Students are writing now more than ever, with innovations like texting and Twitter. Teachers can focus these skills.
Reading is a skill that is fundamental to survival in the modern world, much less success. In a world of multisensory stimulation, reading has been more and more difficult to incorporate into across the curriculum. However, the increasing popularity of texting, especially among middle and high school age students, offers teachers an opportunity to involve students in reading once again.
To text, most students have to be able to type. They also have to be able to process a line of text, understanding what the sender meant. The sender usually includes some frames of reference, such as time, place, and/or other people involved. The astute teacher can build on these communication skills and apply them to reading and writing in school.
Writing Based on Interest
Sites such as Kathy Livingstone provide teachers with basic plans to build a lesson. These plans can really apply to any subject, not just English. The effective plan would involve regular and frequent practice. The concept is to engage the interest of the student by presenting the skills as skills they are already using. Applying definitions to tasks they already eagerly perform can generate interest, especially if the skills become easier to apply as time goes on.
One fundamental skill is knowing the difference between acceptable texting abbreviations and appropriate spelling in an academic setting. A possible lesson plan would be to have the students write about an event using texting (such as “ppl” for people, or IDK for I don’t know). The next task would either be for the student to “translate” their writing into standard English, or have the students exchange papers and translate each other’s work.
Another task would be to ask students to find common experiences with each other and write about them. One plan would be to find common observations, another would be to find dissimilar observations, all about the same shared event. The teacher could “pile on” skill sets, such as doing the texting/ standard translation piece in the same lesson.
One example of this was at the Beddow Collegiate Academy in Accokeek Md., where an English teacher used Model United Nations writing standards to complete a writing assignment. All members of the class had been delegates at several Model UN conferences, so the activity was interesting and engaging to the students. Once again, the teacher took advantage or their texting skills combined with the Model UN skills to produce a strong lesson.
Focusing Existing Skills
Teachers who are aware of developing communication modalities among students can develop creative lesson plans that will direct the class to needed skills today. It isn’t just employment anymore, modern communication requires increasingly complex reading comprehension and writing skills. On the other hand, students are developing some of these skills on their own, the creative teacher can help students direct these skills in constructive and beneficial ways.