While we have been impressed with the math and orchestra teaching in public schools where we are, we have been less so with the humanities. DC1 is not learning how to write. Zie is not getting many writing assignments, and the one that zie gets are completed in-class with minimal feedback and are mostly creative writing or opinion. (Add to that the ELA teacher doesn’t exactly show great writing skills in hir own written communications… though I suppose my blog writing doesn’t show the same level of quality as my professional writing so I shouldn’t throw stones. Still…)
Looking online most of the recommendations seem to be “let them read a lot and write a lot”… well, DC1 already reads a lot. And, having looked into the “research” that claims that writing cannot be taught, I am less than impressed with the methodology. I can believe that writing cannot be taught in a single semester, and that grammar instruction without combined writing instruction doesn’t transfer, but I have a bright 10 year old with a growth mindset for at least another 6 years of instruction, not a fixed-mindset college student for a semester of remediation. I have to believe that there’s something more systematic that can be done than just having DC1 write about a wedding zie has attended.
I am most interested in teaching DC1 technical writing, especially given that technical writing seems to be completely neglected in hir classes thus far. As I’m grading my college students’ policy briefs, I find I worry that DC1 doesn’t know how to use topic sentences or craft a paragraph that supports such sentences. I want hir to learn outlining. And have the ability to skim an article that has been written with topic sentences and an outline.
I vaguely remember learning in 3rd grade about topic sentences, diagramming sentences in 4th grade, and outlining in 5th grade. (My juvenilia is actually pretty good… at least compared to the writings of many of my college students…) A high school history teacher taught the art of transitions (though in college I learned that not all disciplines appreciate them, so I have stopped doing that final step except when writing in more historical sub-fields). My mom did a lot of teaching me how to fix my grammar, clarity, and so on. #2 also helped form my writing (her mom is a professional editor). One of my grad advisors taught me discipline-specific tricks for writing in my main field.
Students at elite private schools get a lot of technical instruction in writing. The results are impressive. And I can’t believe it’s just their socioeconomic status or a greater propensity to read that’s the cause of it. My sister got actual technical writing instruction at the private school she went to for high school and her writing ability and writing enjoyment improved tremendously (despite heavy amounts of constructive feedback). There are rules that can be taught.
So I’m asking you: How do I teach writing to my kids? Is there a curriculum that would be good? A workbook series or set of prompts that would guide them through the basics of technical writing? A Kumon-style academy that does a particularly good job? How did you learn how to write?