“I don’t need writing,” they’ll say. Kids, man… such know- it- alls. Nope, not about this. Tell them everyone needs writing, and show them with authentic writing.
When they’re fighting you about writing, go the authentic way and remember:
- There is more than one way to do this
- We are empowering students
- There will be consequences
More than one way
There are many authentic writing assignments and many ways to engage students; Shaunna Evans was able to list 21! She advises, “encourage them to engage in meaningful writing that has a purpose– and more importantly, a real audience.”
Picture this: Instagram caption assignment.
It would be one thing to have the students write captions and that be the end of the assignment. But let’s expand it:
Have them randomly pick pictures and create a caption. Tell students to ‘like’ other students’ captions. Now, they’re writing to a real audience, giving them incentive to think outside the box and try to appeal to their audience.
Why does it matter?
With so many different options, it’s a lot easier to give each student what they need. Some will grow up to be academics, others will be involved in a trade. But we can’t just “choose” which student to focus on. By teaching and emphasizing a wide array of authentic writing, students will find their voice and not want to fake sick every time you assign a writing assignment.
“If we wish to create a future-public that is capable of generating ideas and discoveries, we must make an intentional shift towards the authentic teaching of the writing process. By placing ownership firmly on student writers, they can feel empowered to develop and use their voices.”-Alex Kameen
As teachers, we have the power to empower students. Don’t let your students’ creativity and voice be stifled and silenced. Authentic writing gives students the opportunity to be a part of their education and to explore their ideas.
Why does it matter?
If we think of writing through a social justice lens, we are obligated to teach students authentic writing. If we choose to instead focus on formulaic writing, we are not preparing students to be critical thinkers. We are telling them to follow rules/not question anything. By using authentic writing, we are aiding in creating the minds of the next generation.
But that’s okay! Authentic writing can be controversial and there may be some obstacles to overcome. Sometimes assignments may be too controversial, like this assignment asking students to argue for Nazi agenda. Don’t let this example scare you away from authentic writing. Don’t do it alone; consult with veteran teachers for advice.
Why does it matter?
Authentic writing has the potential to have negative implications because it is authentic. If it wasn’t, everything would be sunshine and rainbows. Because we are trying to teach students skills that will serve them in the real world, it’s important not to shy away from the consequences. Discuss these with students; help them understand that authentic writing involves choices and choices have consequences. Rather than letting authentic writing fears take over, use them as talking points with students. If we hide the possible consequences, can we really call it authentic writing?
Utilize authentic writing and let students understand and appreciate writing in all of its forms. If the math teacher next door exudes “my subject is more important than yours because I teach these kids real things,” energy, ignore them. These kids may never need to figure out the circumference of a circle in life, but they will need to write. Teach them the authentic way.
2 thoughts on “Dear Future Teacher”
Hi Alicia. Wow, you are great at formatting a blog.
There is one section of your blog that I will focus on: the consequences of authentic writing–or authentic teaching, for that matter. I am not a teacher; the only experience I have in the field are my observations over the past year. Soon, most, if not all, of us will be teaching in a middle school or high school. We will be full of idealism, excitement, and energy. And, perhaps to some teacher’s chagrin, we will be willing and ready to tell a curious ear–and hopefully practice–what we have learned in our pedagogy courses. This is purely anecdotal, but some (and I will emphasize SOME, not ALL) of the teachers I have observed scoff at some of the ideas that we are learning in our teacher prep programs–some have even been downright dismissive. And I don’t really blame them: changing one’s ideas is painful. It seems that authentic writing instruction, or at least pseudo-authentic writing, is the only show in town–because, really, are there alternatives? But we know that authentic writing is not the norm in our schools–are we prepared to stand up under the pressure of conformity, apathy, and teacher burnout?
Alicia, this is one of the prettiest blog posts I’ve read so far. You have a great grasp on the images and links, and you format your thoughts beautifully. I enjoyed reading it all. I love how you tied in social justice to authentic writing and brought up real world examples of consequences through links! You have a lot of good ideas in here, such as the Instagram caption challenge, which I know I would have loved to do as a student. The one thing I can hope as a new teacher is that the fear of the consequences do not stray us away from our good, authentic ideas, but hopefully once we assign students with fun Instagram challenge assignments that give them all a voice, they won’t want us to stop!