Teaching an English course is no easy task, especially if students feel like they can’t connect with what they’re writing. If they hear they need to write a 1,000-word essay on a social issue by Thursday, students may feel overwhelmed with a blank Word document staring them in the face instead of feeling excited about relating to the topic.
Writing can be fun and interesting, and sometimes it’s the format that keeps students from understanding that. Perhaps thinking outside of the traditional academic paper will make writing less intimidating and more enjoyable for students.
Here are three easy ways to make writing assignments more relatable to your students:
Many students are probably already familiar with blogs, if they don’t have their own personal blog already. More and more businesses, institutions, and individuals have turned to this online source of communication to inform audiences of current events and maintain transparency. Why not let students try blogging their assignments?
Students can start their own blogs for free and post mini “essays” each week based on your class discussion. They can comment on other students’ posts and continue exploring the conversation outside of class.
Plenty of blogging platforms exist and are easy to learn. WordPress, Blogger, and others provide a free space for writers to share their thoughts with the online community.
Plus, you can share blog posts that tackle writing issues and grammar. The blog Hyperbole and a Half, for example, mixes grammar and fun in the post “The Alot is Better Than You at Everything.” You’re guaranteed to have a memorable lesson thanks to Allie Brosh’s humorous writing style and equally hysterical illustrations. Never see “alot” in a paper again!
This website places writing in a smartphone texting interface so it looks like you’re texting anyone—from a parent to a friend to a colleague. Students can practice different tones of voice by pretending they’re texting a friend vs. texting an older family member.
Students analyze their audiences and the situations surrounding their writing every day they text—they might just not be aware of it. They know which abbreviations and acronyms will be understood by friends and which need to be spelled out for parents. They understand they need to make their writing clear in a small space to get their point across. A quick exercise asking them to think critically about how they address certain people via text messages, when they text, and the timing or frequency of their responses will encourage interesting discussion points about writing!
Twitter being used in class? That’s right! Students need tight control of their language when composing a quick and pithy tweet. They can also analyze trends to judge which tweets are persuasive in their arguments, which miss the mark, and why. Encouraging students to tweet will get those creative juices flowing.
Another option of involving social media in your English class is a Facebook group. You can keep this group closed for stricter privacy so that only members can see the posts. Students can join and post articles that are relevant to class discussion, share their own thoughts, and enhance the community of the class outside of the classroom.
We hope these ideas will kick-start some creativity for your next writing assignment! Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments below!