Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Who's Teaching America's Students to Write

As school begins, and I engage in the long, arduous project of teaching students "how to write," I thought it be a good time to re-post this Mazenglish piece from 2012.

Is it possible that nearly half of high school students in this country write less than a paragraph a month in classes?  If true, that would explain the abysmal writing skills - and scores - of American students on tests such as the NAEP, or in college classes whose professors are baffled by their incompetence.  As the Common Core focus on literacy redefines how we teach and measure reading scores, some schools have awoken to the equally significant task of teaching students how to write.  This "writing renaissance" documented in much education news is both refreshing news and a depressing commentary on the state of American classrooms.

Teachers may be focusing on the teaching of writing like few have done before - or in a while - but still a majority of teachers claim their education and training did little to teach them how to teach writing.  And, of course, this skill must be developed across all curricula.  For, if it has left up to the English teacher, as it far too often has been, writing skills will continue to stagnate.  The connection between reading and writing should be obvious, and students need to be regularly challenged to synthesize information they read and offer their analysis in written form.

Building arguments and analyses from their existing knowledge, as well as new texts, is foundational for critical thinking.  And, students need to be writing much more.

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