Why Teach Writing?

I got home from work late today, stopping at FedEx to have the writing club’s stories bound into booklets.  Somebody walked with the comb binding machine at my school, I guess.  There are ten stories, so ten booklets — some very shaky first efforts and some short pieces that the young writers crafted and revised.

And, after hastily stir frying some tofu for Mom and me, I noticed I had a parent email to answer for the summer writing program I direct at SJSU.  This is turning into a pen pal, since it is a parent who is also a teacher.

Instead of blogging I wrote him, supplying the daily schedule, the link to the offerings — the choices of workshops student will have — and tried to address his concern about his son needing to be better able to write a main idea with supporting detail.

I wrote:  When you mention that your son needs to give a main idea and supporting details, I’ll have to ask you if any of the writers you read, say, — the NYTimes Op section, or your favorite nonfiction writers — do they do that?  This formula for school writing is intended to be a support, a short scaffold to help students understand the idea of having a central thread and saying enough about a topic to engage the reader with the idea.  Main idea and supporting details is in general how a paragraph might go, but it is not writing instruction.  Writing instruction gives students many strategies and they find the ones they can use to move their writing along as they are developing it.  These skills transfer from one genre to another.

I wonder if that helped.  And out of the corner of my eye, as I’ve kept some parent feedback I want to address on Blog for Writing Workshop at SJSU 

She wrote:  My child likes to write.  I’d like to learn how to encourage her to cotinue to be creative when otherwise the teaching of writing in schools is very prescriptive (and dry).  I’d love to learn great principles of writing that she can use, but that I can also use for myself (as I support her).

I really want to write blog posts to some of the parent feedback.  It is late.  Tomorrow my writing club will review strategies we tried out.  I’ll be charting them, as a support for them giving meaningful feedback.  The writers will nibble string cheese and fancy cookies and sip limeade, while they read around the table, signing their post-it notes.

Lofty title I started with.  Did not quite answer that huge question, but I think that there’s writing instruction and then there’s writing instruction.


One thought on “Why Teach Writing?”

  1. There’s teaching the writing and then there’s teaching the writer. Hopefully those two can mesh, but if I had to choose, the writer wins.

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