How to Solve Writing Gaps:  A former ELA teacher’s perspective.

English was once one of the most appreciated subjects in education because it was known for its beautiful poetry and beautifully written
masterpiece novels. Even though there are many components in the subject of English, writing has long been deprived and is almost an extinct art. There is a lack of appreciation for writing, and the purpose of writing has not been adequately addressed in our education system. English is the subject that most students have found to be dull and uninteresting, and this is also the subject that students need help with the most, especially writing. It is because we need to appreciate English as an art.

Dr. Jessica McKinney

There was a time when English was appreciated for its diverse genres, historical context, writing, and grammar. The beautiful words on the pages were valued for their figurative language, sentence syntax, and diverse vocabulary and analyzed for a deeper meaning of the author’s words. We have dimmed writing down to only reading and analyzing texts, giving the students a writing prompt for the sake of students passing the state assessments instead of appreciating the different aspects of writing.

The lack of writing is tied back to students needing to understand the writing process and critical thinking skills. When I would ask students to analyze the structure of the text or construct an argumentative essay, the students would answer elusively or could not explain evidence adequately enough to support the thesis of their paper. Despite me spending countless lessons on the students to master this skill, it was a complex concept for them to grasp. I realized that if they did not receive those foundational skills by 3rd grade, they would continue to have a hard time for the rest of their academic career and sometimes in their workforce career.

The ELA classroom should not be one of many focal disciplines where students should be required to write. For too long, we have not pushed for students to incorporate writing across disciplines, and because of this, our students have yet to be able to write on a collegiate level. If there is a math word problem and you ask a student to solve the word problem and then explain how they determined that was the answer, it will be hard for students who have not mastered how to write a proper sentence. Even in science, when students are tasked to formulate a hypothesis and locate evidence to support the theory, they must know how to adequately explain how the evidence supports their view.

Another aspect of the lack of writing skills is the need for more implementation of basic grammar skills. When students need foundational grammar skills of pronoun agreement, sentence syntax, and proper use of conjunctions, there will continue to be gaps in how our students write. When they attend college, most students must participate in remedial writing classes. Even though the new generation of students are typing more now than ever using Twitter, text messages, Snapchat, and Instagram, they still cannot write formally.

There cannot be a push with the ideas from education from ten years ago because our world is evolving, and we still need to catch up. There needs to be a push to implement technology more in the classroom; grammar usage, critical thinking skills, and complex texts are required. Our students deserve to appreciate the art of writing, and it should be incorporated into math, social studies, science, and even electives. Too many times, English teachers have been targeted for not giving students the tools to analyze and comprehend text when, in fact, we have. Still, these strategies need to be implemented across other disciplines. This is one of the ways that our students will become critical thinkers. 

As a former English teacher, it is not the teacher’s fault for not appreciating writing. Teachers are against many forces with the demand for pacing guides, increased learning loss since COVID, and pressure from district offices to be on a specific lesson by a particular day. We are simply pushing the students through the curriculum for the sake of using it instead of giving students the tools given to them to help them become better readers and writers. I constantly had to fight for my autonomy to do what was best for students and not move through a pacing guide to say I covered a skill and my students were not grasping the writing skills they needed to be successful writers.

How to Solve the Gaps in Writing

  1. Students should have equity in receiving high-quality writing instruction that includes giving students foundational grammar skills and critical thinking skills, which will help them become better thinkers and writers.
  2. Teachers should receive high-quality writing resources to acclimate their students better.
  3. Modeling in real-time is another crucial component that must be implemented, and students must be given exemplars to know the expectations of their writing.
  4. Students should have writing opportunities across disciplines to apply their writing skills to various subjects and develop a deeper understanding of the material.
  5. Students should have technology implemented in the classroom to enhance the writing experience and provide students with access to high-quality writing resources.

In conclusion, the art of writing is dying, and reviving it in our education system is essential. Students need to be taught the writing process and critical thinking skills early to master the art of writing. The ELA classroom should not be the only place where students are required to write; writing should be incorporated across different disciplines to help students become better writers. Educators must be given sovereignty to teach students in a way that is competent for them rather than forcing them through a pacing guide. Moreover, all students must have equity in receiving high-quality instruction and material to close the writing gaps. It is time to appreciate English as an art and provide students with the resources and high-quality writing instruction they need to become critical thinkers.