It’s true. Every teacher IS a writing teacher. But that doesn’t mean every class should become an English class. It means that every teacher can help by reinforcing the message that writing is communicating, and students need to communicate clearly.
- Follow directions exactly and answer questions completely. Students tend to answer the easy parts of questions and skip the challenging parts.
- Put ideas in an order that makes sense. There are many different ways to arrange information: Time order, space order, order of importance, compare and contrast, cause and effect, main idea leading to details, etc. It is important to choose the one that fits the information involved.
- Choose the right details and put them in the right places. Not all details are created equal. Students should pick the details they need to prove or explain their point, not splash random details onto the paper to make their writing seem longer.
- Explain the details that need to be explained. If a student is introducing a new person, place or concept, they should assume that the reader doesn’t know who or what they are talking about yet. Don’t just say, “Jordan said hard work is important.” Tell your reader if you are talking about Michael Jordan or your best friend Jordan, or your chemistry teacher, Mr. Jordan.
- Use punctuation. Please! Feel free to leave the lessons on semi-colons to the English teachers, but any high school teacher has the right to hand back a student’s paper and say, “Put some periods in here before I grade this.”
- Use capitalization. Most high school students DO know basic rules of capitalization. They just get lazy about it.
- Write in school-appropriate language. This means more than just no cursing. It means no slang, no txt msg abbreviations, no substituting numbers 4 letters, no writing “cuz” instead of “because,” no LOL, OMG, BTW, LMAO, TTYL. WTF?
- Don’t leave extra lines between paragraphs. Indent. Simple.
- Be neat and have some pride in your work. We wouldn’t accept a McDonald’s hamburger with part of the wrapper ripped off, a footprint on it, or paper that looked like it was taken out of the garbage. Neither would our students.
- Read what you just wrote to see if it says what you want to say. This is the most basic principle of proofreading. Writing is like talking, except you don’t get to explain yourself. None of us want to be misunderstood when we’re talking. Students should be in the habit of reading what they write at least once before they put it on our desks and ask us to decode it.
© Roxanna Elden