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The Oxford Learning Beat Writing Program Part 2

Why Can’t It Be Easier?

We commonly receive requests to make Beat Writing easier! While we sympathize with this wish — to help kids learn to write in an easy manner — it is just impossible. Clear thought requires the clean use and understanding of language: its syntax and its semantics. Our students will never write well without this training.

Sorry, it just isn’t easy. It is a task that should have been completed when they were in the primary grades. When we inherit the job, we have to do it correctly.

One of our teachers worked with a group of young high school students who had very low language and writing skills. Concurrent with the Beat Writing program (sentence structure), she expected her students to speak to her and each other in grammatically correct sentences — very difficult, at first!

Within a very few classes, these students were both writing and speaking more clearly. When she began to teach paragraph structure, she then expected them to speak in well-formed oral paragraphs, complete with a top bun, meaty details in the middle and a bottom bun. Within a short period of time, they did this as well. It works!

Years ago, we conferred with a local school teacher who was working with a Grade 10 student trying to teach her to write clearly. This teacher was using the best (Wholistic) textbook available. It contained lots and lots of “fun” activities to encourage writing.

She said that she enjoyed the book; the activities interested her; yet she could not get my student to write well. The student would not even try! In desperation, this teacher exclaimed to us, “I’m a total failure. I can’t get this kid to write!”

We looked at the student’s work and explained: “She won’t write because she can’t write a simple sentence. Teach her how to write a simple sentence well first. When she understands the structure of a simple sentence, teach her to write more complex sentences. She will then feel more like trying.”

Once the student learned parts of speech, sentence structure and basic grammatical rules, she began to write interesting stories and essays. Her mother thought we were brilliant.

Recently, I was the “expert” in a call-in radio show. Joining the host and me were the chairperson of the local board of education and another trustee. One of the calls came from a young lady. Wendy was a university student who was angry at the “creative and silly programs” that encouraged her to write but did not teach her grammar and spelling! “I am in university, and I cannot spell,” she said. “I also struggle with complicated reading passages despite the fact that my reading instruction was supposed to have focused on those issues!”

This young lady’s anger was justified. Let us not become part of the problem. We are the solution.

Beat Writing

We are frequently asked the same questions: Why do kids have to learn parts of speech? Why not just start them writing? What about creativity?

The answers should not surprise you. They are in our manuals, in our literature and in our philosophy. In a sentence: Children have to learn to stand before you enter them in a 100-yard dash.

Today’s writing programs expect kids to write without giving them the tools with which to do so. These programs entrench mediocrity and tell kids that excellence is not necessary.

They lie to kids by pretending that difficult tasks can be achieved without effort. They make it harder for kids to write well because they do not teach the necessary building blocks of writing in the early years when these skills are the easiest to learn.

In the interest of creativity, they pretend that subject/verb agreement, run-on sentences, split infinitives, misplaced modifiers, dangling participles and so on, are not important — until, suddenly, the student is faced with a teacher or a task requiring correct grammar.

There are two things missing from today’s society and from today’s education programs:

  1. Respect for the amount of time required to accomplish and master a skill; and
  2. A willingness to tell parents and students that some things that are worth having are hard to accomplish!

It is important to remember that Oxford Learning students attend only twice per week. Often we are asked by parents to help correct a writing problem that has existed for years. In addition, most of our kids do not like to have Oxford Learning homework added to their school homework. This means that we do not have time to add lots of frills. We have to get to the point as quickly as possible.

Next time we’ll talk about using the Beat Writing program.

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