Over at The New York Times, Dana Goldstein looks into the reasons why kids can’t write:
There is a notable shortage of high-quality research on the teaching of writing, but studies that do exist point toward a few concrete strategies that help students perform better on writing tests. First, children need to learn how to transcribe both by hand and through typing on a computer. Teachers report that many students who can produce reams of text on their cellphones are unable to work effectively at a laptop, desktop or even in a paper notebook because they’ve become so anchored to the small mobile screen. Quick communication on a smartphone almost requires writers to eschew rules of grammar and punctuation, exactly the opposite of what is wanted on the page.
Before writing paragraphs — which is often now part of the kindergarten curriculum — children do need to practice writing great sentences. At every level, students benefit from clear feedback on their writing, and from seeing and trying to imitate what successful writing looks like, the so-called text models. Some of the touchy-feel stuff matters, too. Students with higher confidence in their writing ability perform better.
I believe writing is one of the foundational tools for many fields, whether you’re building a car or designing a mobile application. As a graphic designer I’ve come to value writing skills more and more each year and it’s one of the goals I’ve had maintaining this blog for over 11 years. If you can’t codify your thoughts, you can’t do anything.
I’d like to think there’s multiple approaches to improving kids’ writing skills (I’ve taught students at the university level but I’m in no way trained in the methods to teach writing).
If I had teach kids how to write tomorrow (hypothetically), I’d probably start with a recontexualized version of Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers.