Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why Writing Matters

A language arts colleague at my school shared a link with me, "20 Great Writers on the Art of Revision," which prompted me to ponder why writing matters—for all students, and in all content areas (science included).
Image courtesy of MorgueFile

This quote from novelist Vladimir Nabokov most resonated: “My pencils outlast their erasers.” Writing is never a one-step process, is never easy, and is never done.

Many of our students—more often boys than girls—see writing as a destination rather than a journey. They race to complete any writing task without giving much thought to what they’re actually writing. And editing/revising? Forget it...

At my school, we do a fairly thorough job of teaching kids how to write and expecting kids to write across all content areas, but I wonder about us teaching them WHY to write:
  • Why do we write? Why does writing have value? Why do these words on a page matter?
  • Why should I as a writer care about what I write? Why should I agonize over every word, sentence, phrase, and punctuation mark?
  • Why should I always throw out bad writing? Why should I throw out good writing?
  • Why should I care about my audience? Why do I have a responsibility to my readers (and who are these faceless readers anyway)?
Whether it’s writing a masterpiece caption in science class, writing mathematical problems, writing computer code, writing a blog, or writing the next great novel... whether it’s written by hand or written digitally... whether it’s written for millions of people or written just for one, quality writing always matters—to articulate our thoughts and ideas, to make meaning and communicate our understanding, to teach and learn, to share our world with others.

A big "thank you" to all teachers who teach kids (and remind kids, and cajole kids) to own their writing. When I was growing up, I had a few good teachers who would not tolerate sloppy writing. Period. They were strict and tough, but fair—these are the teachers I remember and honor the most.

PS: I wrote the original draft of this message in a Google document so that I could track my revisions. The first draft took me 29 minutes to write, and in that time I had over 30 major and minor revisions—not including typos. Writing takes practice, practice, practice...

1 comment:

  1. And now off to find more "real world" writing assignments for the students. . .