March 17th, 2010


Middling on writing in school...

(Notice the spring deer -- it's supposed to be 68 degrees today...a prelim to Friday, when it won't even reach freezing -- ack, poor flowers!)

Anyway, our school district isn't well-known for its strong writing standards. DH and I both attended school in this district from 3rd grade on (I think he even had K-2 here, as well), and now our kiddos are in the same district. When we were in grade school, they had these 'writing samples' -- where they gave all the kids a picture and we had to write on it. We did that in 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades (I think -- more on why I don't remember for sure below).

In 3rd grade, the sample was a picture of a squirrel holding a nut (I vaguely remember). I wrote about it (probably making up a story or something), and when the results came back, the principal told my teacher (and me...and probably my parents) that I'd tested out of grade school writing. In fact, as a 3rd grader, they had me testing around a sophomore in high school. (I find this hard to believe, I must admit, but at the time we didn't know any better.)

For the rest of my grade school career, I went to the library during writing, which is why I don't remember much about the other tests (though I think I took them...I think). In 9th grade, we had to write an essay based on an assigned theme. It had something to do with economics, which was not a class I'd taken at that point. But I'm nothing if not creative (hehe), and I've always been the queen of BS. The scores of that test indicated I was writing at a post-college-grad level. I did take two writing courses in high school -- for fun (advanced essay and creative writing) -- but I wasn't required to. I also tested out of all grammar classes, which is why I went into college (and graduated from college) without knowing what the various parts of speech were -- not even the word 'predicate'.

Fast forward to now, when my kiddos are beginning their school careers in this same district. Hm....

The good news is that the district is trying out a new writing program -- and our school is one of the test schools. In fact, E's teacher is one of the teachers who has been sent to the training sessions and is now training other teachers at the school. So far, I'm very impressed. Both kids seem to be learning quite a bit about the structure behind writing -- how to pick and choose details and how to support their ideas. They're also learning about creative writing, and being sure there's a beginning, middle, and end. I have hope that they might actually learn how to write!

When I taught, I was appalled by the lack of writing skills my students held. Just getting them to write a sentence was a struggle -- they didn't know anything about expressing a thought in a succinct and sound manner. I 'wrote' my own curriculum for the school, and after eight years, I'd say that's one of the areas where I could see the most growth. My students left my school -- even those who were only there for a year or two -- and could hold their own with writing. In fact, my most successful graduate, who was an average student (including in writing), got accolades from a number of college professors who regularly praised her for her writing prowess. I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that our district will move in that direction with teaching current students how to write.

What about you? How were things when you grew up -- and how do you see them now? Is there any hope for the current generation of students to become decent writers?
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