Writing is a skill, but it is also an art. In recognizing that writing is an art, we also recognize that the features of excellent writing are not identical in every content area. Writing in science may be very different from history, but both are essential to our students’ success. Writing is a useful tool in math, and can often provide insight into the mistakes students make by giving us a snapshot of their thinking. In fact, “The practice of writing helps students to move from having an opinion to having an idea and understanding why they care about it” (Riles, S. (2004). Writing as learning. College board review 202: 32 ). This helps students express and support their opinions with facts and data. College preparatory education requires this.
The skills needed for writing range all the way from the elementary ability to form letters on paper to creating coherent sentences and paragraphs, to presenting ideas and opinions sensibly and persuasively. In order to do this well, writing requires reflection. Our students need to be effective and fluent writers. They need to practice writing enough that the task of writing is manageable in any subject or format. It needs to become a normal activity in which the need for revision is a given.
Excellent writing requires searching out the most effective word, revising the structure, and thinking about how best to put an idea on paper. The first copy should never be the final copy, except on a test. Teaching our students how to think hard about what they are trying to say, how best to say it, and then revising their first efforts are all key parts of our task of teaching the art of writing. We expect that all LCA graduates will be very comfortable with the art of writing.