Writing is the new hot button word in schools across America. Teachers are including it in their curriculums across the board and touting its importance. So if writing has become the new classroom essential, then why are our students still struggling to write well? In an August 2017 article in the New York Times, Dana Goldstein explores “Why Kids Can’t Write.”
What she found is that 3/4 of 8th and 12th grade students lack basic proficiency in writing (National Assessment of Academic Progress). This number is truly astonishing considering the added emphasis placed on writing skills by the implementation of national core standard curriculum.
4 Factors that Inhibit Writing Skill
Ms. Goldstein found that 4 factors were important in understanding why our students continue to lack writing skills:
1. Teachers largely rely on worksheets to teach writing skills.
2. Teachers lack sufficient training in writing specific techniques.
3. Teachers often lack confidence in their own writing ability.
4. Teachers generally focus their feedback commentary on the content and substance of student writing rather than the actual
implementation of written skills.
When looked at objectively, these reasons all seem to make sense. Unless a teacher is an outstanding writer themselves, they need to be taught how to teach writing!
The national community of educators are beginning to realize what we at Online Scribblers have known for a long time: the best people to teach writing are writers, and the best way to teach it is through consistent practice and trial and error. There is a lot that can be done to help students who are struggling to write well.
What Can Be Done
Students learn as much from making mistakes as they do from their successes when errors are used as opportunities for revision and correction rather than losing points and ridicule.
Similarly, worksheets can teach grammar, but they cannot teach the fundamentals of paragraph organization and descriptive writing. Students need to try their hands at these finer details of writing and experience how it all comes together into one beautiful piece of work. It is also not enough just to assign written work.
Lastly, the time must be taken to mark up and give feedback on how to improve the writing. Is a student using redundant ideas? Is the student lacking a central focus or main idea? Is a student not presenting ideas in logical order? It is not enough to correct the grammar of a piece of writing and assign a grade. We need to be able to discuss proper writing technique at a deeper level.
Yes, it takes a great deal of time. Absolutely. But the results are well worth the investment.