The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

P.S.Writing is an Art, Not a Technical Skill

on October 8, 2017

Having written about my own theory of how to teach writing earlier this week, I will take this opportunity to add a P.S.

 Just yesterday I read an advertisement for a seminar offered by someone well recognized in the field of teaching writing. It introduced her as “an engaging “speaker who has a vast amount of experience in the field of children’s writing and is a published author.” Then it listed her major teaching strategies “appropriate for all grades.”

  1. Use the traits to dive deeply into student writing.
  2. Use writing folders to practice revision and editing skills.
  3. Use reading to improve writing.
  4. Use warm-ups to scaffold writing practice
  5. Use RAFTS to inspire strong writing in the content areas
  6. Use the modes to clarify the purpose for writing
  7. Use focus lessons to develop targeted skills and strategies

Huh? I have no idea what she means in strategies numbers 1, 4, 5, and 6. by using the words “traits.” “diving deeply” warm-ups’ “RAFTS” or “Modes”. Couldn’t she, as a recognized expert in the teaching of writing, have used language that was more meaningful to the teachers who might be interested in taking her seminar?

Although I could also describe the teaching strategies of other writing experts I’ve met or read about, I don’t think they would be much better. From my experience they would be likely to emphasize focus on improving vocabulary, grammar, spelling, punctuation and revision and not succeed in improving students’ writing much at all.

The problem is that is that writing is taught today as if it were just a group of technical skills, when it is really a wide range of artistic abilities, comprised of different forms suitable for certain purposes and audiences. Students, as they go through the grades should have experiences with many of those forms, their purposes and how they differ in structure, language, tone, etc. Since students read pieces of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, journalism, business writing, and political speeches as they go through the grades and in their personal lives,  shouldn’t they also have opportunities to learn how to write most of them? In my opinion becoming adept in  many different forms of writing is as important as anything else in preparing students for college, careers and their personal lives.

4 responses to “P.S.Writing is an Art, Not a Technical Skill

  1. Steve Buel says:

    Yes, writing is an art. Editing however is a skill and I think lots of teachers don’t know the difference between the two. Students ne

    ed creativity to write well and gammar to edit well. In my opinion, a good teacher teaches both.


  2. Doug Garnett says:

    Some days it seems we’ve lost writing as communication – that it has a purpose. And that means that the student needs to have something to say. My experience as a parent is that when the kids know what they think the writing happens pretty well. And then they learn about the grammar to edit well. Too often they were either given arbitrary structure they had to meet (someone’s idea of “best”) or pure focus on grammar.

    Not sure how that can be taught. But certainly meeting arbitrary structures was more damaging than helpful.


    • writerjoney says:

      Children learn a form of grammar in three ways: at home, in their neighborhood, by reading literature. The one source considered correct in our society is literature, so children who read a lot of high quality literature pick up grammatical forms easily and are able to use them. The grammatical “rules” taught at school are the same, but they are harder to remember and use when you need them.


  3. Frankey Jones says:

    Yes, children need real purposes and real audiences—not tricks and formulas.


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