New Writing Instruction Trends to Test in 2017
Writing instruction is evolving. Many of the recent changes are related to a shift away from teacher-centered models of instruction to learner-center models. What’s fascinating is that the greater emphasis on social learning is continually being augmented with digital tools. Ultimately, this influences how class time is used, projects are conducted and shared, collaboration is facilitated, and discourse unfurls.
While every teacher is incredibly busy—it’s important to test these (and other) instruction trends that continue to gain in popularity. You never know what’s going to work for you and your students until you try.
Giving any one of the following strategies a chance in your classroom in 2017 just might yield some intriguing surprises.
Give your students freedom of choice.
Here’s something you’re probably hearing about during professional development: Allow your students to pick their essay topics. This shift is inspired by the idea that any topic can be academic—and if students are allowed to pick ideas they find fascinating they’ll be able to explore them intellectually. Moreover, teachers encourage them to pick topics that align with their future academic studies or careers.
To make sure your assignment stays on track, fulfilling important academic standards and student learning outcomes, require students to find a minimum number of academic sources. Also, give them readings that will inspire them to turn their interests into academic writing. A great place to start is with Gerald Graff’s “Hidden Intellectualism.”
Have you tried this approach to your essay assignments? If so, share some of the pros and cons with us.
Personal stories and a focus on creativity.
Every student in high school (and possibly college) will be assigned a personal essay. But what are some teachers doing to change how students study the art of storytelling—and share these stories? One approach is to have students read more personal essays, short stories, and poetry. Teachers can also design a unit that broadly covers creative writing craft elements.
One novel approach is to ask students to publish their stories online using Medium. “Every day, thousands of people turn to Medium to publish their ideas and perspectives. Leaders. Artists. Thinkers. And ordinary citizens who have a story to tell. Posts range from scrutinies of world affairs to deeply personal essays.” The idea is that students will think about their audience in a new way—and put their writing in the world to shape lives and communities.
Technology meets project-based learning meets collaboration.
PBL facilitated by technology is taking off in K-12 but is relatively new in college English courses. College instructors are increasingly looking for new ways to use technology that helps students work together on writing projects.
What could a project entail—and what’s an example of technology that can be used for the final presentation? I am glad you asked.
Some instructors are asking students to collaborate together in the creation of blogs, online magazines, videos, and even mini websites. One example is an online magazine that will take the entire semester to produce. Students in a given group are required to create a central thesis behind the magazine and then create different articles (using MLA formatting) that present arguments to support their thesis.
For example, if you assign various readings on health and diet—students can build their own magazine with articles that present research and arguments covering what a healthy diet constitutes. Let the readings present the big questions and then watch as your students answer them together. Weebly is a popular website builder offering a free version that’s perfect for students to present their online magazine project.
This is only one idea. Other projects can be shorter and less complex. In the end, the idea is to have them learn how to work together in creating writing, arguments, and research that reaches beyond the four walls of the classroom.
This post is only the tip of the iceberg concerning new approaches to writing instruction and the technology that supports them. Share some of your newest ideas and experiments with us!