Teaching Writing

Sometimes we educators make decisions with students based on our own experiences as learners. The easy assumption is that “my experience is the way it works, and so…” we either replicate a positive experience, or change what we found was negative. This might be fine–if our experience is really the same for the kids we teach. But it can also be dangerous, as our bias might not conform with what’s best, it’s simply familiar.

So, it is with caution that I reflect on my own growth as a writer. I had the hardest time in college writing in a style that was what my professors wanted. It took a long time to learn I had many voices, and one was appropriate for scholarship, and another was appropriate for story writing or an informative article. But before I got to college, many years in fact, I began writing on a computer. It was in the 5th grade that I began to write and turn-in assignments that were printed onto paper that got threaded through a dot-matrix printer. It was unusual at the time, but I knew that writing was a lot more fun, and felt more fluent, when I could press keys to form words, sentences, and paragraphs.

So, the following effective practices for writing really don’t surprise me, because my own experiences and growth as a writer seem to fit the conclusions supported by research.

The article linked above comes up with a few conclusions, found in the research on writing instruction:

  1. You get better the more you write: spend more time writing.
  2. Start word processing to write: write on a computer.
  3. Keep language instruction somewhat authentic and real, because grammar instruction doesn’t work.

Today I think I am a strong writer, but I have to admit, diagramming a sentence still feels foreign and very uncomfortable!