Writing and Literature

Preparation for Language Arts Skills for High School and Beyond


Teacher: John Jenkins


♦ The long-standing belief in the value of language arts:

  • AD 401 in “The Confessions of Saint Augustine” – “For those first lessons, reading, writing and arithmetic, I thought as great a burden and penalty as any Greek.”
  • 17th century New England – “The curriculum of the common schools may be summed up in the four R’s Reading, Riting, Rithmetic and Religion…”
  • 1795, during a speech made at a Board of education dinner, Englishman Sir William Curtis – “From reading and writing comes the idea in modern education of literacy, by which we generally mean having the ability to understand ideas expressed through the medium of words.”


♦ The two undeniable fundamentals of Language Arts:

  • Reading: the ability to understand ideas expressed through the medium of words
  • Writing: the ability to effectively communicate ideas through the medium of words


♦ Two truths you cannot avoid:

  1. 1)  Your curriculum must emphasize 1) critical reading and 2) effective writing skills.
  2. 2)  Augustine did not like learning these skills. Maybe your students won’t either!



Preparatory Skills for Reading Literature


♦ Read

  • encourage daily reading for pleasure (student’s choice)
  • require short-term reading assignments – use short stories or novellas, thousands are free online
  • require longer-term reading assignments – novels, both classic and popular
    • compare book and movie versions of novels
  • review and discuss all reading and literature assignments


♦ Experience

  • listen to literature
    • use a free audio book service via your library
    • Audible.com
  • Go to community theatre productions
    • enroll in a drama class


♦ Skills

  • expand vocabulary through reading
  • encourage students to mark interesting passages for discussion
  • learn vocabulary terms and identify them when reading
  • require students to find literary answers to literary questions
    • external conflict and themes
    • Internal conflict and characterization


Preparatory Skills for Effective Writing

A three-legged stool for a firm foundation.


First leg – academic essays – with a focus on content comprehension and structure, must include a technique called “the 5-paragraph essay.”

Second leg – journalism – with a focus on natural voice, readability and reader interest. Personal journaling or blogging can be an effective alternative.

Third leg – literature short and long answers – with a focus on reading comprehension and analysis on specific literary-focused questions.


♦ Two more truths you must embrace…

  1. Correct writing (grammar et al.) may not prove to be effective writing – writing that fully accomplishes the goals of the required assignment.
  2. Effective writing always achieves both the comprehension and the communication goals of the writing assignment.


Basic pre-writing skills

  • brainstorming/idea generation – mind mapping
  • researching – finding and evaluating quality sources
  • organizing – strategies for structuring information
  • documenting – paraphrasing and plagiarism


Basic writing skills

  • drafting – type paper from a completed writing plan using a standard 5-paragraph essay format
  • editing – rewriting to insure paper is simple , concise and direct; read aloud for voice


Basic proofreading skills (always proofread from printed copy, not the screen)

  • basic grammar, et al. – punctuation, capitalization, spelling
  • Formatting – indents, double spacing, margins, images
  • fact checking –  names, dates, numbers,
  • citations – quotes, paraphrasing, footnotes, Works Cited, Bibliography

CHESS meets at 8730 Sudley Road, Manassas, in the “Rock” building next to Manassas Baptist Church.


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