Put Your Lesson Where Your Mouth Is

23 Mar

When you are planning a writing assignment for your students, how do you know if it will work?


Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are the odds that you will have to yank the words out of your students like so many rotten teeth, and what are the chances that your assignment will ignite your students like little rockets of creativity?

If you are like me, you have had both of these experiences. You dread the former, and you chase after the latter like the Holy Grail. But what if I told you that you could take all the guesswork out of this process? What if you could know for sure–every time–what will work for your students and what won’t?

Well, you can. Here’s the trick: do it yourself first.

I actually stole this trick from my colleagues John Powers and Kim Reilly during a class that we co-taught, and it completely changed the way that I teach. Every time we planned a lesson, we wrote the assignment ourselves first. It became instantly apparent to us when we had a great writing prompt, and when we had a writing prompt that was too boring, too abstract, or too prone to cliche–not to mention the fact that these exercises made us better writers, better examples to our students, and thus better teachers. (Plus, your students are far more likely to get excited about a prompt when they see that you found it interesting and worthwhile enough to do it yourself.)

Try it yourself and let me know how it works for you!


One Response to “Put Your Lesson Where Your Mouth Is”

  1. alundeberg March 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing. Some interesting writing prompts I’ve used are the ones that evoke divergent thinking (i.e. if Iago was a kitchen utensil/appliance which one would he be and why? I got a lot of great responses, including one that compared him to a can-opener. Iago is sharp–both in mind and weaponry– opens many “cans of worms” and moves in one direction in his need to bring down Othello.)

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