Over at Education Week, there’s a great interview with Laurie Halse Anderson about teaching writing in school. One point Anderson makes:
“There are a number of corporations that have turned a tidy profit by convincing school districts to invest in their “writing system.” Three tricks, five steps, six traits, eight levels, ten tested-techniques; that wheel gets reinvented over and over again. I can understand why a teacher would look for this kind of guidance; writing well is a foundation stone of education and teaching writing – especially to students who are struggling – is hard.
But I think these programs make the matter more difficult than it has to be.
Imagine this; structuring a writing curriculum around three concepts. Number One: the writer learns how to understand what she wants to communicate. Number Two: she writes what she wants to communicate and tests it out on a reader. Number Three: the reader gives immediate, constructive, written feedback so the writer can see if she achieved her goals. If started as a young enough age, this could be turned into a game, so that the writer is rewarded when she has effectively communicated with text. Not just a good grade; something that has meaning.”
I think the idea of writing in schools being both “a game” and “something that has meaning” is essential, especially for younger students. Learning about grammar and spelling is important, but I think students want to take ownership of their writing. Letting them explore communication and creativity can give students a sense of pride in their writing and be more inclined to write and read more. I’m sure teaching reading and writing can be very difficult for a teacher–it’s a subject without a lot of clear answers, and there are a variety of obstacles students can face. But I would say the more personally invested students feel in their writing, the more they’d be willing to work and continue to work throughout their school experience.
Make sure to check out the whole interview. Some great thoughts from an excellent writer!