We’ve heard time and again how important it is for students to read frequently if they wish to become proficient readers. Over summer vacations, teachers assign summer reading and agonize over which great literary novel their students will consume during the school year. Many teachers advocate reading ANYTHING…read the newspaper, a book, a magazine, or even a cereal box. Just read, read, read.
This makes perfect sense.
After all, if you wanted to learn to play piano, you would practice, practice, practice. If you wanted to become a basketball sensation, you would spend hours working on your jump shot. So why, then, do we not ask our students to write daily? Write ANYTHING…essays, journals, short answers, stories, articles, advertisements, or even lists. Just write, write, write!
The truth is teachers rarely give this advice to students. In fact, consider what teachers couple with their summer reading assignments? Too often, students spend a week creating dioramas, posters, scene reenactments, and other creative outlets to prove that they did in fact read the book. Instead, they should be writing about it. Writing reports, writing articles, rewriting endings…writing anything.
The problem is that dioramas and posters are not real life. Few employers will ask for a “creative” report. College professors, graduate school applications, and future employers will require insightful written work in which useful conclusions have been drawn. They will not accept you into medical school based on your creative diorama of an operating room.
Writing in the Classroom
Steve Graham is a professor of education at Arizona State University who has spent much of his career researching the best ways to
teach writing. His findings are both obvious yet surprising to many.
Professor Graham’s study found that students simply aren’t writing enough as part of their daily studies. Middle and high school students are writing for an average of 25 minutes per day while the recommended daily writing should be more in the neighborhood of 1 hour per day. So why aren’t educators adopting a more quantitative approach to teaching writing to their students?
The resounding answer: it simply takes too much time to grade all that writing. (But nothing worthwhile comes easily, does it?)
Secondly, Professor Graham discovered that students who compose on the computer attain a higher writing proficiency over time. It is suggested that the ease of editing on a computer with cutting and pasting and the simplicity of correcting spelling encourages students to write freely without the time consuming rewrite. Since editing is a key factor in writing success, it makes sense that computer composers are more likely to edit and therefore more likely to turn in high quality work.
What does Professor Graham’s study mean for your students? Namely that online learning is a logical fit for writing students and that the more writing your student attempts, the more improvement you will see over time. There simply is not a substitute for putting in the time to achieve success.