Writing to communicate with others has been around for centuries, originally starting with cave drawings and paintings and then developing into more formal writing systems. Some educators claim that in recent years students have become less able to communicate using effective writing. However, I believe that students are no worse, the writing style has evolved with new technology. Writing experts Daniels, Zemelman and Steineke (2007) mention students distaste in writing, “Teachers often sat that kids hate writing. But maybe what they hate is the kind of writing we make them to do” (p. 3). New technology encourages writing, Facebook and text messages are the main form of communication for the Millennial generation (those born into the technology revolution). The Baby Boomer generation (those born within 20 years of WWII) and Generation X (those born between the Baby Boomers and Millennials) have quickly adopted email as an effective form of replacing snail mail. Hence, people enjoy writing, just maybe not the type of writing that is valued in academia. Recognizing the differences between generations can help understand how writing has changed throughout the years.
John Seely Brown (a Baby Boomer) is credited with creating the first prototype for the modern spell checker (Krishnamurthy, 2005). Many improvements have been added throughout the years, including grammar correction (the dreaded little green line) in computer word processors. These innovations have assisted in the so called “writing crisis” facing public education. However, if we can harness the current writing style, educators can use student writing as a learning tool. Too often writing is limited to english and history classes, however, if educators use writing to help students reflect on their work, explain their ideas and learn how to articulate step by step instructions, writing has a valuable place in the education system.
Daniels et al. (2007) suggest exit slips and reflective journaling to use writing as a learning tool. Exit slips are a form of reflective journalling for students to complete after a lesson. Given a prompt, this tool can help students think about their learning and identify improvement areas, or it could provide vital feedback for teachers (p. 35-39). Future lessons can be constructed using student feedback to identify areas of struggle or class improvement suggestions. Exit slips are just as valuable for the student as they are for the teacher. Additionally, the reflective aspect helps students review concepts before moving to their next class. Reviewing material supports the cognitive process of storing short term memories into long term memories (Medina, 2008).
Within math and science topics, students are frequently overwhelmed with information in the content they are reading. By adopting a less formal writing techniques, teachers can use drawings as a form of writing knowledge obtained from a passage (Daniels et al., 2007). Encouraging students to write down all of the information in a complicated problem helps them articulate clear understanding of their reading. In drawing form, students can use math and science skills to learn within that domain. After, writing is important to explain the steps and procedures for solving them problem. Another approach to drawing is to use clusters to connect central concepts (Daniels et al., 2007). In a math classroom, making a cluster map can visually represent central ideas together and make connections between the mathematical concepts.
Finally, Daniels et al. (2007) claim, students remember “50 percent of what they see and hear, 70 percent of what they say and write and 90 percent of what they say as they do a thing” (p. 26). While visiting a mentor teacher, I observed a project where students created study guides and learning tools for future classes. They were encouraged to engage with the material as they use peer to peer writing techniques to explain the math skills they used throughout the year. According to the instructor, peer teaching demonstrates a clear understanding of the topic.
So, writing is being used in creative ways that are less formal than essays or analysis papers, it is being used to converse and effectively communicate with teachers and other students. Writing in high schools is not in crisis mode, rather the culture of formal writing is slowly changing to meet modern needs for effective writing. Teachers have invented and adopted methods of written communication that will help lead to effective workplace communicators.
Daniels, H., Zemelman, S., & Steineke, N. (2007). Content-Area Writing: Every Teachers Guide ( ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Krishnamurthy, S. (2005, October 19). A-List overdue on campus. The Michigan Daily.
Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.