Features and Benefits Comparisons to relevant norm groups that provide an objective lens through which to examine student writing.
Bernhardt, University of Delaware We should think less about teaching students to write, and more about how we might use writing in our classrooms in the interest of learning.
Written language, in particular, requires the thinker to come to grips with the object of learning. Writing is a journey. Writers may begin with a plan or an outline, but it is the act of writing that determines the path and the eventual outcome.
No one can imagine ahead of time exactly what will happen during writing. Writing is thinking made visible. Because writing is visible, it allows people to work together in a complex intellectual space.
Writing can provide a shared space for teachers and students. Myths we live by Too many teachers embrace unproductive beliefs or myths about writing and writing instruction.
Sometimes, it is best to unburden ourselves of the myths that hamper learning.
Writing is a problem to be fixed: Writing is not something we fix with seat time in a required course. Writing is a complex skill that grows over time as students practice in various contexts.
Musicians practice, get feedback, develop a repertoire, perform, and over time, become good players. Writing is like piano playing.
Writing should be graded: Writing assignments frequently represent tests of one sort or another, with grades attached, something that comes at the end of learning.
Students become conditioned to view writing as a display of learned or memorized material, exchanged for a grade in the academic barter culture. This pattern can be broken by using writing as part of the learning process—a typical classroom activity, rather than as a form of performance or testing.
All writing should be carefully marked by the teacher: Some teachers take it as their duty to mark up student writing, to try to catch each mistake and problem, and to assign a grade.
Far better to break this pattern, offer students comments in process, hold conversations with students as they develop ideas, and intervene while the writing is still alive.
Students benefit from thoughtful feedback, but often, less is more—a few high level comments and some broad diagnosis of problems is better than marking everything at every level.
Writing is an individual skill: Writing is essentially social. It takes place as communication among people, and often takes place in the context of conversations, on-going work, and collaborative efforts.
Writing is a good opportunity for students to get to know each other, work together, and form learning partnerships. Writing must be formal, academic, and serious: Students should have fun with writing, experiment, play around, or argue both sides.
Try having students write something outrageous, or illogical, or off the wall. If we want students to control language, play is a more effective method than drudgery. Small steps in the write direction Over the last 30 years as part of the movement known as Writing Across the Curriculum, teachers have developed sensible ways to use writing as a learning tool.
Here is a sampling of good practice that teachers have found to be valuable. Students maintain informal notebooks with their reactions to reading assignments or lecture topics.
The writing is largely personal, analytical, and reflective, as students attempt to summarize and integrate what they are learning. Some teachers require a double-column format, with students summarizing material on the left, and reacting, criticizing, or raising issues and questions on the right.
Teachers can collect and examine them from time to time, give credit for maintaining the logs, and react to the writing as an interested reader. A micro-theme forces students to construct a mini-essay or highly distilled discussion within a restricted space.
Some teachers require micro-themes to be written on one or both sides of an index card. Students might define a key construct, describe an important historical event, or summarize a research article.
Micro-themes can be composed frequently and read quickly by teachers, with a checkmark to confirm satisfactory completion or a short comment to the student. Teachers can pause during a lecture, presentation, or discussion to allow students to formulate their thoughts in writing.Other school capacities were haphazard, such as a lack of consistent policies about homework, lack of teacher access to reading assessment results, inconsistent use of writing rubrics, and a lack of common materials used to teach similar courses.
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course for law graduates. By Stephen A. Bernhardt, University of Delaware We should think less about teaching students to write, and more about how we might use writing in our classrooms in the interest of learning.