September 7, 2010

Writing: Are we Teaching it Wrong?

This post was last updated on December 12th, 2011 at 03:15 pm

For this school year, I've been asked to support teachers in the writing portion of the English Language Arts Curriculum. I'm not a writing teacher by speciality but I'm a writer and a teacher so that's start. 

As I scan the list of concepts and issues I've been asked to support, I continue to wonder about the relevance of these ideas for today's students:

·         Writing benchmarks
·         Writing process
·         6 + 1 Traits of Writing
 
The assumption for 90% of teachers and parents is that writing is about text and text is usually linear. I don't very much that many of the understand the ideas here:
 

These questions envelope my thinking around writing:

  • How much of past practices and instruction about writing continue to remain relevant?
  • Can we teach writing in isolation?
  • Does writing need to be authentic? Is writing an essay for your teacher authentic? Can we do better?
  • Does it work to teach writing without a firm understanding of what it means to write for screens?

Will's latest post in particular raises many questions.

I've no doubt the much of the work of my own district is based on sound research and offers a great foundation for writing. Take a look at a rubric from our Grade 4 Writing Benchmarks:

I still worry about context. I was taught that you needed to be a good writer because one day your job may require it. Today we don't need to wait to find reasons for our students to write. Writing prompts, while useful, are often used because kids can't think of anything to write about because they rarely were writing. I have to believe we're nearing the end of the age where teachers had to develop wild scenarios and reasons for students to write. In fact, we're in the middle of a writing revolution. My 11 year old daughter has started at least 3 blogs in her life and her latest revolves around her love of fashion. She is a blogger and a writer. Schools don't need to tell her that. Schools do need to help her get better. 

I recently attended a webinar on the Power of Non-Fiction Writing. The focus of the webinar was largely around the way that non-fiction writing can improve test scores, to which I usually respond with, "who cares?". It was also mentioned that it can lead to deeper understanding. That's what I'm interested in. Sadly, Angela Peery, never did address the role of online writing. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt in that in one hour she can't share everything but it does seem like a key point was missed.

So I'm left to wonder how much of my new work has to include connective writing. Bud has already led me to some key resources. He's also wrestling with some great questions. Again, I'm not suggesting that the writing process, 6 +1 Traits of Writing isn't valuable. I think there's a great deal of solid ideas when it comes to communications in general. But I'm just not sure how long we can pretent that writing for a screen is somehow superfluous.

Seriously, does non-digital writing even matter?