OMG – i cant stand it anymor. reedin all these paprs w/ 0 punc cap lttrs and mispellins gits 2 u after a while. ur thinkin im makn this up butt im not. txtin is killin writin.
If you can’t decipher the above paragraph, let a teen help you, and don’t even think about becoming an English teacher because you’ll not make it through one set of essays before running through the door never to return.
I recently read a set of essays on I can’t even remember what because this time of year is one big blur and noticed so many words that were not capitalized or spelled incorrectly – much more than normal. When I conferred with students about their papers and brought up these issues, student after student was shocked that these errors were in their essays and said the computer was not autocorrecting the way it should. This leads me to two conclusions:
Students no longer value proofreading or take time to check work because technology has made writing so easy (except for the idea part – that’s a totally different post).
Teachers and parents must figure out how to keep students writing well when they live in a texting world.
Now I love technology as much as anyone else. Just last night in an attempt to delay writing this post, a coworker friend who was delaying grading research papers (shout out to Ellen) and I spent way too long exchanging GIFs about the sad state of student writing. I Tweet, like your posts on FB, learn from my PLN on Voxer daily, backchannel conversations from AP Lit on GroupMe, and keep up with my former students on Instagram which makes me wish I was still in college. I love Grammarly, Hemingway, and Read and Write apps. Spell check saves me!
BUT I also balance my life with books (both digital and hard copies) and pen and paper writing.
What can we do to help students maintain writing skills in a 140 character driven world? Students need to:
The bottom line is reading puts good writing in front of students’ eyes. One can argue that not all writing is good and not all books have literary merit, but chances are most books properly use correct capital letters and punctuation – even though I overdo dashes because I’m trying to be like Emily Dickinson. Students are not seeing proper conventions on their social media and texts, so make sure they are reading. (Like superfoods, reading has multiple benefits, so grab a Kiefer, blueberry, and chia seed smoothie and read away).
Write with pen and paper.
Students need to write with a pen – on paper – with their phones not in sight – on occasion. I LOVE Google docs and do approximately 75% of my writing electronically, but when I write with a pen in hand, my process and thinking are different because I know I cannot depend on autocorrect. When I write electronically, I am editing while I write and thus thinking about content and editing at the same time; when I write with pen and paper, I take more time to formulate ideas because I know once it’s on the paper, I can’t just backspace and erase to change. Pen and paper writing slows us down, and writers often need to be slowed down.
Know their audience.
Whether you are speaking or writing, audience is important. I speak differently to my peers than I would if I were interviewing for a job. Teenagers speak to other teens differently than they speak to teachers. My beagle bays at everyone; he has not learned the importance of audience. We become more and less formal depending on our audience. This has nothing to do with authenticity but more of respect for different people and situations. There is a huge difference in texting your friends and posting on social media as opposed to writing a paper or filling out a job application. Like it or not, attention to grammatical details matter in these situations.
Have technology free family dinners.
I’m a firm believer in family dinners for many reasons, but the main reason is because students need time to talk and expand thoughts beyond a phrase or hashtag. Even informal dinner conversation can reinforce proper sentence structure and provide time for full formation of thoughts which can have an effect on writing. Don’t know what to talk about? We use Table Topics as part of our family dinner which always makes for fun and interesting conversation. (Shout out to Tina Bullard for getting this for us)!
I’ll end with some hashtags and memes for you to consider:
#writewell #detailsmatterinlifeandinpapers #lazygrammarlazywriting #representwithgoodwriting
(sadly the one above is not a meme)