Express yourself in writing, a skill that is acquired with practice


The recent results of the PISA report have revealed the deficiencies of Spanish and European students, in general, in reading competence. The recent report of the Royal Spanish Academy on the teaching of language and literature in Spain is expressed in a similar sense .

Part of the blame is attributed to new technologies that encourage reading texts and short sentences without requiring sustained and slow attention. But nothing is said about the written expression, since it is not evaluated.

Many university professors have been observing, course after course, like other researchers , how the students’ ability to express themselves in writing and to communicate ideas and concepts clearly deteriorates. It becomes evident when we have to correct development exams and, above all, final degree or master’s projects.

The same happens with the beginnings of many doctoral theses, at least in the Latin American context, where a large part of doctoral students begin with very poor writing and it costs us directors a great effort to correct and overcorrect texts. For this reason, it is common to begin by giving doctoral students writing guidelines .

It is also observed that there are researchers with magnificent works who are then not able to communicate them clearly due to the difficulty of expressing their ideas and achievements in writing, which causes a lot of information and interest in following it to be lost.

Cut and paste jobs

This situation is preceded by an educational model in which students are asked to do a large amount of group or individual work, which is often carried out by searching for information on the Internet, cutting and pasting content, with a minimum of elaboration .

Teachers do not always have the time or the ability to control these processes, which has very negative effects on the training of students.

Furthermore, the fact is that the final exams of the subjects are disappearing due to several factors, among which the implementation of continuous evaluation stands out, with its various modalities in which students achieve a final grade that reflects the work of the student. day to day. And when the final exam is held, it is usually multiple choice. If it is well made, it is equally valid for assessing the knowledge acquired by the students, but it does not allow them to exercise in written expression nor does it allow teachers to assess the level of skills of the students when it comes to expressing ideas and concepts through this means.

Even the traditional tasks of reading books and reviewing them are no longer valid, as they can be done with artificial intelligence, a practice that is very difficult for teachers to detect .

But these difficulties for written expression are not solely attributable to current generations. Many adults find it difficult to express themselves in writing regardless of their educational level.

Traditionally, language classes have emphasized learning grammar. Most of the instruction time for this subject has been dedicated to performing morphological and syntactic analyzes of written language, to learning what a direct or indirect object, a pronoun or an adverb is.

Learning to write by writing: the Freinet model

As in most skills, writing is learned by writing. The prestigious French pedagogue Celestin Freinet already developed the technique of free text in schools in the last century.

In the years that I worked as a teacher, I carried it out with a free interpretation, and I obtained magnificent results. In language class, Primary Education students wrote a free text each week, depending on the topic that occurred to them, approximately one page on one side. They gave it a title and when it was finished they read it to the members of their group.

In each group they chose the one they liked the most and that boy or girl read it to the whole class. Then the most interesting text was voted on and the teacher copied it on the blackboard exactly as it was written. When students detected grammatical errors, spelling or punctuation errors, they raised their hand and pointed it out. If they were right, the text on the board was corrected until it was correct.

Finally, the author of the text wrote it out on a sheet of paper and it was placed in a prominent place on the class panel as the text of the week. At the end of the term, a ring binder was made with all the selected texts and they were available to the class.

The technique allowed for multiple variants, since one week you could propose a topic to write about, you could write texts and poems to participate in contests, collaborations with the center’s newspaper, letters, Christmas greetings (they were different times), etc.

The result was that the primary school students (then EGB) did not know much grammar, but they wrote wonderfully and enjoyed doing it. At the end of the course, a book was published, with techniques of the time , with the winning free texts of each week.

All the students had a published text, because they worked a lot on values ​​and educational inclusion, so that the students with the worst writing were helped so that on occasion their text was the winner.

The students proudly took home the book published in the classroom with the texts of that course. Needless to say, today it would be much easier to edit these books with a simple photocopier and binder.

Techniques that promote learning

More and more schools and institutes are considering giving priority to the learning and consolidation of writing with the aim that their students can clearly express ideas and feelings. For this, different methodologies are used, all of them with the common denominator of being active and participatory.

Especially during the primary education stage, it is necessary to focus on learning those skills that are basic for carrying out other subsequent learning and for life, in general. Without a doubt, comprehensive reading and correct, fluent writing are essential. But, in addition, these techniques constitute a very effective educational tool to develop the creative skills of students , as well as to promote cooperation and autonomy.

Author Bio: Cruz Perez Perez is Professor of the Department of Educational Theory at the University of Valencia