Advancing civics-specific disciplinary writing in the elementary grades


  • Esther A. Enright University of Maine
  • William Toledo California State University Fullerton
  • Katherine Landau Wright Boise State University



civics instruction, elementary social studies, perspective-taking, student writing, argumentation


Students need support through intentional writing instruction to develop their discipline-specific writing skills outside of Language Arts. Yet, we argue not all writing instruction provides the same opportunities for student learning. In this study, with the support of professional development, teachers engaged students in civic perspective-taking through writing, focusing on locally relevant public issues. Drawing from disciplinary literacy and genre pedagogy, our research team conducted a descriptive study where thematic analysis was applied to examine second and third graders’ civics writing samples. Our findings indicate that students’ engagement with key civic concepts became more complex and purposeful as they practiced argumentative writing. Development continued from second to third grade in both the sophistication of their civic perspective-taking as well as their writing. Additionally, we found that student motivation to engage in argumentative writing increased in all classrooms across both grade levels when engaging with locally relevant public issues. This article provides details about the elementary civics writing curriculum and the students’ writing outcomes as well as includes the two graphic organizers used in the curriculum.

Author Biography

Esther A. Enright, University of Maine

Esther A. Enright, Ph.D. (she/they) is an assistant professor of educational leadership at the
University of Maine. She is interested in the positioning of university-based professional
preparation programs within the Higher Education system, and how a better understanding of
that embeddedness could inform equity-based approaches to program recruitment, admissions,
curriculum building, and student development. Additionally, she studies the role of youth voice
and agency in the leadership of public systems within predominately rural states. She has a
background in K-12 teaching and higher education student affairs.


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How to Cite

Enright, E. A., Toledo, W., & Landau Wright, K. (2023). Advancing civics-specific disciplinary writing in the elementary grades. Journal of Writing Research, 15(1), 41–71.