[teachers] purposely do not help,” he noted, “They [students] are on their own!”
He argued that there is an assumption by educators that the students should be able to produce “perfection”.
Writing Towards Improvement
Overmeyer’s point was that student writing should not be used to measure perfection, but used instead to measure a student’s improvement.
Contributing to the drive for perfection Is graded writing. Grading is a diagnosis, an informal or formal assessment of a particular skill set. Because graded writing is diagnostic, students are expected to perform without assistance in order to produce quality writing. More often than not, teachers do not step in to help with writing because they want to know how well a student can perform on his or her own.
Overmeyer’s comment, however, points out this fallacy of autonomy, the false assumption that because a student has been taught particular skills in writing, they should be able to produce correct writing independent of support.
Overmeyer’s reference to the enormous amount of support an adult writer receives in the real world stands in sharp contrast to what students are expected to do. For those adults wishing to enter the field of writing, there are a number of professionals willing -often for a price- to help anyone to become a published writer.
For example, consider the positive support offered by the site, NY Book Editors:
“[Our] editor’s goal is to make your story more engaging. Editors may correct spelling and grammar here and there, but that’s not their role. It’s the job of a copyeditor to fix your grammar, and he steps in at the final stages of the editing process.”
For multiple reasons (time, budget, teacher buy-in, etc.) however, this specialized editorial support is missing in the classroom. Instead of the supportive instruction available to adults, the teacher’s role may shift from developmental editor to copy editor or “corrector-in-chief.”
The best way to improve student writing is through conferencing, and Overmeyer has detailed how to integrate the different kinds of conferring that can happen in the classroom in his recent book,Let’s Talk.
During the presentation, Overmeyer promoted the role of the teacher as a writing coach, reminding teachers to “be human” when they do provide their feedback to students. He provided an example of a student who chose to wrote about the recent death of a relative.
“That’s not when you correct his paper,” Overmeyer noted. “You need to be human…read the content.”
The International Literacy Association (ILA) Conference in 2016 brought together numbers of like-minded literacy educators and gave them the opportunity to share in order to move the education profession forward. This conference gave also teachers an opportunity to hear one voice -in this case the voice of Mark Overmeyer-pose the challenging question:
“Why do we expect our 10-year-olds to write perfectly?”
We can’t….and we shouldn’t.
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