Dobson recently expressed his concern over the lack of attention schools are giving to the instruction of writing, and his concerns are echoed throughout the business world as well.
A recent survey that polled major corporations in America revealed that writing is a skill that indicates an individual’s opportunity for growth and promotion within a company.
Universities find the need to teach an alarming number of incoming freshmen the basics of writing so that they may attend to their studies with any level of proficiency, and companies nationwide spend billions of dollars annually training their employees to improve upon their poor writing skills.
It is predicted that in today’s global media market, where even the simplest of advertising requires at least a core knowledge of the writing process, the need for a work force skilled as writers will be necessary to maintain our cultural expectations and economic edge.
If so much rests on this particular instructional component, why then have schools lessened their focus on the practice of writing? The National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools and Colleges noted that of the ‘three R’s, writing is the most neglected. With the focus in classrooms today on math and science, instruction in writing has definitely taken a backseat.
Realizing the current trend in classrooms across the United States to forego instructional time with the writing process, the National Commission warns that American education will never realize its potential as an engine of opportunity and economic growth until a writing revolution puts language and communication in their proper place in the classroom. Writing is how students connect the dots in their knowledge.
Steve Graham and Dolores Perin, authors of the Carnegie Corporation of New York report Writing Next, stress that writing well is not just an option for young people — it is a necessity. Along with reading comprehension, writing skill is a predictor of academic success and a basic requirement for participation in civic life and in the global economy.
The state of Georgia has taken notice of these deficiencies and has enhanced its curriculum to require the teaching of writing and to access students statewide at certain grade level intervals. Students in the third, fifth, eighth and 11th grades are tested on their writing proficiency with results being reported to the public.
To ensure that teachers are providing their students with the skills needed to become successful writers, it is suggested that the amount of time spent on the teaching of writing be doubled.
Classroom teachers, already hard-pressed for time in order to meet the demanding requirements of the Georgia Performance Standards, have struggled with the dilemma of scheduling additional instructional time for the teaching of writing skills. The most effective manner to date has been to incorporate writing within the framework of all subject matter material, referred to as ‘writing across the curriculum’.
The obvious weakness with this technique is that all teachers have not been specifically trained to teach writing. The math teacher, for example, is extremely skilled with math content material but may lack the needed strategies to instruct children with the foundations of writing. Progressive schools have remedied this through targeted professional development — training teachers in the needed skills.
Gray Station Middle is doing exactly that. Under the leadership of principal Johnny Holliday, GSMS teachers are currently engaged in professional learning experiences to strengthen their abilities to guide their students across the middle school curriculum in the foundations of expository and persuasive writing — skills assessed on the eighth-grade writing exam.
Armed with this support, GSMS faculty members have taken up the cause and have begun to implement a focused writing program throughout the school.
Regardless of the subject matter, students will be receiving instruction in written expression. Surprisingly, students are proclaiming their excitement over the new push toward creative writing.
Eighth-graders in Kim Hanner’s classroom were quite vocal in their appreciation of the attention being provided in this area.
“It’s not mechanical anymore. I used to hate to write, it wasn’t important to me. But now, with everyone being involved and pushing us to do our best, it’s more enjoyable,” expressed one student.
“I’m very grateful for what they’re doing for us. I have plans to go to Yale. I know it’s important for me to be able to express myself and get my ideas down on paper,” commented another.
Several students noted that they had transferred in to Jones County from surrounding areas and had not had any formal training with the creative writing process. One such young lady commented that the teachers had recognized her lack of skill in these areas and had worked with her to help bring her up to where her classmates were.
“I like it here because they really seem to care that I do well,” she said. When asked if they felt they had been prepared during their elementary school years for the rigor they are currently experiencing with the writing process, most noted that they had not.
“Some teachers really pushed us, but not all of them. This year, you can’t escape it (writing). All of our teachers are really on top of us to do well,” reported one young man.
The National Commission on Writing best sums up the importance of the practices being implemented currently at Gray Station: “At its best, writing has helped transform the world. Revolutions have been started by it. Oppression has been toppled by it. And it has enlightened the human condition.”