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Teachers, students see texting lingo popping up in school writing

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Many middle and high school teachers would agree with Hinsdale Middle School eighth-grader Audrey Pound.

The increased use of communication via text messages has resulted in a language full of abbreviations, something that at times has crossed over to the world of academics. The abbreviated words that often find their way into text messages also have been finding their way into papers students write for classes.

“It’s like you have two languages in your head,” Audrey said. “Sometimes, the language you use for texting bleeds into the work you do for school.”

Rebecca Gemkow, a Lyons Township High School English teacher, said she believes it is crucial for teenagers to recognize the difference between social and academic writing in order to be successful in the real world.

“I feel that all of the online opportunities and the time spent with such opportunities puts students at a deficit when it comes to producing sophisticated writing,” she said. “In result, there is a much greater responsibility put on teachers to help rectify the situation so that students will be prepared for the rest of high school, as well as post-high school writing.”

Jeff Sledz is an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Hinsdale Middle School. He said that as the age of cell phone users has gotten younger over the past few years, the improper use of language in school papers has increased.

“It’s really not that students are using texting lingo like ‘lol’ (laugh out loud) in their papers,” Sledz said. “The problem is with the improper use of punctuation, lower casing letters and shortening words.”

Sledz said the most common misuses by students are using a “i” as a stand-alone word, using only the letter “u” instead of the word “you,” using the letter “r” in place of the word “are” and not using periods where needed.

“It’s independent of intelligence,” Sledz said. “The problem is the inability to recognize it on your own. If I’m texting, I’ll shorten some words, but I know that isn’t appropriate for other writing. A lot of students don’t make that distinction.”

Marie Gillespie, a theater and interpersonal communication teacher at Lyons Township High School, said it is important for students to be able to use different types of communication at appropriate times, a skill referred to as “code switching.”

“We actually discuss with students the concept of code switching as a desired skill to be developed,” Gillespie said. “Students must be adept at many communication codes and understand when it is appropriate to use each one and have the skills necessary to easily switch from one code to another”

Gillespie said the term code switching originated to describe switching back and forth between one language and another, such as English to Spanish, which led to Spanglish; or between one dialect and another, such as African-American vernacular English and standard American English.

“I believe there are great advantages for all of us in becoming adept at new codes, like text lingo, and retaining skill with former codes, such as formal writing, reading and speaking skills,” she said.

Sledz and Mary Kalsbeek, a Hinsdale Middle School sixth-grade language arts teacher, said rough drafts of papers turned in by students is where they most often see texting language used by students.

“We talk about it,” Kalsbeek said. “It’s a constant process of reminding them.”

Alex Pineiro, a Hinsdale Middle School eighth-grader, said it takes a conscious effort to not use texting language while writing papers for school.

“It is kind of a different language,” she said. “When I do an essay, I sometimes spell things like I would when I text because I text too much.”

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