One of the questions that has constantly interested me as a future educator is how do we get students invested in their own education, especially in their writing? Even when we come into college, we moan and groan about taking core classes, or constantly ask the question, “Why do I need to take ____ if I want to be ____?” I know I’m guilty of joining in the whining too: why did I have to take algebra and biology when I want to read F. Scott Fitzgerald and write non-fiction for the rest of my life? But as we read in the chapter from Gallagher, the importance of writing stretches—or should stretch anyway—into all subject matters. I found it really interesting that when he sent around his students to collect different writing samples from their various classes, none of them had anything to show. I reflected back on my high school years, and asked myself, would I have anything? So that prompted the additional question: how do we get students AND teachers invested in the importance of writing specifically?
So I simply Googled the question, “How to get students excited about their writing” and found this article. It’s a simple blog much like ours, written by a teacher who claims that she, “…found school boring and irrelevant. That ticked her off so she became a public school educator who works to help change that for others.” In it she talks about an experience when she saw students excited about writing. They had to write a letter to someone in their class via their new email account they had learned to set up (this was in the 90s so the concept of a personal email was quite exciting, more so than today). She says the activity involved the following:
- They are real.
- They affect kids lives.
- They have real audiences.
- The desire to write comes from the student, not the teacher.
She then gives us a list of ten things students are interested in writing about:
- Email writing
- Facebook updates and comments
- Tweeting and replying
- Discussion Boards - Replying and initiating topics
- Commenting on blogs
- Writing a guest post on a blog
- Commenting in newspapers or magazines about subjects of interest
- Writing an article for a newspaper or magazine about a subject of interest
- Writing to persuade someone / some place to do something you want them to do
- Writing to teach others how to do something and knowing how to reach those who care
During my work in the Writing Center, one of the biggest takeaways has been that you call the student a writer, not a student or a tutee or anything else. Calling them a writer gives them ownership of their work, and automatically makes them want to perfect their writing because it’s theirs. It’s not their professor’s paper, it’s theirs. Nielsen suggests the way to do this is to give assignments that are of interest to the students by giving them an audience that makes them want to be better, like the students who wrote to their peers in an email. This is both applicable to their life and gives them a chance to practice professional writing.
But of course, we know that we can’t sit there and write on Facebook all day. So questions to consider: how can we get students excited about their writing, while still instilling the basics concepts and the standards mandated by our district? How can we get them to think creatively and make it their own, while still getting them into college? How can we as teachers, show our students that they have ownership of their writing, and get them invested in the importance of writing? And also, how can we reach to other subject areas to show the importance of writing in every field?