Eight Ways to Improve Writing
Q. As a professional writer, what
are some things you'd like to see schools change so that students can become
1. Start children
off right with traditional phonics, K-3, so they know how our language works
and can think and write logically.
2. Go back to
traditional classroom set-ups and dump "child-centered education" in
the early grades; it is causing the epidemic of functional illiteracy, phony
special ed, and poor handwriting.
3. Ask local
writers to come in as volunteers, teach the teachers about effective writing,
and copy-edit the teachers' own writing so that they'll see their own
weaknesses and begin to deal with them.
4. Realize that
schools have slipped into improper curriculum and instruction over the years in
the area of reading. Most students read at grade level or below, while it used
to be that most children read at grade level or above. Children who can't read
complex text cannot write with ease and accuracy. Bad input creates bad output.
The Whole Language philosophy with its "pre-engineered" word lists and
politically correct, contrived story lines simply has to go.
5. The surest way
to become a good writer is to be a good reader of good books. Most schools have
weak or even poor reading lists. Students need to read good books to emulate
aren't being taught to spell correctly, and it shows. If you don't understand
how letters come together into words, you can't understand how words come
together into sentences. Schools need to go back to correcting misspelled words
in all student writing.
writing assessments have to go. They force teachers to teach to the test, and
so we are producing students with markedly smaller vocabularies, a shrunken
knowledge base, very little analytical thinking power and not enough love for
8. Replace one or
more educational psychology classes for an education major with a second or
third English composition or literature class requirement. You can't teach what
you don't know.
Homework: Give a teacher the excellent writing style manual, The Elements of Style, by Strunk and
White, available in paperback for just a few dollars.