I learned of the article “Students failing because of Twitter, texting and no grammar teaching via Twitter as I did another article yesterday. It discusses the insidious nature of sentence fragments and inappropriate emoticon abbreviations into University papers…and even into letters of academic appeal. Maybe I have become an eternal optimist (rather than a realist like I used to be) but I don’t see this as the case.
I use a Writers’ Workshop model. I first learned of it when I began teaching more than a dozen years ago. It is based on the work of Nancie Atwell. Students are provided with the opportunity to select what they wish to write about and what format they wish to write it in. Sometimes, I will provide some sort of basic guideline i.e. we are going to submit this to a writing contest so it must fulfill these criteria or we are going to compile all of your pieces into a magazine that we are going to base upon a central theme. So, kids care about what they are writing about becasue they get to select it! And, I meet with them, conference and model sentence structure (eg. this is a fragment or this could be combined into a more sophisticated sentence) and grammar (eg. you switch from past to present to past verb tense again). Grammar outside of a meaningful context, such is the case with worksheets, is not going to serve to correct the errors of sentence structre and conventions. I also remind students of formal (eg. writing in school) vs. informal (eg. facebook updates) writing. We brainstorm a list of distiguishing characteristics so that they own it…and there is much more to this list than simple emoticons!
Further, I can’t even keep track of how many authors I have heard speak that tell me they can’t spell to save their life and thank goodness for grammar and spell checkers and their amazing editors! So, is the sentence structure, grammar and emoticons the issue…or is it that students need to be reminded / taught to proofread? Or that they need to be presented with a meaningful real-world writing challenge?