“Why is so much writing so hard to understand? Why must a typical reader struggle to follow an academic article, the fine print on a tax return, or the instructions for setting up a wireless home network?”
These are questions Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker asks in his book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. They’re questions I’ve often encountered –and attempted to tackle– throughout my career as a business writer and editor. Whenever I see writing that is loaded with jargon, clichés, technical terms, and abbreviations, two questions come immediately to mind. First, what is the writer trying to say, exactly? And second, how can the writer convey her ideas more clearly, without having to lean on language that confuses the reader?
Kelly Gallagher (@KellyGToGo) teaches at Magnolia High School in Anaheim, California. He is the author of several books on adolescent literacy, most notably Readicide and Write Like This.
Penny Kittle teaches at Kennett High School in North Conway, New Hampshire. She is the author of several books on teaching English, including Book Love and Write Beside Them.
LF: Your book, I believe, provides an extraordinary template for what a year in a secondary English Language Arts class. Even so, it seems like it would also require a fair amount of preparatory work by a teacher who wanted to implement it. And, as you say, “Every year, we believe we must rewrite curriculum so it is responsive to the mosaic of our students and our changing world.”
What do you say to a teacher who is feeling overwhelmed now with several different “preps” during the school day and a family at home? How would you advise him-or-her to find that kind of time? Or, do you think it can be done in a way that is not intimidating – time-wise – to a teacher?
The purpose of literacy essential instructional practices for grades 6 through 12 is to improve children’s literacy in Michigan. Professional development throughout the state can focus on this set of research-supported literacy instructional practices for daily use in the classroom.
Expert research suggests that each of the 10 practices outlined in this document can have a positive impact on literacy development. The use of these practices in every Michigan classroom every day can make a measurable, positive difference in the state’s literacy achievement.