It's called the "middle years slump" and it's punctuated by sloppy writing.
New research reveals an increasing number of Australian children are struggling with basic writing skills, with nearly one in every five year 9 students performing below the national benchmark.
Academics from the Australian Catholic University's Learning Sciences Institute Australia said the writing skills of young Australians were a serious concern.
They have warned that worksheets are replacing writing instruction in schools, limiting students'
Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith said there was an assumption students knew how to write when they reached high school.
As well as getting a pen licence, the basics of writing include grasping grammar, punctuation, spelling, genre and expression.
The explicit teaching of writing often stops when students reach grade 4, she said.
"We are not learning to write and writing to learn across all the years of school," Dr Wyatt-Smith said.
She said that while policymakers focused a lot of their attention on the reading component of literacy, writing was a much more significant national concern.
The researchers are analysing NAPLAN data which shows that in grade 3, just 2.6 per cent of students are below the national minimum standard in writing.
By year 9, this increases to 17.7 per cent.
Professor Wyatt-Smith and fellow researcher Christine Jackson are creating a survey to investigate how writing is taught and assessed in Australian classrooms.
"This has obvious implications for future schooling success and ultimately students' workforce opportunities," Ms Jackson said.
But Australian Association for the Teaching of English president Monika Wagner said every teacher she knew taught English explicitly.
"It may not be taught in the way we teach grade 3 students. But we are always teaching writing," she said.
"Writing is about how you communicate not just how many full stops you have got."
Rachel Kafka has an appropriate name for an English teacher.
The head of senior school English at Leibler Yavneh College in Elsternwick said the school focused on writing in every subject. The Jewish school performs above or substantially above similar schools in all writing domains in the NAPLAN.
Year 9 students regularly review each other's persuasive writing, and focus on a new writing skill every few weeks, which might include using metaphors, similes or adverbs.
They study how to start sentences in interesting ways, and Bulgarian-French literary critic Tzvetan Todorov's narrative theory is used to teach narrative writing.
"For some students, writing is quite natural to them, but for a lot of students they need a more explicit model of instruction," Ms Kafka said.
Examples of year 9 writing according to the Australian curriculum:
"I have used a celebrity in my logo because people around the age group are most likely to be sucked in by Justin Bieber."
"In conclusion this advertisement has been created in order to educate mainly teenagers on how to stay safe in the sun but still have a good time."
"My advertisement uses many techniques such as call to action, appeal to emotions, reasoning and urgency."
By Henrietta Cook
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