National Writing Project

Writing Instruction in Schools Today

Date: July 1, 2013

Summary: Arthur N. Applebee and Judith A. Langer's Writing Instruction That Works: Proven Methods for Middle and High School Classrooms details and analyzes the state of writing in America's schools and offers a vision for how writing could and should be taught. In this chapter, the authors offer an overview of writing instruction as it exists in schools today making comparisons with the state of instruction in the early 1980's.

 

Excerpt from Chapter

Writing instruction 30 years ago was a relatively simple affair: The typical assignment consisted of a few sentences setting out a topic, given in class and finished up for homework. Students were expected to write a page or less, to be graded by the teacher. Almost no class time was given over to writing instruction, or even to introducing the assignment. When students were asked to write, the teacher took an average of just over 3 minutes to introduce the assignment, answer the inevitable procedural questions (How many pages? Single or double spaced? Can it be in pencil?), and ask the students to start writing (Applebee, 1981).

The teaching of writing was generally the domain of the English language arts class. Although teachers of other subjects did ask their students to write, this was usually done to "show what you know," not because the act of writing itself might have a special role in the acquisition o f disciplinary knowledge and skill."

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