Re: Why kids can't write

Subject: Re: Why kids can't write
From: Faith Weber <weber -at- EASI -dot- ENET -dot- DEC -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 1994 08:54:57 PDT

Matthew Wong writes:

>If there is any problem with the way writing is being taught, I believe it
>is this: that no distinction is being made between what is written and how
>it is written.
<stuff deleted>

>I believe as
>much focus should be given on how to generate and develop ideas--the
>content. At the Univ. of Maryland, we tried to show how the most graceful

This reminds me of some tutoring work I did in college. I served as a
writing tutor for a few freshman students. One girl I tutored came to me
complaining of poor grades on her papers. She couldn't understand why
her grades were so bad, and she was very discouraged. When she showed me
the essays she'd written, it was clear that no one had taught her
anything about the structure of an essay (introduce your thesis, provide
supporting points, end with a conclusion). Her ideas were fine, and her
grammar was fine, but her essays weren't organized properly.

During my only tutoring session with her, I explained how an essay
should be organized, and her eyes lit up. She'd thought her writing
was bad, college was too much for her, etc., when in fact this was a
problem she could easily fix. When she came to me, she was getting all
C's and D's on her papers. The paper she did after our session earned
an A and she never came back for more tutoring.

I was amazed that the content of her work didn't count more to begin
with -- I would've expected the teacher to mark her papers higher
and say "Your ideas are good, but you need to organize them better,"
or something. In terms of her ideas, sentence structure, etc., she
was a better writer than a lot of people I encountered. But judging
by her grades, that didn't count for much in freshman English. No
wonder everyone I knew hated that class.

Of course, one has to wonder what on earth this freshman English
teacher was doing, if not teaching this stuff -- but he or she probably
had several classes of 50 students each, so it's probably not fair to
sit in judgment.

Faith Weber
EA Systems Inc.

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