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The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves.
As part of its program at Nassau Community College, in a classroom not far from the one where the teenagers were working on their college essays, a group of teachers — of fifth grade and high school, of English, social studies and science — were honing their own writing skills.
They took turns reading out loud the freewriting they had just done in response to “The Lanyard,” a poem by Billy Collins.
The poem, which is funny and sad, addresses the futility of trying to repay one’s mother for her love: Most of the teachers’ responses pivoted quickly from praising the poem to memories of their own mothers, working several jobs to make ends meet, or selflessly caring for grandchildren.
It wasn’t sophisticated literary criticism, but that wasn’t the point.
So far, however, six years after its rollout, the Core hasn’t led to much measurable improvement on the page.
Students continue to arrive on college campuses needing remediation in basic writing skills.She was planning to apply to New York University, Columbia and Stony Brook University and already had an idea of the story she would tell in her Common Application essay. Wanzer encounters juniors and seniors whose essays are filled with incomplete sentences — not an uncommon occurrence — she limits the time she spends covering dull topics like subject-verb agreement.It would have something to do, she thought, with her family’s emigration from Haiti following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island. “You hope that by exposing them to great writing, they’ll start to hear what’s going on.”•Three-quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress.Adherents worry that focusing too much on grammar or citing sources will stifle the writerly voice and prevent children from falling in love with writing as an activity.That ideology goes back to the 1930s, when progressive educators began to shift the writing curriculum away from penmanship and spelling and toward diary entries and personal letters as a psychologically liberating activity.Calkins, founding director of the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, Columbia University, a leading center for training teachers in process-oriented literacy strategies.But policy makers “blew it in the implementation,” she said.“You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind,” the memoirist writes.“Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.”Ms.The goal was to prepare them to write winning college admissions essays — that delicate genre calling for a student to highlight her strengths (without sounding boastful) and tell a vivid personal story (without coming off as self-involved). Wanzer led the students in a freewrite, a popular English class strategy of writing without stopping or judging.First, she read aloud from “Bird by Bird,” Anne Lamott’s 1995 classic on how to write with voice.