar experts? And we know how to correctly use that tricky semicolon, right? Don’t even get me started on the debate over the Oxford comma! 

While that tongue-in-cheek perspective may sometimes ring true, the reality is, we’re all teachers of reading and writing. When it comes to Equitable Literacy, writing is a critical part of building a student’s skills, and we all need to encourage and employ writing practice in our classrooms. 

I’ve already shared how Defined can support Daily Work with Complex Texts and Enabling Texts. Previous blogs in this series have also highlighted how Project-Based Learning (PBL) through Defined can support Explicit and Systematic Instruction in the Function of Language and Intentional Knowledge and Language Activation Across Disciplines

The final component of Equitable Literacy, Explicit Instruction in Research and Text-Based Disciplinary Writing, brings to the forefront direct instruction in the purpose, structure, and language features of a specific genre or discipline with opportunities to construct texts that are authentic to the content area. Basically, it calls upon teachers to demonstrate and discuss why and how writing is important across the curriculum. Just like an English teacher can outline different types of nuanced claims and the methods for building supporting evidence, a science teacher can model the components of a lab report, and a history teacher can elicit an extended response based on comparing competing economic models. 

Research shows that this explicit instruction is especially helpful for multilingual learners who benefit from a structured approach to writing instruction which includes modeling, deconstruction of mentor texts, co-construction, and independent writing (Shin, 2016; Brisk, 2014). When it comes to using Defined Learning and Defined Careers to support this final component of Equitable Literacy, teachers can cull from the variety of tasks available, and even search specifically for those with products that connect to the Integrated ELA curriculum.

Defined Learning and Defined Careers provide multiple opportunities for educators to support equitable literacy practices to help students learn and succeed. Through Defined, educators can easily provide students with tasks that introduce them to academic language and promote practice with different genres of writing. For example, narrative writing is part of the grades 3-5 Planetarium Host: Seasonal Constellations task, while high school students could create a front-page news article or video report to practice informational writing for the Journalist: Women’s Baseball League task. 

The Project-Based Learning approach and career pairing with the Integrated ELA curriculum means teachers can filter through the multitude of projects to hone in on specific writing genres. For example, students can practice with informational writing through tasks such as Rain Barrel Manufacturer which includes a Technical Report product, or work on opinion writing through the Sunflower Farmer task which includes an editorial product. Using Defined Learning’s Integrated ELA courses makes it easy for teachers to embed Explicit Instruction in Research and Text-Based Disciplinary Writing

Defined Careers also utilizes a project-based learning approach encouraging students to apply their knowledge and skills to prepare products for an audience based upon a wide range of careers. Within their work and project development, students are often required to create a variety of writing products to help inform and persuade a target audience related to the task to be accomplished.

By utilizing the Defined platforms with an Equitable Literacy lens, teachers can provide opportunities for writing, but also create an atmosphere for building student confidence, independence, and creativity while meeting the language domains of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. In the end, students can practice these skills throughout the school, not just in their English classroom. 


Please click the links below to view the other two blogs in this 3-part series on equitable literacy through a project-based learning lens:



About the Author:

Dr. Joy Carey has more than two decades of classroom experience teaching middle school English Language Arts in both rural Pennsylvania and Arlington, Virginia. She has also served as a literacy coach and currently enjoys teaching high school English in Baltimore County Public Schools. She is passionate about writing and building connections with students. Her research focuses on how PBL influences literacy skills for middle school English Learners. Always up for a challenge, Joy works on agility training with her Border Collies in her free time.


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