When it comes to education, I have developed my own formula, especially for teaching my girls. But it is one that I think would serve all our children well. It is “4Cs + 3Rs”. This stands for the 4 skills of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. When we support these with the 3Rs (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) you have a balanced way of learning that enables you to learn the information you are interested in or need to learn. One skill that needs to be taught is the mechanics of writing. This falls under Communication in the 4Cs and both Reading and Writing in the 3Cs.
WHAT ARE THE MECHANICS OF WRITING?
Do we really need to know these? Yes, if we want to be able to communicate clearly in written form. This is not just letters, but essays, short stories, even texts and messages.
They are not something we are born knowing how to do. The mechanics of writing need to be taught at age appropriate levels. They are something you build upon. Yes, it is true that some people are natural born spellers (spelling bee champions anyone?) but for some it is a life-long struggle.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PUNCTUATION
Punctuation is not really that important, right? WRONG! It’s VERY important, and a tiny, misplaced comma or question mark can change meaning in drastic ways.
Did you know there are 14 punctuation marks?
- the period
- question mark
- exclamation point
- quotation mark
Some of these we use regularly. For some of them, it causes me lots of stress when it isn’t used correctly – case in point, the apostrophe!! I have seen far too many students (and grown ups) use apostrophes in plurals and not possessives. We can blame our phones for this as autocorrect will just put them there and we don’t question it. For example: “I have nine cat’s.” Or “We are the Best’s.” It can break me out in a cold sweat (ok, that *might* be an exaggeration but it annoys me!) Some days I think that we need to do away with it (German doesn’t have it! Hooray!) A number of these I really don’t use, and quite honestly, most likely use incorrectly, like braces and ellipsis.
Commas save lives!
I love the following image. It is so true! I have seen writing done by students with an abundance of commas (mostly erroneous) or with none whatsoever. Commas are very useful and we do need them.
IMPORTANCE OF CAPITALIZATION
Capital letters are useful signals for a reader. They have three main purposes: to let the reader know a sentence is beginning, to show important words in a title, and to signal proper names and official titles. Again, they are very important in conveying meaning.
IMPORTANCE OF SPELLING
Sometimes I have heard that good spelling is not important anymore. Wrong! It is very important. But I also know that English spelling can be a very tricky thing indeed. I have bemoaned before the “i before e rule” and the way that “ough” can be used. Let’s not forget that we have homophones and homonyms, silent letters and rules that just don’t make sense at times. And there are differences between British/Australian English and American English in spelling. Sheesh!
Children start with phonetic spelling. This makes sense, especially if they are learning phonics. You then build upon this to correct spelling. I have often been asked why “ph” sounds like “f” and “ch” can also be “k”. Most often I will shake my head and say that it really doesn’t make sense but that is the way it is. Do I wish that we could change some of our spelling to phonetic so it makes sense? Oh yes! It would be very helpful.
READING AND WRITING BELONG TOGETHER
I personally, when teaching, do not like to separate the mechanics of writing, grammar and vocabulary. Reading and writing belong together. You start off by reading a lot with your children. This way they see and hear how language works together and see the conventions and mechanics of writing. You learn grammar and pull vocabulary from what you are reading. We really do not need to have separate grammar and vocabulary curriculum. Then, you start writing and you practice these skills of punctuation, capitalization and spelling. You start with the easier conventions and you level up. The more you read the easier writing will become, and the more you write, the more developed your skills will be.
Are there any mechanics of writing you struggle with? Spelling seems to be the number one challenge and I get that. But we can’t just rely on spell check on our computers.
Here is a great document that looks at the importance of grammar, capitalization, punctuation and spelling.
Want to know more about my formula on the 4Cs and 3Rs? Here are the links to the vlogs and blogs on it:
Skills Based Learning – What is it?
4Cs and Skills Based Learning – How does it work?
4Cs and Skills Based Learning – How do you teach it?