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I read this New York Times article the other day about how our education system does not help students write better. They lack “voice”, or they can’t even string together a sentence. Goldstein notes that “…the Snapchat generation may produce more writing than any group of teenagers before it, writing copious text messages and social media posts, but when it comes to the formal writing expected at school and work, they struggle with the mechanics of simple sentences” (Goldstein). It may be true that social media has exacerbated an already ongoing problem (the article states writing has been a problem at Harvard is late 1800s), but mobile technologies are wiring our brains to consume less text and more pictures, resulting in truncated speech.

It is a real pain in the ass when I have to read hundreds of student papers that are written in some accidental stream-of-consciousness. Capitalization, fragments, run-ons, and all sorts of careless writing horrors litter the page, but the research reminds us it’s “about the message” and not necessarily the form. Okay, I can understand that. Except I can’t even understand the message when the form has transformed into something unrecognizable.

Enough complaining. This article was instructive and I hope I can apply it somehow into my teaching. Oh yes, the reason why I started writing in the first place. The article reveals that teachers are also to blame because, not only do they not know the mechanicals of English themselves or possess the correct pedagogies and strategies, but also they do not know how to write. The article quotes Dr. Troia who states that teachers are great readers but poor writers. The answer, according to the article, isn’t simply to double down on grammar instruction and sentence construction. Studies reveal that such instruction in the abstract yields poor results.

The article, thankfully, ends with a few pro tips. ”

“First, children need to learn how to transcribe both by hand and through typing on a computer.”

Students in this generation type on the phone, a medium which lends itself to shorthand. Therefore, students hand-written or typed products are often awkward and incomprehensible. The medium matters.

“At every level, students benefit from clear feedback on their writing, and from seeing and trying to imitate what successful writing looks like, the so-called text models. Some of the touchy-feel stuff matters, too. Students with higher confidence in their writing ability perform better.”

This advice scares me the most. I need to provide clear feedback and opportunities for revision for my students. They need to learn how to imitate good writing that exhibits both clarity and feeling. I just don’t know if I have the energy and will power to provide commentary for all my students all the time. Especially since I am teaching three preps (different classes) this year. No one but a teacher could truly understand the death sentence in a 3 prep assignment for the school year.

Anyways. My takeaway is that I need to write more to sharpen my own writing. Got to commit to it like a fat kid on a diet program. Or an athlete in a muscle gaining program. Or something like that.

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