Thoughtful Learning Blog

Thoughtful Learning Blog

The Thoughtful Learning blog features articles about English language arts, 21st century skills, and social-emotional learning. Insights come from the teachers, writers, and developers at Thoughtful Learning, who have been creating top-notch instructional materials for more than 40 years.

Every generation has a tendency to deride the next as frivolous and lazy. Over the past decade, for example, the phrase “short attention span” has become almost cliché in reference to young people. Those of us who grew up before the Internet and cell phones remember a time when people actually read books and wrote letters to one another; now, it seems, they read only blog entries and send 140-character text messages or Twitter posts. What, oh what, is this world coming to?

Education Week published an online article called “Writing to Learn” on August 27. Since I write about writing, and believe strongly in writing as a learning tool, I was interested in what the article had to say. My guess was that it would explain that writing to learn is a common strategy used in today’s classrooms—and that it is proving to be an effective learning tool for students.

In previous posts, I’ve argued that clear, straightforward language in writing is best. When you have something to say, presenting it in transparent language puts the focus on the content itself, allowing it to achieve its best effect. Contrariwise (if you’ll forgive my ironic vernacular) a person who employs elevated diction to articulate his or her reflections is quite often endeavoring to camouflage a poverty of substance.

Over the past weeks, our editorial staff has been reading and discussing excerpts from several classic books about teaching writing, including so far Peter Elbow’s Writing Without Teachers, Ken Macrorie’s Writing to Be Read, Donald Murray’s Learning by Teaching, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, James Moffett and Betty Jane Wagner’s Student-Centered Language Arts, Nancie Atwell’s second edition of In the Middle, and Donald Graves' Writing: Teaching and Children at Work.

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