Middle school language arts teacher Janice Ramsey has hit upon a paradox: Many kids say they hate writing, but, what with e-mail and instant messaging, they’re virtually doing it in their sleep. Building on that opening, Ramsey, who teaches at Booth Middle School in Woodstock, Georgia, has developed a writing curriculum that’s oriented around e-mail composition. Instead of blaming e-mail for the world’s grammatical ills, that is, she uses it to teach kids about structure, style, and voice. “What’s associated with e-mail? Plain old letter-writing,” she reasons. Who knew? Ramsey says working in the electronic medium gives her students a greater sense of engagement, which has shown in their grades. She plans to present her findings this summer as part of a university professional-development program. In the meantime, the idea of adapting student writing to new modes of communication is already being welcomed. “Literacy instruction and written instruction tend to be quite old-fashioned; we’re still working from a 1950s model,” observed Jennifer Stone, a professor at the University of Washington.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.