With this kind of interdisciplinary approach, students gain a lot of repeated practice in making rhetorical choices based on the purpose, audience, and context of a piece. That is, writers learn to adjust their writing, not only to particular subject matters but to different genres of communication. Writing, in this view, is a social practice, meaning that it's a way that people within a community discover and circulate ideas. This recognition became a part of the New Dorp culture, and in turn, changed the way students and teachers understood themselves, each other, and their relationships and joint work.
Fourth, New Dorp teachers taught writing as a way to not only demonstrate ideas, but also as a way to discover them. For instance, Tyre writes about a chemistry teacher who asked students to describe the properties of hydrogen and oxygen using subordinating clauses that began with "although," "unless," and "if. "
Monica, the student Tyre features throughout the article, discovered conceptual relationships through these brief writing prompts. Tyre reports that Monica previously felt she could read the words on a page, but she wasn't sure what she was supposed to notice. " 'Before, I could read, sure. But it was like a sea of words,' she says. 'The more writing instruction I got, the more I understood which words were important.' "
Tyre points to Monica's mastering the parts of speech as the key, but I would add that this kind of spontaneous, low-pressure writing exercise also permitted Monica to connect concepts in ways that hadn't occurred to her before she began writing about them. That is to say, the chemistry teacher wasn't just teaching about subordinating clauses. The teacher was also teaching that you can discover as you write: it's okay to not know what you think before you put ideas on the page. When students explore key concepts in a course through these in brief, even impromptu, exercises, we refer to it as "writing to learn."
Fifth, New Dorp teachers do not seem to focus on explicit parts of speech as much as making rhetorical choices visible. A rhetorical choice is a decision that's available to a writer, and it can be thought of at different levels of a text: the word, the sentence, the paragraph, and or the text as a whole. It's not just that the teachers quizzed students on coordinating conjunctions or the way to start sentences with "although" or "despite"; instead, they taught what those moves could do for writers and their readers.
There is power in being able to identify these moves, but there's also power in being able to explain what effect the move has on readers -- and to understand those moves based on purpose, context, and audience. For instance, the argument made in a commercial advertisement is different than one that might appear in a political ad. An argument made in a letter to the editor is different than one found in a sonnet, and so on.