Some say txt msgs in class r gr8

James Walsh

MINNEAPOLIS – Ask the students in Elisabeth Haen’s journalism class if the text messages that they send so ubiquitously creep into their schoolwork and the hands go up and the smiles grow.

“I write ‘cuz’ a lot, instead of ‘because’,” said Nick Miron, 17. “And I forget apostrophes.”

Each month, thousands of students in the Twin Cities metro area send millions of text messages to their BFFs (best friends forever), sistrs (sisters) and prnts (parents). So it’s no surprise that text-message lingo such as CU (see you), B4 (before), GR8 (great) – and its absence of punctuation and grammar – has migrated into schoolwork.

Its appearance is dividing teachers in Minnesota and across the nation. Some can’t stand seeing the lingo in any form. Others say it may be a way to keep kids writing.

One official with a national teachers group has even suggested that schools could use text messaging to help students learn.

Kelsey Theis, a language arts teacher at Pioneer Ridge Freshman Center in Chaska, Minn., said texting might be helping students learn an element of writing.

“We talk about the different components of writing – organization, idea, content and individual voice,” she said. “But, a lot of times, students feel the need to stay silent. This might help them develop their individual voice.”

Still, the seepage of text messaging into student writing is vexing many trying to teach the importance of clear communication.

Eva Pitzel teaches seventh-graders and ninth-graders at Lake Junior High and Woodbury Junior High in Woodbury, Minn. She estimates that 25 percent to 40 percent of her students use some text-message abbreviations and slang in their in-class writing.

“I see it as a negative because they are not always showing me that they can write out the words correctly,” she said. “To compensate for this, we spend extra time editing in class and we talk about the different languages we use in our lives. I have to explicitly tell them that it is not OK to write like that for English class.”

In 2004, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said that 16 million American teenagers were using instant messaging and text messaging to communicate – up from 13 million in 2000.

Nicole Muenchow, a social studies teacher at Champlin Park High School, said texting is rampant. “They’re not even writing proper sentences, using punctuation or spelling,” she said. “I keep having to tell kids that ‘people’ is spelled with six letters, not three.”

Derek Anderson teaches composition and literature at Mahtomedi High School. He has mixed feeling about the increase of texting.

“I sort of feel like any writing is good writing, as long as you get your point across,” he said. “But, for certain students, I think it holds some back. If you’re writing a college application and you write ‘2’ instead of ‘to,’ you’re not going to get the same response.”

James Walsh

Star Tribune (MCT)