Lots of practice and word processing software can make students better writers, but pounding grammar rules and diagramming sentences could actually make them worse
Those are the lessons from the Hechinger Report’s Education by the Numbers blog, based on an analysis of research on how to teach writing from Arizona State University. Here are three effective practices from the blog post that aren’t always evident in the classroom:
1. Better writing takes practice and studies show that when students are asked to write frequently, they improve both the quality of their writing and their reading comprehension.
However, surveys of U.S. teachers reveal that after third grade, very little time is spent writing in classrooms.
2. Writing quality improves when students use a computer instead of writing by hand because a word-processing program enables more editing.
Some educators feel passionately about the importance of writing by hand, convinced that the act of writing neurologically imprints stronger memories. And there’s some early evidence that note taking might be more effective by hand. But if your goal is writing quality and not memorization, it seems the evidence points to word processing, especially beginning in middle school.
3. Grammar instruction not only doesn’t work, it can impair writing quality.
In this case, classroom practice isn’t totally at odds with the research. Grammar instruction has declined in U.S. classrooms over the last 40 years. But that might be because there isn’t much writing instruction going on at all.
The Hechinger Report is an independent nonprofit journalism organization based at Teachers College, Columbia University.