Write Here, Right Now

By Amber Jensen In the years I’ve spent as a student and a teacher in middle and high school, I have both asked and been asked the ubiquitous question: “But why do we have to learn this?” And I’ve told and been told the answer that so often follows: “You’re going to need to know…

Engaging Writers on the Autism Spectrum

Laura Sabella, Ph.D., University of South Florida A Teacher’s Discovery Ashley is an 8th grade language arts teacher in a mainstream class. She prides herself on offering myriad fun writing assignments to which most of her students respond enthusiastically, and most students are engaged. However, Ashley struggles to find writing opportunities that engage Ben, a…

A female student is pictured sleeping on top of her notebook at a table with other school supplies scattered across the top

Color Outside the Lines

by Sheila Cooperman Writing, for me, used to be like the old-fashioned rules of coloring: “Stay inside the lines.” It was next to impossible. I tried, failed, and swore to do better next time. But next time rarely came, because I knew that to express myself effectively, to make the most of what I needed…

Photo of a girl sitting in a field and writing. Photo reads, The Harvest Writer

Nurturing Literacy, Not Test-Taking

By Dawn Kirby Literacy as Nurture: Learning, Improving, and Having Fun Try a mini-experiment. Think about activities in which you engage for fun, for pure joy and pleasure.  Mentally list a few. Now, consider these questions: Does anyone officially grade you on that activity? Are you required to write a paper about why you like…

Photo reads, "Author-ity"

School Writing Vs. Authentic Writing

by Ken Lindblom Many students dislike writing in school, and it’s no wonder.  Five-paragraph essay formats, predictable essay questions on books they didn’t choose to read, all written for a teacher (or faceless exam scorer) who knows more about the subject than they do.  Who would find this “schoolish writing”–as Anne Elrod Whitney has called…

Picture of a girl sitting and reading

“Born Ready”: Literacy Ability as Nature or Nurture?

by Dawn Kirby Last month, prior to her graduation from high school, my daughter was preparing for her Advanced Placement (AP) test in Literature and Language. Because of her high school’s scheduling quirks, AP tests occur an entire semester after she takes some AP classes. Busy teenagers can forget lots of academic material in 18…

Does Bad “Grammar” Instruction Make Writing Worse?

By Patricia A. Dunn Most students’ writing—in fact, most people’s writing—could use some improvement: in content, organization, coherence, style, and editing. However, many people continue to think that if only students received a dose of “grammar” instruction, their writing would be better. People can mean almost anything when talking about grammar: memorizing rules or perceived…