“A word after a word after a word is power.” –Margaret Atwood
Teachers have a storehouse of memories accumulated over the years. Every now and then it’s fun to unlock that storehouse and unleash a memory or two. A number of years ago, I remember teaching an eighth-grade class including several boys who were definitely budding athletes and no doubt went on to play at the college level in their respective sports. While their athletic prowess was highly commendable, my job was to teach this group how to put words together and form well-developed paragraphs leading to cohesive and unified essays. Easy task, right? Not exactly! On most days, I did question how effective I was at instilling the skills necessary in the writing process. But I plugged away, because that is what teachers always do.
Several years later, after that class was well beyond these school doors, I came into my classroom one morning to a wonderful surprise. A yellow Post-it was secured to my keyboard with a message, “Thank you, Mrs. Jenkins, for teaching me how to write a five-paragraph essay.” Apparently that young man and several of his classmates had come back to their old stomping ground over the previous weekend to shoot some baskets in the gym and decided to take a peek in their old classroom. The yellow Post-it serves as a reminder to me that writing matters. It is a discipline that involves hard work, consistent effort and some struggles. In the end, this word power is all worth it.
Why is writing worth it? What are the benefits of writing?
Writing Gurus Say
Being in the trenches gives teachers a unique perspective; however, it is important to defer to the writing gurus to see what they say. Dr. Steve Graham has studied and published on writing extensively for over 42 years and contends, “If students are to be successful in school, at work, and in their personal lives, they must learn to write.” Furthermore, Graham believes that writing is a complex skill that does not develop naturally. Providing opportunities for students to write both within the classroom through structured assignments and out of school will help to develop this essential skill.
The Reading-Writing Connection
Literacy is the cornerstone of education. The ability to read fluently often gains more attention than and overpowers writing skills. However, experts are starting to acknowledge the importance of developing writing skills as early as the primary grades. Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, executive director of the National Writing Project (NWP), defines writing as more active. Fostering independent thinking is one of the greatest benefits that comes out of the discipline of writing. The role of the NWP is to work toward its mission by offering teachers support with the writing process. They believe, “Writing is the currency of the new workplace and global economy, but more importantly, writing helps us clarify ideas, solve problems, and understand ourselves and our changing world. With writing, we each can leave our mark on the world today and reach toward the future.”
“Writing is the currency of the new workplace and global economy, but more importantly, writing helps us clarify ideas, solve problems, and understand ourselves and our changing world. With writing, we each can leave our mark on the world today and reach toward the future.”
Value of Writing
Writing is a way to train the mind to think. This may be one of the greatest benefits of writing. Students must actively use the writing process when composing. All parts of the writing process including brainstorming, drafting, revising and publishing must involve thinking. Taking ideas that start in the mind and finding the words to express oneself is challenging. Thinking about how to create characters for a story, thinking about how to choose the right words for tone and mood and thinking about how to compose a persuasive essay that works to convince an audience are all examples of the type of thinking that goes into writing. The great physicist Albert Einstein echoed the same message when he said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Writing is a discipline that does just that.
The application of writing skills to the business world and globally cannot be underestimated. While technology will continue to expand, it will never replace what happens when ideas are beautifully transformed into words. “The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen,” American car industry titan Lee Iacocca said. Textual communication has taken on a higher level of importance with the move to remote working due to the pandemic. Google has shown that teams that incorporate high-quality documentation into their projects deliver software faster and in a more reliable format. The value of writing vibrates into the workplace on many levels.
Benefits of Writing
Beyond the obvious benefit of writing as a communication tool, writing comes with many other perks. Writing can advance knowledge, enrich creative abilities and solidify connections. And, writing can be fun. During the pandemic, one class of fourth graders decided to become pen pals with a group of senior citizens at a retirement village. What started with a simple letter at the beginning of their fourth grade year spanned the entire year, even continuing into this year with letters back and forth. This exchange shows how two generations can connect with words on paper going back and forth. These letters are priceless treasures.
Why write? It matters.