Why Writing Matters

Why Writing Matters in Teacher Education

"Writing is many things for a teacher, both within and outside of the classroom. It is a tool for daily living and an art to be enjoyed; it is a way of coming to know one's surroundings and a medium for expressing ideas; writing ranges from a mechanism for enhancing one's life to a machine for changing the world. As Margaret Atwood said, "A word after a word after a word is power." The teacher's task is to support students in finding meaningful opportunities to write for many purposes and in many genres, and through those experiences, to emerge with the skill and the power to change their worlds."

~Gretchen Owocki, Teacher Educator and Author

 

Why Writing Matters in Teacher Education

Despite budget pressures and testing mandates, oral and written communication remain essential in American classrooms. Moreover, because the concept of writing across the curriculum is increasingly finding its place in middle and high schools, all teachers are expected to attend to student progress in communication. Thus writing is integrated into all aspects of teacher preparation, as a foundation for the demands of the profession.

Typical Writing Assignments

Through writing a wide variety of texts, including personal narratives, reflective essays, journal article responses, and philosophical statements, education students develop the teacher in themselves. In addition, they must critically evaluate and select from numerous learning theories, behavior management plans, lesson plans, and curricula those that will best meet their own needs as a teacher and the needs of diverse student populations. By writing themselves, these future teachers learn firsthand the various ways in which writing can promote learning.

An application portfolio is required in the College. This portfolio is a place for students to showcase their best writings in a variety of formats from education courses and courses in their major and minor. It should include writings they would share with a prospective employer and refer to when filling out applications or preparing for an interview. One significant piece is the autobiography. Perhaps even more challenging is the written statement of teaching philosophy, which requires students to articulate their expectations of themselves and of the learners in their future classrooms. Other possible writings include classroom management plan, lesson plans, unit plans, reflective writings based on field experiences, a professional resume, position papers, annotated bibliographies, and assessments that students have created. Students could also choose to include a paper from their content area to demonstrate knowledge in the area they plan to teach. All of the materials included in this portfolio should be a student's own work and reflect how the student will be a sensational educator.

This portfolio should include papers that focus on ideas, concepts, and theories and avoid topics that are so large that they become abstract and uninformative. A prospective employer wants to see that the candidate is a thoughtful, intelligent teacher who will make decisions based on sound theories in the classroom. Personal references can be valid evidence when it is appropriate, but candidates should be careful not to base too much on experiences alone. Also, the bibliography needs to be accurate and inclusive. There are many sources that future teachers can use to supplement lessons and these are worthy of inclusion with modifications, as long as they are properly cited.

All selections for the application portfolio must be written neatly with correct usage of grammar, form, and the mechanics of language. The portfolio should demonstrate that this student will be a competent language model for all children in written form. The quality of the work is the important factor and shouldn't be confused with quantity of inclusions. Careful organization, possibly even tabbed with a table of contents, is desirable, as is attention to format and grammatical correctness. Writings should be clear and concise and show critical insight.

Qualities of Good Writing

No matter their teaching area, teachers must model proper English usage in their classrooms.Communicating with the written word is a skill and takes practice. Students need to keep working on it and utilize the available resources. Quick Tips:

  1. Be sure you take time to proofread carefully. All professors want clear, carefully thought out, error-free papers.
  2. Be sure you understand the purpose of each assignment and the standards by which it will be judged. Some assignments will ask for "just the facts"--from library research or lab experiments. Others will require reflections on personal experience or specific texts. Some professors are looking for analysis while others expect a carefully argued interpretation.
  3. Learn to build revision into your composing process. Many students arrive in college proud of their ability to crank out a paper in a single draft. But nearly all discover that their papers, and grades, improve when they take time for a careful second look at a draft and then do some re-writing.
  4. Talk to your prof! Most professors will be glad to discuss your writing plans and problems or even a draft of your work during office hours. Come prepared with ideas or questions.
  5. Avoid jargon and pompous or inflated language. If you use a thesaurus, avoid embarrassment by using a dictionary to double-check all meanings of an unfamiliar word.
  6. Be scrupulously accurate when you cite sources. Provide a source for all quotes and paraphrases, and for any information that is not common knowledge, including statistics and summaries of someone else's ideas.
  7. Read your paper out loud. This process can be surprisingly helpful.
  8. Be Clear, Concise, Coherent, Correct. These 4 C's are the qualities of a good paper mentioned most frequently.

Appropriate Types of Evidence & Support

Assignment guidelines will provide specific information about evidence and support.

Citation Conventions

Format and reference citations should follow APA guidelines unless otherwise directed by the professor.
The citation convention used for the application portfolio may vary for the different writings included, depending on the discipline the student plans to teach. The most important matter to remember is to "give credit where credit is due." Plagiarism or academic dishonesty could lead to failure of the assignment and/or course.

Special Comments

Pay attention to the following when writing papers for EDL 300:

  1. Use the third person whenever possible--it is more professional. If you use the first person, avoid "I think" and "in my opinion."
  2. Use standard paragraph structure.
  3. Avoid common errors: pay attention to pronouns and their antecedents, verb agreement, capitalization; keep plurals (s) and possessives ('s) straight; use commas and semicolons judiciously.
  4. Proofread aloud--or have someone else do it.

Faculty Perspectives 
on Writing:

Debbie Smith

Why Writing Matters in Teacher Education

My Writing Story

Example Papers

Brei Noble
"WWII: A Thematic Unit" (276kB)

Melinda Clifton
"Unit Plan on To Kill a Mockingbird" (417kB)