We share evidence-based K-12 learning strategies that empower you to improve education.
I agree with L.D; I spent the first few weeks of school trying to explain why textspeak is unacceptable in any kind of scholastic discourse. We teach scholarly writing strategies in order to prepare students to write to diverse audiences at university and perhaps beyond right?; I explain that textspeak is unique to a particular youth subculture and is certainly not recognized as standard English. I compare textspeak to Orwell's Newspeak (1984) in the sense that the complexity of our language has been decimated by the omission of letters and the widespread abbreviation to create the shortest words possible...which also reduces meaning to a highly simplistic and base system. And it certainly creates/increases spelling problems! In spite of such strategies, it often takes a relentless grading pen to get them to understand how unacceptable is the inclusion of textspeak in academic writing.
At the end of the 18th century, Noah Webster rode a revolutionary wave of change rooted in democracy, technology, and optimism that uprooted America's language from some of the constraints of the King's English. His spelling books ushered in changes that seemed practical, but disregarded etymology: gaol became jail, colour became color, masque became mask, and publick became public. He also unsuccessfully proposed that head, tongue, and laugh become hed, tung, and laf. The difference with kids and their texting is the that Webster's reforms were top-down and kids' trends are bottom up. How is a teacher to know which language innovations are going to be acceptable out there in the world and in the future? I am sure that American English will be changed by texting in some way or another, but have no idea what those changes may be.
The most important thing may be to help students build an understanding of the difference between standard English and other forms of communication, and guide them through creative encounters with language. Poetry, fiction, and word art are valid venues in which to explore how texting and language itself work. Reports, formal letters, and communication with elders or others outside of their community/culture require standard English and grammar in the classical sense (rhetoric). These kids are effectively bilingual and need to learn how to negotiate situational communication.
Text messaging (TM) is another symptom of the decline of emphasizing formal writing skills in our schools - print and cursive writing, spelling and grammar. They have all taken a back seat to a more informal "writing" approach in schools. Students in grades 6-9 are ill-prepared. TM is hardly the culprit when so many arrive so far behind in their ability to spell and write clearly by 6th grade. I do beleive that unless these writing skills are once again taught with vigor and purpose from the start we are doomed to failure and TM will be part of the new language by default.
I look at the text messaging vs. writing skills this way. I wonder if learning a foreign language harm students' writing skills? I see text messaging as a new language. I also wonder if using slang harms students' writing skills. Every generation has developed its own slang. I wonder it that means that we've all harmed our writing skills. I wonder is students who learn stenographers' shorthand have their writing skills harmed.
Basically, students need to speak and write correctly in school. They need to learn the difference slang and text messaging shorthand for their social interactions with peers and proper writing structure, spelling and grammar for writing papers, essays, stories letters, etc.
We teach the differences between different genre when we teach students to write. For example: Writing a formal paper is different than writing a story. Writing a business letter is different than writing a letter to a friend.
We simply need to make sure that students understand the difference between the written language used for text messaging and the written language used in other writing situations. We need to make sure that students learn how to spell words correctly and know how to use proper punctuation and grammar. Then, we need to help them differentiate between formal and informal writing and speaking situations.
What grade(s) do you teach?
I teach 9th and 11th grade English and regardless of the age, my students' spelling is atrocious. Texting does not and has not helped. My students even speak to me in text. They do not see the relevance or value of using standard English, though I have explained it many times. It's frustrating. My former students who are seniors and have not passed the English portion of the exit exam and keep flunking the writing part are beginning to understand the relevance. They barely passed my class, eking out a D or D- and now are facing a certificate of completion instead of receiving a diploma...now they understand. I can just imagine what will happen to them in the work place. Some of my former students who are in community college and taking remedial English are actually coming back to me now asking for my help. I don't have the time, I tell them, I have my current students to worry about. Maybe they should have paid attention better when they were my students. Maybe they should come and speak to my current classes about how they should not make the same mistake they did.
I am so saddened when, after instruction, my middle school students still use their text messaging in their script. Remember, texting is pushing buttons. If a student can write one way to friends and another in class (with a pen or pencil), then what is keeping them from distinguishing? The problem, in my opinion, is that texting, for some, is their first or primary language! They don't believe me when I tell them that "u, cuz, and b4" are not words and are unacceptable in a lab report.
The issue I see is that the students are so used to shortening words that either they don't notice it, or get upset when called about it, so it becomes a point of contention. It comes across as really lazy to see "IDK" for a written response, or words replaced by vowels, such as u for you. Maybe I am showing my age, but so many have enough trouble with basic English, let alone converting it into a shortened dialect, that holding them to a higher level of performance is needful, regardless of subject area. Without the rules that seem so formal, how could one hope to translate into another language?
Student's writing is severely affected by text messaging. They don't necessarily use the abbreviations but they do shorten words such as "you" to "u". This all started with the instant messenger craze and has carried over to texting. It has become a second language to some students. In preparing students for life after high school I think it is doing them a disservice to encourage the use of text language, when most of them will not use that language, post high school.
I've seen in my students papers the impact and influence of text messaging on their writing.