The importance of writing for students is manifold; it catapults the learning process and provides a trajectory that is limitless.
What is the importance of writing for students?
Writing is a core skill that benefits students across the curriculum, K-12 and beyond. It’s the basis of communication, history, art, and more disciplines than can be named. Writing skills are used every day in classrooms, from practicing fine motor skills early on to eventually writing full essays to display critical thinking skills or persuasive skills.
Writing is the foundation of expression we give students, to be built upon throughout their academic career. Although specialized writing classes like composition have faded from popular pedagogy, writing requires a complex intersection of skills that are critical to a student’s life, both in the classroom and out of it.
Skills involved in proficient writing performance from students:
- Organization of thoughts
- Development of ideas
- Critical thinking
- Use of language
- Use of style
Students start by learning to physically write, both by hand and by typing on a computer. Both exercises require learning fine motor skills and cognitive processes to convey meaning through words. Vocabulary, grammar, and syntax instruction follow, becoming increasingly complex as writing tasks are assigned throughout the grades.
Logic and organization, the development of critical writing and thinking skills, as well as broader vocabulary education are next. The layers of a good writing foundation come together to improve students’ lives in a number of areas, especially their ability to meet benchmarks and pass mandated tests.
The sheer number of factors involved in learning to write can be daunting for some students and it may take some creativity and “thinking outside of the box” to bring unwilling writers into the fold.
Few students may grow up to become writers, but almost all of them will need to write in their careers, hobbies, and personal lives. Emphasizing writing skills throughout all disciplines will help remove the stumbling block of students who know they don’t want to write when they grow up. I don’t need this later, I don’t need it now.
Writing is not a marketable skill, it is a basic requirement of daily living. Essay and research paper structures are essential skills students need, but learning to write memos, reports, emails, reviews, records, and even simple technical documents like a recipe can be extremely beneficial for any and all students.
Interdisciplinary writing exercises:
- Note-taking practice
- Sight words
- Word problems (math, social sciences, etc.)
- Prompt responses
- Reading responses
- Stream of consciousness
- Memory or event recall
- Peer review
Writing without grades
Writing is the primary basis of communication for everyone and it requires consistent practice to become an effective communicator. Students who don’t enjoy writing assignments may find more value in them if they’re not graded on how they write, but rather just that they write at all.
Journaling is a very popular writing task assigned at many different stages in education, from elementary school students to graduate students. The content isn’t necessarily important, just the habit of expressing oneself through words.
Learning disabilities and writing
Many different learning disabilities will affect a student’s writing skills, from a lack of organization from ADHD students to misunderstanding of the prompt by students with autism spectrum disorders. Having significant limitations in the classroom can lead to poor self-esteem and eventual disinterest or apathy. Understanding how to help students with ADHD is an important and necessary step in toward helping them realize their writing potential.
Students today are expected to achieve a high level of writing proficiency to express their knowledge and understanding of school subjects, but a lack of writing proficiency doesn’t necessarily reflect a lack of knowledge. It’s especially important for teachers and guardians to know how to cope when a child is struggling in school.
Additionally, providing students with alternative ways to express their understanding of a subject can be very helpful to boost their self-esteem while struggling to complete writing tasks.
Avoiding bias in evaluation
Although handwriting is a skill that is taught, it is not an accurate representation of content or quality of writing. Chicken scratch writing may be difficult to read but the words themselves are more important. Although grammar and syntax are easier to mark as correct or incorrect, and subsequently easier to practice, it shouldn’t detract from seeing the organization and development of ideas. With the variety of skills inherent to good writing, it’s natural to point out mistakes across all areas.
However, positive feedback provided before correction can make it easier to hear, and act on, for any student. Another factor to consider is students who learn English as a second language. Students who are able to express themselves and their ideas fluently in another language may find themselves frustrated when limited in English. This too is not a reflection of the students’ understanding of a topic or their level of knowledge.
A few words about grammar
Grammar, spelling, and syntax are actionable, practicable skills. Learned by rote memorization or practice, they add greatly to clarity in writing. Usually. What early language arts education sometimes fails to convey is that grammar is fluid. The rules of grammar do change, and sometimes strict adherence isn’t necessary for understanding. Students may shy away from writing for fear of the constraints of syntax and grammar, struggling to express themselves in the face of so many rules.
This comes back to writing without grading, but it’s also important for students to learn that grammar rules are not concrete facts but rather guidelines and best practices.