Friday, February 13, 2015

My Thoughts on Writing Instruction

When I think back on my own experiences with writing in K-12 settings or even college settings, very few of my teachers and professors modeled what it meant to provide quality writing instruction, at least according to this week's reading and PowerPoint.

For instance, my tenth-grade English teacher had us write a research paper, and he graded very heavily on conventions. I think 50% of our grade was based on whether or not we followed APA format. According to the PowerPoint, conventions/grammar have a place in writing instruction, but they have a small place. Maybe conventions could be 5 or 10% of a grade, but 50%??

His instruction reminds me of a famous paper written by Constance Weaver. The link to it is here.,d.cGU 

She reported on two groups of 11th graders: one of whom had intensive instruction on how to improve their grammar, and one of whom did not have intensive writing instruction. At the end of the year, guess which group wrote better papers?

That's right, the group who did NOT have the class on grammar. In this paper, Weaver writes: "the students' pre-course essays were not spectacular, their post-course essays were "miserable" and apparently "self-consciously constructed to honor correctness above all other virtues, including sense

No good. When we base half or all of our grades on spelling, subject/verb conjugation, and so forth, we teach our students that correctness is more important than voice, than a compelling argument, than solid reasoning, than all of the other characteristics that go into a quality piece.

So one of my big take-away messages this week was that conventions have a place in writing, but not the central place, contrary to how many teachers grade writing.

1 comment:

  1. I was very grateful to learn in this class about writing and the importance of it. I think most of us have learned to dread writing because we are so focused on the conventions and not the writing itself. I have learned that if there should be more focus to the assignment. Conventions are important to learn and writing correctly is important. Although grading 50% of an assignment over conventions defeats the purpose of actually writing it. I really enjoy writing and expressing my thoughts. I also like how it can open up the imagination of a student and make a writing experience more memorable rather then a whole research paper with grading based on conventions. It is important to focus on other writing characteristics such as voice and persuasion etc. These are important too and i see it is important to grade on these other things. I want to use writing when i teach history. I want them to be able to express their thoughts on what they are learning rather then just learning facts.