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Volume 3 Number 2

Harry & Rosemary Wong say, "...effective teachers do not employ tricks of the trade, the latest fad, or untested opinions..." This month the Wongs feature Liz Breaux, a most effective teacher...
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
Ask the School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
Online Classrooms by Leslie Bowman
The Eclectic Teacher by Ginny Hoover
The Busy Educator's Monthly Five (5 Sites for Busy Educators) by Marjan Glavac
Around the Block by Bridget Scofinsky
Ask the Literacy Teacher by Leigh Hall
The Visually Impaired Child by Dave Melanson
Seussational Reading Excitement - NEA's Read Across America: Too Much Reading Fun for Just One Day!...
The 100th Day of School
100th Day Activities
Television--Don't Trash It--Control It
Remediation Doesn't Work
Behavior Management Tips
Children and Stress
Children Do Grieve
Infuse Test Preparation With Life-long Learning
Technology Integration Has No Hope of Succeeding!
Technophobia to Technophilia
Cooperative Learning
Why All Students Need Fine Motor Skills
Teaching Gayle to Read (Part 3)
The Role of EFL learners' Heterogeneity in Terms of Age in Their Use of Communication Strategies
The Importance of the School Administration to Student Achievement
Using Non-Fiction to Motivate Reluctant Readers
Quantity over Quality--The Problem with Writing Instruction in Our Schools
Tips for Substitute Teachers
From "I Don't Care" to "I Did It!"
Rules for Secondary Classrooms
Block Scheduling
Special Days This Month
The Lighter Side of Teaching
  • YENDOR'S Top Ten
  • Exceptional Normalcy
  • Schoolies
  • Woodhead
  • Handy Teacher Recipes
    Classroom Crafts
    Help Wanted - Teaching Jobs
    Featured Lessons from the Lesson Bank
  • Famous Black Americans
  • Valentine Village
  • Upcoming Ed Conferences
    Letters to the Editor
    Chatboard Poll
    Arecibo Radar Gets 11th-Hour Reprieve
    Planetary Society Offers New Scholarships
    Gazette Home Delivery:

    Teacher Feature...

    Quantity over Quality--The Problem with Writing Instruction in Our Schools

    by Susan L. Lipson, author and writing teacher

    As an author and an itinerant writing instructor who visits schools, runs workshops, and tutors youngsters privately, I have found major problems in today's methods of teaching writing to children. I sum them up as follows: Excessive quantification of written words diminishes the quality of both the writing and the writing experience, just as too much qualification in literary assignments diminishes the quantity of material produced and the thought given to producing it. Students who write with point values in mind merely compose words to fit a teacher's standards, sacrificing quality to quantitative judgment; thus, verbosity--rather than ingenuity, conciseness, and preciseness--reaps rewards. On the other hand, many teachers eliminate verbosity (a good thing), but hinder fluency (a bad thing) by qualifying every assignment with required checklists demanding certain numbers of words and/or pages, specific placements for quotations, rigid structural limitations, a preset number of figurative expressions, and time-consuming, ancillary crafts projects designed, theoretically, to encourage "reluctant writers." The competent writing teacher--who must also be a competent writer--knows how to elicit quantity with quality prompts, then grade the quantity in terms of quality.

    Incompetence has flourished, however, because of our test-score-based instruction in most schools, instruction that has replaced in-depth critiques with sums of "points per section." Sadly, the very purpose of writing--clear communication of ideas--has disappeared from many Language Arts classes today. The quantitative product has taken precedence over the qualitative process of writing.

    Many teachers have misled students into believing that the scores applied to written works matter more than both the learning derived from the process, and the establishing of one's own personal best standards in writing. If I, as a writer, create my works based only on what others expect or demand from me, I am not truly communicating, only fashioning words to serve others; not creating, but reiterating; not sighing with pride upon completion of a written work, but rather, with relief to be finished. If I, as a teacher of writing, do not lead my students into careful examination of the words they choose and the reasons they choose them, I fail to assist the communication process. Teachers must write the assignments first!

    In focusing on the process, rather than solely on the product, during writing instruction, teachers serve as Muses--to inspire, enlighten, and guide. Teachers must practice more questioning (that good ole Socratic method) and less judging. We must pose questions that produce detailed and/or profound answers. Then we can guide and enrich revisions by asking, "So, is this what you were hoping to convey?" We need to ask what happened between points A and C, not simply deduct points for a lack of B. We should annotate, not simply grade papers; and offer clear example essays (which we ought to write ourselves!), not simply clever writing prompts. Teachers honor communication itself by showing young writers' that their sweat-filled words matter enough to elicit our thoughtful reactions and sound recommendations for continued improvement.

    About Susan L. Lipson...

    Susan L. Lipson, author of Knock on Wood (a middle-grade novel praised and taught by many teachers), has blended her literary and K-8 teaching backgrounds to become a children’s book author, lecturer, and writing instructor. Lipson has visited numerous schools and bookstores throughout San Diego County, conducting writing workshops, or speaking about how to become an author. She teaches writing workshops at a local library, a popular summer writing camp, and tutors privately. Her work as a writing teacher, coupled with her wide-ranging experiences in the publishing industry--from editorial to writing to literary agency--enable her to present a unique perspective on writing to students and teachers.

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