TAN: Teaching Writing (was "Illiterate"--LONG!)

Subject: TAN: Teaching Writing (was "Illiterate"--LONG!)
From: Nancy Hayes <nancyh -at- PMAFIRE -dot- INEL -dot- GOV>
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 1995 18:02:22 GMT

In article <Pine -dot- SOL -dot- 3 -dot- 91 -dot- 951203111419 -dot- 22005D-100000 -at- plains>,
Patrick B Bjork <bjork -at- plains -dot- nodak -dot- edu> wrote:

>not we be able to use their oral communication skills in some form or
>fashion as a foundation to improving their written communication skills?

My knee-jerk reaction is "No." Not unless we could analyze =why= they're
effective at oral communication (as opposed to written). I don't think
writing being a high-stress skill necessarily has anything to do with
it. I know quite a few people, myself included, who would really rather
not have to give an oral presentation. I'm getting much better at it,
but it's still not my preferred method of communication.

>the way reading and writing is taught to children creates a kind of
>right/wrong dependency and paranoia that does little but stunt the

I don't think there is a "standard" method of teaching reading and
writing skills. Maybe that's the problem. My niece was taught the
free-method (for lack of a better description) in second grade. The
teacher didn't teach them any mechanics--just let them write what they
wanted. While I have absolutely no objection to this as a writing
exercise, I think the teacher should have finished the job and also
taught the mechanics. Going on the theory that kids that young don't
realize how difficult it is to learn something. They just learn it.

>think about how you learned your language in grade and high school. Were
>you encouraged to read and write with abandon or did you sit in straight
>rows identifying parts of speech and conjugating verbs?

Both, actually. At the time (middle and late sixties), the school
district I was in was one of the top ten best in the country. We were
the ones everyone else was compared against. I remember learning
"language" beginning in second and third grade--which covered the
mechanics and beginning grammar. We also learned spelling. And finally,
we wrote stories or papers. It was a combination of all three topics,
taught both separately and together, that formed the foundation for our
writing skills.

Here's another analogy. You can learn to play the piano without learning
the "mechanics"--the key signatures, the differences between minor and
major, what the different notes and rests are. But unless you're a
prodigy, you'll never learn how to play Bach or Chopin without knowing
the mechanics of the language you're speaking.

Grammar and effective written communication aren't separate issues. I
honestly feel that you can't have effective written communication without
it following the rules of grammar--any more than you can have truly
effective oral communication without following the spoken grammar of your

Sorry for venting. You just happened to push one of my buttons.

Nancy Lynn Hayes (nancyh -at- pmafire -dot- inel -dot- gov) Carpe Diem
Seize the Day!

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