Is writing in schools becoming extinct?

As a history major who is simultaneously earning secondary education certification in social studies, I do a lot of writing. I constantly have reader responses and/or research papers, and if I have an exam, its probably mostly essay and short answer. Writing is essential to my major, and there is no way to get around it. I don’t really mind writing, as I’ve always had a knack for it. If I write about something, I am more likely to remember it. It forces me to think and analyze information, which in turn leads to a better understanding of concepts. With all the writing assignments I have on a weekly basis, it is hard to believe in a world with no writing.

photosteve101 Flickr

My education course this semester focuses on content area literacy, and one of the books we are reading is “Teaching Adolescent Writers” by Kelly Gallagher. As I started this weeks assignment (which has a writing component as well as a reading component) I started reading one of my assigned chapters, Chapter 2 to be exact, and was shocked at what I was reading after reading only 4 pages of the chapter. Gallagher’s students were claiming that they do not write in any of their other classes or did very little writing in other classes (Gallagher, 26–28). This shocked me a bit, but the real shock came when I read that student writing is not very deep and that students do not write frequently enough (Gallagher, 27). Just as I thought I could not read anything that would shock me more, I came across statistics saying that “Compositions of a paragraph or more in length are infrequent even at the high school level” and “Forty percent of twelfth graders report that they are ‘never’ or ‘hardly ever’ assigned a paper of three pages or more in length” (Gallagher, p. 28).

I could not believe what I read. How can these statistics exist? Isn’t school supposed to have a huge focus and reading and writing skills? High school students aren’t writing research papers, or are writing research papers that are under 3 pages, which would be quite short for a research paper. How are these students going to be prepared for college if they do not have proper writing skills? Well, I’ll come right out and say it. If a student comes to college and does not know how to write effectively, then they are going to struggle.

Who is to blame? I say that most of the blame rests on teachers who don’t require their students to write frequently. Writing can be incorporated into each subject. Now, understandably a student will write more in a history class than in a math class, but writing can be incorporated into a math class on a small scale. A math teacher could have students look at charts and ask student to write an explanation for what the chart is showing, or they could have students explain in writing how they solved a problem or equation. The only way that student writing can be improved is to have students write.

Rob Allen Flickr

If we do not assign writing assignments and papers to our students, then we are failing in preparing them to enter into the world that awaits them after they graduate. Even students who do not pursue college degrees will need writing skills, as in today's day and age, many jobs require basic communication skills, which involves written communication. If we do not equip them with proper skills that they will need after graduation, than who will?

We all need to pitch in. Every teacher from every content area needs to help students become effective writers. We cannot pretend that our students will magically become good writers after they graduate. We need to teach them those skills so that when the graduate, they will have the writing skills they need to be successful in today’s world.


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