More than sentences needed for a writing revolution

Title and subtitle from cover of The Writing Revolution

I nodded in agreement when I read a quote from Judith M. Hockman in an edweek.org Q&A about the forthcoming book The Writing Revolution she co-authored with Natalie Wexler.

“We’re very good at assigning writing,” [Hockman] explains. “We’re not very good at teaching kids how to write.”

The Q&A author’s, Liana Loewus, goes on to ask Hockman about the problems with the way we teach writing.

Hockman’s short answer is that we don’t teach writing: We give self-centered writing assignments and teach grammar in isolation from writing.

All of that aligned with what I’ve observed and what researchers like Steve Graham have documented.

What struck me as odd about Loewus’s piece was that there was nothing about writing beyond the sentence level.

I did a 10-second search to learn more about  Hockman’s method. On the Hockman method website I read that her process uses:

  • Sentence strategies to build complexity and clarity
  • Outlines to develop well-structured summaries, paragraphs, expository and argumentative essays, and research papers
  • Revisions to enhance unity and coherence

I can’t help wondering why Loewus omitted anything about structuring and revising writing, unless the two questions about Hockman’s methods being criticized for stifling students’ curiosity and love of writing were meant to cover that area.

Maybe I’ve just been seeing too much about fake news, but the skewed perspective gave me pause.

I suspect I would disagree in some particulars with Hockman. ( I teach just one flexible outline for all types of nonfiction, and I teach students to avoid revisions for unity and coherence by careful planning.)

However, I am thoroughly in agreement with aspects of Hockman’s program that Loewus never mentioned:

  • teaching and using writing in all subjects, and
  • advancing thinking through writing.

The Writing Revolution is now on preorder at 1/3 off the list price. It will be available in early August. I’m putting it on my wish list for late summer reading in spite of — or perhaps because of — those elements overlooked in the EducationWeek blog post.

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