The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 37

EDUCATION

The "Write" Equation

Experts agree that classrooms are failing students when it comes
to writing and communication instruction-skills that are
desperately desired by future employers. Here's how one school
is fixing the problem, one class at a time.

AN ARTICLE IN A 2003 EDITION OF THE NE W YORK TIMES EXPOSED A DISTURBING REALIT Y: "Most

fourth graders spend less than three hours a week writing, which is about 15 percent of the time they spend
watching television. Seventy-five percent of high school seniors never get a writing assignment from their history
or social studies teachers." Sadly, little has changed in the 15-plus years since its publication.
Further, according to a recently published article in EducationWeek, one of the
most valued qualities in new hires for employers is "good oral communication skills."
Author Catherine Gewertz points out that
based on recent survey data, "executives and
hiring managers said good oral communication is the skill they want most from job
candidates."
Why have these highly valued assets virtually disappeared from today's curricula?
More worrisome, how do educators remedy
a problem that not only faces our country's
graduating high school seniors, but our future workforce as well?
North Cross, an independent school in
Roanoke, Virginia, has made it a part of its
mission to prepare students' intellects much
in the way a liberal arts college would-lots
of writing, lots of discussion. But surprisingly, this preparation does not begin at the
high school level. It begins before a student
can even write their own name-at the age
of three.
"Though our three-year-olds are obviously not expected to write full-length stories-
or even letters, for that matter-they are encouraged to express themselves orally from
day one," remarks Emily Brown, Director
of the Early Childhood Program at North
Cross School. Through role playing, readers'
theaters, and end-of-year presentations, students from age three through Kindergarten
are already starting to experience the power
of a well-informed, well-spoken voice.
Once a student enters the lower elementary classes, he or she begins to learn the mechanics of writing, not just through workbooks, but through assigned writing projects.
From orally presented book reports to talking
a parent through their video game they creat-

ed for the annual Coding Fair, North Cross
students seem to have endless opportunities
to communicate ideas, validate a differing
opinion, and build the confidence to speak.
The sheer number of assignments required for mastering these skills may seem
daunting to the average teacher. In a school
setting where one teacher is responsible for
an average of 18-20 students per class, and
once in high school, up to five times that,
such assignments would require an enormous time commitment on both the teacher
and the students.
To successfully teach students the art of
presentation and communication, one needs
not just to assign the work, but the time to
instruct the skill, time that is only afforded by
a fewer number of students per class. North
Cross School's average class size is 11 students-even through its high school-with a
student to teacher ratio of 8 to 1. This model
prepares graduates for their first year of college, saving them from the dread that strikes
many of their classmates when assigned their
first 10-, or even 5-page paper.
"Simply stated," says Head of School Dr.
Christian Proctor, "our students write a lot.
Evaluating a student's original written analysis helps our teachers understand if what
they are trying to teach our students is actually taking hold. Comprehending the deeper
meaning within a subject takes more than
memorization, and more than the ability to
fill in the correct bubble on a test." Because
written and spoken projects, even lengthy
ones, begin in the lower elementary grades,
by the time a student reaches high school,
this practice becomes second nature.
Ask even one of the school's more seasoned alumni and they'll tell you, without
missing a beat, the subject of their senior paper.
SPONSORED CONTENT

Behind every North Cross diploma
lies not just the ability to speak,
but to present, with confidence and
a shrewd mastery of the written
word.

A 20-minute oral presentation based on original research of the student's own choosing,
every senior delivers their finished project,
with slides, videos-even instruments-in
front of the entire Upper School student
body. It's a requirement for graduation. An
added benefit: each Upper School student
will have heard over 140 of these presentations by the time they are handed their diploma. One could say that North Cross was
doing TED Talks long before they were a
thing. "Ideas worth spreading," indeed.
Whether it's through a debate in history
on the United States' decision to drop the
atomic bomb, or in an interview for a position in the Summer Internship Program,
North Cross expects its students to show up
prepared, informed and with purpose-even
when you are a three-year-old pretending to
be the Big Bad Wolf in a classroom play. ✱

North Cross School is Roanoke's
only independent PreK - grade
12 school and is accredited
by the Virginia Association for
Independent Schools. For more
information visit: northcross.org


http://www.northcross.org

The Roanoker - May/June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - May/June 2019

The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Intro
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover1
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover2
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The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover3
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