Writing is a prominent practice in an English Language classroom. It is the essence of an English class. Writing is a necessity. Since writing holds such value in our English classrooms, let alone real life, students of course need opportunities to practice writing during class time. Of course as English teachers we do provide students these opportunities. In fact, many of us devote special class time for writing.
I do wonder though how often students are writing about a topic of their choice.
I also wonder about how often this writing is “free writing”. How often is their writing not being compared to writing standards or expectations that we set out for them.
I realize that most of these “standards” are basic ways for us to communicate and yes students need to know them. However, I also wonder if sometimes these “set standards” hinder our students from writing their thoughts and ideas.
What are some of the writing standards that we expect from our students?
- Formal vs informal writing: to be honest, I had no idea what my students meant when they asked me what type of writing they should be aiming for in my class. As it turns out, informal writing uses the first person narration. Informal writing often uses contractions too.
- The 5 paragraph rule: This stems from the 5 paragraph essay rule, but most writing assignments are usually measured by this standard. If they’re not, students will ask if it’s a “5 paragraph essay”.
- Three points in the thesis statement: This rule would of course make a perfect 5 paragraph essay. And most students who know this rule know that a thesis statement can’t exist properly without having 3 points.
The list keeps going. These rules are arbitrary and are not substantiated by a meaningful purpose.
Instead, we need to empower students to write freely without thinking of these rules while they’re writing. The more we place standards on our students’ writing the more it takes away from their enjoyment of writing. Standards weaken drive, they weaken ideas and most importantly, they weaken voice.
So I say, why not let students write more often about things they care about? Why not let them explore topics of their choice? Why not let them reflect? just that. Reflect.
When we allow students to write freely, without holding them to rules and standards, we empower them through a very powerful tool: writing. It is through free writing, reflecting on their writing, and sharing their writing that they will find their voice. They will grasp their own writing style all on their own. Through this discovery they’re empowered because they have reached their own learning about writing. They have found their voice.