10,000 is the magic number.



http://dilbert.com/strip/2013-02-07 By Scott Adams 

I had been reading around  the 10,000 hour rule that was shared by Gladwell. You can read all about the research and also how and why it was recently criticised. 

At the same time I have been analysing our student data against national standards. At this time of the year I usually have a look at how we are doing and particularly how my ELL students are doing. I have written about this process before. 

I looked at our writing data and wondered about the hours that we put into daily writing. A 40 hour work week multiplied by 5 years equates to an estimated 10,000 hours.

Children should be having approximately 1/6 of that or about 6,000 hours worth of school learning by the time they leave primary school. I am taking into account the 40 week school year. So 25 weekly hours face to face multiplied by the 40 week year.

If we want to see a shift in our school’s writing data then we have to be targeting that number. However the realities of school life indicates that writing happens more like 200 hours per year. I thought about the usual class timetable that schedules an hour a day for writing. I haven’t carried out any research into this claim but am just putting it out there. In order to fulfil a daily writing schedule as educators we have to be focusing on writing across the curriculum. I have been working in the senior part of the school this term for an hour a day and have the fabulous opportunity of being part of an experiential timetable. One way I see around this dilemma of practice is encouraging students to write at home in the same way that we encourage them to keep a reading log. 

I wonder too if a 2P in writing equates to 600 hours worth of crafting. The article mentioned a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement. No shortcuts. No naturals. So I wonder too if we can fast forward a 2P to a 3B if that requires another two years years or another 200 hours of writing practice.

Personally I also believe that teachers too should be writing. They should be crafting their own work and working on their own skills. I believe it is not enough to teach writing but should be happening as part of teacher’s own learning.

One way of gaining motivation to undertake writing is to create a reflective journal. I read with interest some of the comments teachers on the New Zealand Primary School Teacher’s Facebook Page gave in regarding to keeping a digital portfolio. I believe that part of my portfolio includes me reflecting on what I do in a visible way and I do that by blogging. I wonder how these same teachers evidence their professional teacher criteria. Surely if you teach writing you should be working on your own skills.

If you want to find other New Zealand teachers who reflect in visible ways and who practice the craft of writing then look no further than


I wonder what are your thoughts on educators teaching writing. Is it enough to teach writing or do you also believe that teacher writing and teaching writing go hand in hand?

I look forward to the dialogue.


2 thoughts on “10,000 is the magic number.

  1. The fabulous Mis H has responded and has me thinking even more. My TESOL Diploma highlighted the importance of language across the curriculum. So writing fits across the curriculum. I am conscious of seeing the writing slots happening in classes. But like reading I believe it needs to be happening as part of the school day. EG: Writing up science investigations, or reflecting on mathematics learning or just free writing with no agenda. I have just completed an assignment and let me make it known, free writing is so much more fun. I like to write to help clear the cobwebs and I know that my own practice has improved greatly from this fabulous strategy.
    Thank you Belinda for the deep conversations you take me on. I always really enjoy the way you think and being in your team this term has allowed me to see what a gem we have in you as a teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A nice little dose of disruptive thinking from the whirring cogs inside Mrs Van Schaijik’s thinking cap. Let’s look at the points you’ve raised.

    First cab off the rank: The 10,000 hours notion is a reductive one – for the reasons you state. Gladwell. Shameless self-promoter or visionary? Here’s a little something on that conundrum: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/30/malcolm_gladwell_no/

    Now, about numbers. My hunch is that teaching writing is not about the numbers at all. That is the pup we have been sold. We’re all about the ‘never mind the quality, feel the width’ in our approach to writing. But clearly, more is not more.

    If we spend roughly the same amount of time teaching writing as we do on reading and maths, how is it that writing achievement generally lags behind its more accomplished cousins? The answer to that lies in the complexity inherent in the whole enterprise of teaching writing. It is much easier to teach long division than it is to teach writing. There is a formula. There is a right answer. It is not open to interpretation.

    Writing is an art form, as our colleague Andrea Des Forges recently noted. And therein lies the problem. Sure, we can teach the ‘formula’ for writing an argument, report or explanation, but what lifts a utilitarian piece of writing like this to make it a pleasure to read? ‘Voice’. That unique turn of phrase which turns potentially arid prose into something that jumps off the page. It is almost ineffable, certainly subjective, and thus oh so difficult to teach.

    We spend hours in the classroom having children grind away earnestly on tasks that we believe promote good writing skills. Tasks such as dreaming up similes, metaphors and personification which we hope will encourage literary flourishes in their writing. Aside from boring most boys to absolute tears (shameless generalisation, but still…), the result is usually neither pithy nor interesting. All too often, the product of such tomfoolery is purple prose of an execrable order. Unfortunately, too many teachers equate these saccharine servings with quality writing. They risk alienating boys (and aspiring writers of any gender ) who do not wish to raise the calorific content of their writing with the addition of gratuitous adjectival phrases.

    I am not saying we shouldn’t teach these aspects of writing. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t lay it on with a trowel, out of context, just because we think it’s good for them.

    What to do then? I am not sure, I am no expert on the subject, but what I am sure of is that something must change. If it is not a numbers game, then it must all come down to purpose, relevance and highly quality, timely instruction. No real news there.

    Should we be teaching writing as a separate subject? I say no – it should always be linked with reading, if nothing else. Not a new notion, but one that seems to have been somewhat lost in translation – leveraging students’ interests across the curriculum for writing. It’s a simple idea, but it is messy in its application. Perhaps this is why it is not favoured by most.

    And yes. Teachers need to be writers too – and not just at report writing time! Wrestling ideas onto the page is a struggle we should all know. It should make us better writers – and teachers of writing.

    Thanks for raising these points, Sonya. You’ve really got me thinking. I am now starting to brew some ideas about how to wrangle a better quality writing programme in our new, ever-evolving learning space…


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