How much talking do you think young children would do if we corrected them after every utterance? What if we insisted that they pronounce every word perfectly and used only correct grammar as they were learning to speak? What if we assigned children their speaking topics and then corrected and evaluated their speaking instead of responding to their ideas? What do you think would happen? Well I can tell you: We’d create a generation of insecure, semi-psychotic mutes.
And yet, this is what often happens when children are first learning to use the medium of writing as a vehicle for expressing their ideas. Well-meaning but ill-informed teachers or parents often insist that children’s writing always be grammatically correct and error free as soon as it hits the paper. This is a good way to create reluctant non-writers. Just like learning to speak, students’ ability to write develops best by sharing real ideas and getting real responses (vs. constant correction) from adults and other students. Don’t get me wrong here: Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important, but these things are not writing. Writing is having ideas, organizing ideas, and communicating ideas. In this sense, grammar, spelling, and punctuation are a means to an end, but they are not ends by themselves.