Monday, October 17, 2011

Could you have that essay on my desk by the end of the day?

In the past couple months I've been having my students blog for the first time.  Unfortunately I don't get to spend too long with each rotation of students  so our depth has been quite limited.  I have however had quite an eye opening experience when it comes to student writing, which is not my speciality.  I would say I'm moderately familiar with the content that students are expected to know in the area of writing, but the majority of my knowledge comes from personal experience.

I remember grammar, spelling, and writing conventions being drilled into my head as early as first grade.  I would never have failed to capitalize my name or the letter "i" when I was speaking about myself.  Yet for some reason here I am with students writing and commenting and those practices are a daily struggle.

But here's what I really noticed, my "aha!" moment so to speak.  When I ask my older students (7th & 8th grade) to write a post I can typically expect a great introduction, good detail, and a conclusion.  In fact their writing is just fine when they are expected to write a paragraph.  However, when they have to read their classmates posts and make good constructive comments all of those practices go out the window.  So what is the deal?

I have no doubt that my students are good writers.  However, I have a feeling that they are only truly good writers when they are writing in a form that they are familiar with, either an essay or an open response.  Comments, discussions, and chats using technology...forget it.  But does this really matter?  They are only expected to write open responses on state tests anyways right?

This is where I start to get scared.  Think of how you use technology in your day to day life and in your work.  The number one thing we all use technology for is communication.  In one day I e-mail (a lot), use Twitter to learn more, spend some time on Facebook, and send some text messages. In fact I communicate more with my colleagues by e-mail than I do anything else.  The last time I wrote someone an essay was a few years ago in college and this blog is the closest thing I ever do to that.  I didn't grow up with all this technology to communicate so I think that all of those skills translated quite easily when they became necessary in my life.  I never knew any other way to write.  But our students today, they've always known other ways.

It's not enough anymore to simply prepare them for writing essays in college.  They are communicating with one another at a very young age all the time through text messages and websites.  Enough with blaming texting on everything.  We all text every day don't we?  And I don't know about you...but I certainly make sure to capitalize when necessary so I don't look like I failed to receive any sort of education.

What do we do to cause a shift to encourage more writing in technologically applicable situations?  More crucially, how do we do it in schools without a 1:1 program and that severely restrict students using personal devices?

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