The Role of Writing To Educate

Monday, November 17, 2008
I recently presented workshops to middle school students, and have to admit, while doing the hands-on activities were fun and a success and what I put the most time into, the greatest level of pride came from the packet of worksheets I wrote on my own for the students. To me, the girls might have thought the sessions were cool and digging in sand (it was on archaeology) was fun, but if they even take a few minutes at home to read the packets, I think they'll find more morsels of knowledge there for their amusement. I felt the worksheets were creative, well-researched and documented, and also, were completely age-appropriate in tone, word choice, and fun factor.

Having said that, however, putting the workshop together made me realize the role writing plays in education, and how, education could benefit from it. Rather, how education can benefit from more of writing, especially when the assignments themselves are made more real-world applicable such as drafting a worksheet for at the office or a workshop, a memo, something other than what did you do for your summer vacation. Writing these packets for workshops is far more pragmatic in my opinion, and opens the door for some really creative work from the students. This thereby creates a benefit from the perspective of the educator who would otherwise be left knowing more about what makes their budding writers tick than where they went on vacation.

In closing, I suppose I have identified one of the goals I believe writing should have in education. The first is to push for more creativity in what is becoming in some regards, a hackneyed and uninspiring world, where time and again, few students go beyond the base level of exploration or go on with an argument other than what was presented in class. There are others, but this post is just a preliminary to see what other ideas or "wish lists" you all have for grade school and/or college education in writing. If you are a teacher/professor, what do you emphasize, and for those who do not teach but contemplate it, do you have any workshop ideas or contest suggestions that could help promulgate more proactive writing education?


Anonymous said...

Alison, research and my experience with elementary through college book publishing projects suggests having a real audience and purpose is a great enhancement to any writing program. Books have permanence and a feel of importance you don't get with other mediums. You can blog everyday, but how many times do you get a chance to contribute to a real book with your schoolmates? Being published is a thrill at any age, and excitement permeates the project from the writing process to book signing.

What I find so fascinating about book publishing is the structure and accessible depth it provides for writing to learn, social and emotional growth, engaging students to entire communities, enhancing school culture, and any number of objectives all in one project. When designed well, that's efficient education!

I admit being biased by my experience. My educator wife and I were hooked after facilitating a project at her elementary school. Since we started four years ago, we've lost money on projects, but they've never failed to excite students. We prefer inclusive projects, but contests can work; whatever fits the project!

Alison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alison said...

Thanks for that insightful comment. Indeed, publishing is great but not always feasible budget-wise and I would hate for students to see it as I have to write with the end goal of being published, rather than write for the sake of it (yet, in my proposal, with a pragmatic plan!). I just see making packets an avenue for creativity and it "tests" capabilities of knowing an appropriate tone, delivery method, and allows them to explore and research something of interest that if they wanted to, they could do what I did and teach it to a group! Personally, I was interested and doing this as young as grade school myself, but on my own initiative and in response to independent projects not assignments. I got more intellectually inspired, worked harder, and was more satisfied with final projects this way, and am curious if maybe that's a viable way to better engage future writers of all walks of life?!

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