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Can Students Learn to Write Well in the Age of Tweets and Texts?

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kid textingHarvard education specialist Tony Wagner recently identified effective written and oral communication skills as being among the seven key skills necessary for when students leave school. But how do we cultivate effective written communication skills? How do we foster enthusiasm for writing in the age of tweets and texts? Those are some of the questions I asked teachers Amy Conley and David Cutler in an episode of Studentcentricity. Amy uses strategies that align with intrinsic motivation and Carol Dweck’s growth mindset theory. And David talks about the role of criticism in improving students’ writing. You can listen to what they had to say by clicking here.

Following the interview, David and Amy sent me their final thoughts. David wrote:

I would like to reiterate the importance of modeling effective writing in front of students. If done well, this practice not only exemplifies any number of successful writing habits, but it also reassures students that nobody -- not even the teacher -- is a flawless master. Students are then more likely to embrace risk taking and learning from failure, which includes a deeper receptivity to critical feedback.

Amy added:

Students can become self-motivated writers and readers when we explicitly teach growth mindset and goal-setting for mastery, so they can find their purposes and paths for gaining literacy. Trusting them to handle critique and failure is just a part of the process of writing, and modeling that by writing with them in the classroom leads to students who see themselves as writers instead of students doing an assignment.

Changing our teacher talk to reframe failure, expect revision as a given, and make learning a choice gives students powers over their own reading and writing goals, and ultimately, lives.

Amy and David have both written articles on these topics (which is how I found them). Here’s where you can read them:

“Nurturing Intrinsic Motivation and Growth Mindset in Writing”: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/intrinsic-motivation-growth-mindset-writing-amy-conley

“To Teach Effective Writing, Model Effective Writing”: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teach-and-model-effective-writing-david-cutler

And, by the way, I was surprised to hear Amy and David say that tweeting and texting do not negatively impact a student’s ability to write!

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Rae Pica has been an education consultant specializing in the development and education of the whole child, children's physical activity, and active learning since 1980. A former adjunct instructor with the University of New Hampshire, she is the author of 19 books, including the text Experiences in Movement and Music and, most recently, What If Everybody Understood Child Development?: Straight Talk About Bettering Education and Children's Lives. Rae has shared her expertise with such groups as the Sesame Street Research Department, the Head Start Bureau, Centers for Disease Control, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues, Gymboree, Nike, and state health departments throughout the country. She is a member of the executive committee of the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences and is co-founder of BAM Radio Network, where she hosts Studentcentricity, interviewing experts in education, child development, play research, the neurosciences, and more on teaching with students at the center.

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Guest Sunday, 11 December 2016