Some of you out there probably think I’m starting to get lazy. Just pick out an education-themed article and point you two it, then head along on my way. But this one I couldn’t resist. A new piece in The Atlantic magazine by Peg Tyre gets at the nitty-gritty of learning and knowledge through telling one school’s story at trying something that used to be common in American education and largely proved successful.
What is the secret for New Dorp High School in Staten Island, New York? An intense focus on actually teaching students how to write, rather than just hoping they’ll “catch” it by doing some creative assignments. Maybe it is a “revolution,” seeing as how everything old happens to become new again:
…Fifty years ago, elementary-school teachers taught the general rules of spelling and the structure of sentences. Later instruction focused on building solid paragraphs into full-blown essays. Some kids mastered it, but many did not. About 25 years ago, in an effort to enliven instruction and get more kids writing, schools of education began promoting a different approach. The popular thinking was that writing should be “caught, not taught,” explains Steven Graham, a professor of education instruction at Arizona State University. Roughly, it was supposed to work like this: Give students interesting creative-writing assignments; put that writing in a fun, social context in which kids share their work. Kids, the theory goes, will “catch” what they need in order to be successful writers. Formal lessons in grammar, sentence structure, and essay-writing took a back seat to creative expression.