Write Now: Students Need Writing Labs At School

In their first semester of college, it is a given that students may be introduced to several different programs on campus academically and socially.

In high school, a student probably had a laboratory class with one of the student’s science courses — earth science, biology, chemistry and physics. The labs were required and part of the student’s overall grade.

One could make the argument for music as well. Because a grade is assigned, band and vocal classes could be labeled as a lab courses. Some schools even have sectional classes, where one section (part) of the ensemble has a time to rehearse.

Some people ask, are these classes (labs) needed?

My answer is yes.

How else will students understand what is in the textbook unless they practice the craft?

The same should be said for English classes. Some schools do it on a smaller level, but English writing labs should be part of a school’s curriculum, and a complement to classroom instruction. In college, a student may be exposed to different labs for different majors. Examples may be math; digital music production; digital multimedia production, language; computer science; information technology; chemistry; geology; physics; biology; business; education; global studies; and art.

At the high school level, depending on size, a school may have only a single room with digital workstation otherwise known as computers. Some schools have more than one room, and in some schools, the library may have a section of computers for instruction purposes. Either way, the computer room can also double as an English language lab. There student can get familiar with how to format an essay for English class.

So are the computers going to make students better writers? No, that won’t happen, but the computers will make it easy for students to get their ideas on to the printed page. It will also level the playing field because some students don’t have access to computers outside of school.

Yes, literature homework can still be given because the more students read, the more students will understand what good writing is.

I want to make a distinction that this English lab should not be used to teach keyboarding skills. Students should have already taken a class on that subject. The lab should be used to help students hone their writing skills.

Usually students are assigned to write out of class. They receive a handout with instructions on how format a paper. The results are less than adequate because there is no context. A teacher may see mixed results because of the resources the students have outside of school. In the lab the students can begin their work that includes using the writing process.

This is where the teacher can model how to format a paper and model how he uses the writing process. In the lab, students only need access to internet sites specific to supporting the writing lesson. And I am sure the school’s Information Technology department can limit access when in that course. It will make class more efficient. Sites that can be accessed may include Modern Language Association style center style.mla.org; The Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue–owl.html as well as the grammar textbook used in class.

One of the lessons may include how to format an English paper that includes choosing the font — Times New Roman, 12 point; choosing line spacing; choosing margins; choosing the word processing program; choosing a header; showing how to make a heading and title; showing how to properly space; showing how much to indent; and showing how to leave the correct space after periods or other punctuation marks. Believe or not, but some students try to use the same font but at a 13-point size. It makes the paper longer with the same amount of words. An example would be if a teacher asked for a 500-word essay. Usually it’s two pages of 12-point Times New Roman text.

When using 13-point Times New Roman, it may stretch the page count to 21/2 pages, so it appeared that more was written. It can also be used when the student has not met the 500-word requirement, but turned in two pages thinking he may have fooled the teacher. In the lab, that would be reconciled immediately, so the student would not waste anymore time.

Also modeled in class could be how to use direct quotes from material and how to cite sources. It seems these to subjects prove difficult for students. Also students can refer to their grammar textbook for any issues, and also use the teacher as a resource.

In the class, students will become better at getting their ideas onto paper, and they will become better communicators.

If students become better communicators, then the English Language Lab was effectively used.

An English Language Lab should be part of a school’s curriculum. It should be a separate class aside from English class. In English class, literature and grammar should be taught with the lab being a class for students to hone their grammar and writing skills. And the same teacher should teach it, and if that is not an option, have a dedicated English teacher teach the class, so the students understand the class is an English class and not time for them to do homework for another class. If those rules are followed, there should be no problems.

The lab should be used for creation, and not looked at like a punishment. “I gotta go to English lab today. I hate writing. It’s so hard,” the student may say.

I agree. Writing is a difficult task, and the English lab should make the task a little less difficult.

Above all, the lab should be a fun environment. It’s a place where a student can learn how to make language work for him instead of the language confining him.

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