Great storytelling is always in demand
In Medieval times, the only people who were able to read and write were the elite. That is, with few exceptions, the skill was traditionally reserved for members of the church and the aristocracy. Being a roaming bard, a person whose job it was to essentially be a professional storyteller, poet and lyricist, was largely considered to be an extremely important occupation as they were the vehicles that allowed a civilization’s culture to be passed down from one generation to the next.
Writing well has become one of the most important skills that one can possess in modern society. Writing stands as one of the most paramount forms of communication, and as signs indicate, there is absolutely no inclination that this trend will be changing anytime soon. We live in a story-rich society in which we are constantly viewing and consuming different stories wrapped in the form of books, movies, television shows, or news reports, we come into contact with stories every day thanks to the mass media. In our daily lives, we tell each other stories in order to convey meaning, to illustrate points and further understanding, and for the sake of entertainment. As a society, we venerate those who are adept storytellers.
Going beyond storytelling, becoming a skilled writer is paramount for being successful in professional settings and business environments. Let’s face it, handing your boss a progress report that is riddled with typos, grammatical errors, and misplaced punctuation is simply embarrassing and unprofessional. Imagine that you were driving down the highway and saw a billboard advertisement that had a glaring typo. You would likely think one of two things, being: 1) that the billboard was trying to serve as a form of social commentary, or 2) that someone was negligent while doing their job and overlooked an easy-to-fix mistake.
Now that we’ve established why writing is important, let’s change focus to a more pressing issue: How do we get students interested in writing? Writing is difficult. At times it can be very hard. How do I adequately express my ideas to my intended audience? Am I being succinct enough here for the content that I am trying to deliver? Should I just hire someone to do this job for me? Since writing is a skill that oftentimes needs to be developed and isn’t something that most people are not naturally talented at, the learning curve required for someone to become a good writer can be daunting. Moreover, in many primary school systems, educators stress from a young age that students should work on improving their writing abilities. This often comes in the form of writing about a variety of topics in all sorts of subjects. From my own experience, I remember having to write essays in high school that spanned topics from European colonial imperialism in Africa, to critically evaluating Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, to the dreaded “Tell us about something you did over summer break” writing prompt.
While many high school essays teach students to write for a diverse number of audiences and different styles, some students are simply not interested in learning how to improve their writing due to a bad experience they may have had in an English class, or maybe because of a lack of confidence in their own writing ability. There are a couple simple tasks that can be done in order to make students enjoy the process of writing more and make them more interested in the craft of writing.
Writing will help your future
First, begin by stressing that developing one’s writing ability will be beneficial in the future. Talk to students about how being a strong writer will help them succeed in high school, college, and in future jobs. When faced with a subject that they dislike, many students default to asking how they will ever use the subject or class in the real world. Unlike some other subjects, writing is a constant. While one’s future job may not require them to utilize knowledge they acquired in Pre-Calc, nearly all jobs and future classes will have some sort of written component.
Give students writing freedom
Second, give students autonomy over their writing. In other words, allow them to choose what content they actually write about. This can take the form of something as simple as having students engage in a creative writing activity or just doing free writing. Alternatively, they could do journaling, storyboards for cartoons, storytelling, or collaborative/peer writing where they work in pairs to write one piece. Allowing students the freedom of choice in what they write may open the door to discovering a love for writing. Even if the content of their writing is not academically inclined initially, this will help to lessen feelings of contempt that many hold towards the writing process.
Encourage student to think outside the box
Finally, introduce students to a number of different writing styles. From my experience with higher education, I have found that many students who are entering into college are unaware of how to structure essays aside from the traditional five-paragraph format. If you are unaware of what that entails, it typically includes: an introductory paragraph in which they begin talking about their subject, three body paragraphs that each cover one main point, and a concluding paragraph that only summarizes all of the other points that have previously been made in the paper. The five-paragraph essay is widely used in schools around the country for good reason. It’s a classic. The five-paragraph essay effectively breaks down arguments and allows individuals to succinctly, yet sufficiently, talk about whatever points they want to make, but it is overdone. Regardless of the topic using this approach, the paper will be predictable and will be boring to read. As an alternative approach to writing, students should attempt to focus more on the content of their writing, rather than adhering to the standardized structure. At times when we are writing, a paper will call for greater emphasis on certain topics than on others. This may result in students needing to devote extra time and resources towards one supporting argument, while spending less on another simply because that is what’s best for that paper. By familiarizing students with other types and styles of writing, their writing ability will stand out compared to their peers and will make the process feel less routine for them.
We live in a society that makes it nearly impossible for us to forgo writing. Whether it is in the form of a text message, an email, an instant message, or a college admission essay, writing has become an irreversible part of our lives. So, there is little sense in trying to fight against writing. Since writing is such a monumental skill, it is best to encourage students to write and to foster within them interest in the craft of writing and the desire to improve their ability.