Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Time to Return to Writing Fundamentals?

In the October 2012 edition of The Atlantic, Peg Tyre wrote a telling article entitled “The Writing Revolution” in which she followed a New York public school struggling to keep its doors open in light of disastrous test scores and flailing student success. Nothing seemed to improve the situation. It wasn’t the teachers. It wasn’t the parents. It wasn’t the students. It was the writing curriculum – or lack thereof!
What the school found was that when writing proficiency became the focus in every class from English to science, student success in every subject improved and their test scores along with it.
What is most interesting to note, however, is that the writing curriculum was not simply expanded to include more writing. Instead, students began to be instructed in the strict fundamentals of writing: grammar, parts of speech, punctuation, sentence structure, critical thinking, and outlining.
It appears that in lieu of specific writing instruction, previous curriculum required writing but did not teach how to do it.
How is a student who has never been taught proper grammatical structure to be expected to write a thesis or persuasive essay? How is a student who has never been taught the difference between an adverb or an adjective supposed to write a research paper or short story?
Writing is going to play a role in every student’s future success. Whether the student is college bound or career focused, writing is essential to his growth and success.
We owe it to our children to ensure that we are not simply assigning writing assignments without arming them with the tools and skills for success.
Who can blame a child who feels inadequate or confused for hating to write? They don’t hate to write. They don’t know how to write! We wouldn’t accept that our child hates to play piano before they have had lessons. We wouldn’t accept that our child is a bad ball player when we haven’t told them the rules. So why do we accept that our children are bad writers if we haven’t ensured that they have been taught the rules and fundamentals of the skill?
Your child may not be the next Hemmingway or Longfellow. But without a doubt, he can be competent and successful in the writing realm. He may even enjoy the pride and confidence that comes with sharing his work and communicating his ideas clearly.