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Dana Huff

Are you familiar with the Collins Writing Program? I wrote about that approach today, and I'd be interested in your take.

Charles Kim

Hi Tim. This is Charles Kim, your former student from last fall's method's seminar at NYU. This blog is really amazing and insightful. I look forward to reading it as you post more entries.

BTW, Jen Dryer, is my literacy coach at M.S. 167, where I am teaching 6th graders.

Take care.



the assumption that a student could be made into a "good" writer in the matter of one school year.

Eeek! That's certainly not possible.

There are many definitions of "good" writing but I think it has to start with grammar. I was woefully shortchanged in English grammar. Thankfully, three years of Latin fixed that.

Grammar is not easy, though. It's, like, totally boring, and, like, difficult when, ya' know, you can't speak properly.

My, totally impractical, suggestion: Give oral exams and fail everyone who can't speak. Once speech patterns and writing patterns become synchronized, writing becomes much easier.


So true. I teach a composition class to high-school juniors and seniors who have never received any official writing instruction and, worse, did not have good, sound instruction in basic grammar in their elementary years. It is a challenge because these kids are otherwise good students; they are (some of them) very discouraged that they aren't good writers, and that a few hours of work here and there won't necessarily make them good writers.

I use the "sports" illustration a lot, telling them that no one is "good" at a sport the first time they set foot on the field or court, and that it may take years of dedicated practice before they truly become "good" at it. That's not what they want to hear, but it's the way it is.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get them to realize the value of revising--and not to see "revision" as "punish work." That's a whole new challenge in itself!

Mr. McNamar

I teach 9th grade English and 12th grade English. I am amazed at how little the 9th graders understand about basic grammar and how to construct a sentence. I am also amazed that after three years of high school, far too many of my 12th graders still lack that skill.
You are right, it is a system wide problem. Somewhere we got away from teaching the boring stuff that matters most.

Tim Fredrick

Please don't get me wrong.

I don't think the answer to our students' writing problems is more grammar instruction. Our students could have perfect grammar but still be horrible writers. You can have a paper that is grammatically perfect but that lacks any kind of organization, development, and voice.

A "return to grammar" is NOT the key to making our students better writers - it is the key to further disenfranchising them from the writing classroom.

I'm not saying that grammar doesn't have its place, but it is not what is going to make our students better writers.

What will? Teaching them that they have something important to say and giving them the opportunities and tools to say it in the way that makes sense to them. Students need to learn how to develop their ideas during brainstorming and go back and improve their writing through revision. They need to learn that just because you've written something once, does not mean that it is set in stone. So many students have anxiety about writing because they think it has to be perfect right off the bat and they've learned this through too much back-to-basics grammar instruction.

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