In this world of technological advances, we have to rethink how we teach writing; every good writing teacher knows that already. Like I tell my students, I use Grammarly’s grammar check because having bad grammar is like tucking your skirt into your pantyhose; people will notice you, but not in a good way. Relatedly, how do we validate teaching bibliography formats when EasyBib exists? We need to impart the importance of grammar and proper citation, but it’s silly to pretend that we’re still on the equivalent of the abacus when in fact, better “calculators” are readily available.
Writing is one of the most important skills we can teach our students; this I know for sure no matter what space-age tool they end up using to compose and craft their work. As writers, they need to learn how to polish and enrich their language, and they need to learn structure and framework, but most of all, they need to learn how to really see their own work. It’s difficult to develop a critical eye, but it’s even more difficult to learn how to distance yourself enough from your own work to be able to engage that critical eye on it. I tell my students all the time that professional writers all have editors, but then, in the age of blogs and fast-paced e-journalism, I also think it’s crucial for any writer to be his or her own editor as well.
So how do we do this? I do direct instruction on important skills like outlining, quote integration, and how to craft argumentative sentences instead of ones that only summarize. I coach them on how to do effective peer review and ask them to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses as writers, which we try to pinpoint in one-on-one conferences along the way. I provide them with model sentences, and after each formal essay, I pull strong examples of sentences and paragraphs from student essays to use as models. I hang grammar jokes and cartoons in my classroom, and we do activities focused on learning the rules of grammar, and we practice vocabulary strategies. I ask them to write personal and opinion pieces as well as formal analytic essays, and they do frequent short informal pieces to get more comfortable with low-stakes written expressive forms. I’m always looking for new resources and I’ve learned so much from other teachers and writers, and when it’s written out like this, I realize just how many different ways we approach the teaching and learning of writing in my classroom. But still somehow, it never seems like enough.
I’ll keep looking for the best tools to share with my students, and keep thinking about the most engaging ways to coach my students through the writing process. I don’t know if any of my students will become professional writers, but I hope mightily that they will become strong women, with confidence in their own voices.
Disclosure: I was compensated by Grammarly for writing this post, but all opinions included are my own.
- Editing Tips: Grammarly (ibourgie.wordpress.com)
- Grammarly on sale (learnthepcblog.wordpress.com)
- Grammarly: Easy Tool to Improve Your Writing Skills (surgabukuku.wordpress.com)
- My family, the beta readers (elizabethly.wordpress.com)
- Grammarly Writer Shares NaNoWriMo Group Writing Experience (mediabistro.com)