Monday, May 16, 2011

The Death of the Written Word

omg! mah bff is totes mad at meee
idk wut hr prob isss
lol idc tho she cn b maddd
lyk whatevs its hr probbb

Is that unintelligible to you? God, I hope so. Unfortunately, it makes perfect sense to me, and not just because I wrote it. As a teacher, the fight to get kids to write correctly has been an uphill battle. Between texting and the internet, kids do most of their reading and writing with their peers. I had the internet in school. Texting became popular toward the end of my high school career, but I still text in grammatically correct sentences. My kids think I'm lame for this. My students, obviously, do not text in perfect English.

But should they? It's not formal writing. It's for their eyes only. I have no problem with textspeak as long as the people in the conversation can understand each other. The problem I have is that the majority of my students are not getting a variety of reading experiences. We draw from what we read to create what we write. Since students mainly read what other students write, this creates a circular experience for their linguistic development.

The very frustrating part is that they can speak just fine. Of course there are technical grammar errors, but my students can be quite concise and, dare I say it, eloquent when speaking. Speaking is not the problem. Their language ability is fine. The issue is that they have created their own insular world of imperfect, nigh unintelligible gibberish when it comes to reading and writing.

The effects of this are obvious. Actual novels are difficult for them. There are actual novels built around the concept that texting and internet IMing is easier for them to read, like Lauren Myracle's TTYL. Writing can be challenging and frustrating for both teachers and students. Informal writing is slowly seeping into formal writing scenarios, furthering frustration for both educator and pupil.

There's no easy way to fix it. Kids need more reading and more writing. They need more model texts to draw from when it comes to writing rather than their own text messages. And frankly, we need to hold kids to higher expectations than letting them write in such an informal manner while at school. It's important that a student know a right answer. However, school is about preparing students for the real world. In the real world, it doesn't matter if I know the right answer when I present it in a wholly inappropriate manner. School shouldn't be about the bare minimum (knowing the fact), but about bettering yourself and working as hard as you can.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for trying.

    I realize I am just an internet stranger, and I realize that this is being posted over two years after the fact, but I felt compelled to comment anyway.

    I just spent an hour trying to find a bookstore in my area. There's one left, and it is tiny and has a terrible selection. I'm relegated to going to Amazon to try to somehow pick out a book I'd like to read. It's depressing.

    I'm 45 years old, and I'm a computer technician. I get the technology behind the replacement of books; hell, I guess I'd have to say I'm partially responsible for it. But there is something very disturbing about the fact that we cannot, simply of the course of what seems like only several years, walk into a book store and enjoy perusing, enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the smell of new books any longer.

    Not to mention the eroding of writing skills (or shall I say, "skillz") as you talk about.

    I pray to God for society, I try to accept what is, and what is coming, but it makes me sad and apprehensive.

    I miss books.


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