Collecting my senior essays last week, I was so sad to see their writing. Frankly it was dismal and certainly not at a senior level of writing. I wonder if we're sending kids into college being illiterate writers.
We have this conversation often in the English department:
"I know I taught my 9th graders how to write thesis statements. They write them again and again! And yet, on the final, they just can't generate one!"
"My sophomore students say they don't know what one is!"
"Juniors say the same thing. Or they stare at me blankly. Thesis? I can't write one."
"Why can't kids keep this information?"
We discuss this problem and are addressing this slowly in our PLC groups, but it continues to amaze me year after year. I wonder if the "one shot writing" is a culprit. That's where we assign a type of writing and even if they are allowed to rewrite it, it is a one-time thing. We then go onto another type of essay, explication, or response. Maybe our kids cannot hold onto information that's given in such isolated events. It makes sense; we don't learn to play baseball with only 1 practice. ...Not even 4 practices, or even 8. In order to be proficient, students need practice again and again and again.
I fear our rigor with literary analysis gets over their head so quickly, they feel unattached to their writing and simply try to fulfill the writing requirement without real ownership in their own thoughts and analysis.
It could be that kids are lazy, unwilling to use what a teacher has taught them from the year before; this is what we conclude every year. However, I'm afraid that there's enough grade-grubbers, people pleasers in the world of students that to see this trend year in and out, seems naive. I think we need to considerate the age, the assignment's purpose, and begin to figure out how to practice writing like coaches have their little leaguers practice a level swing at home plate.