Through staff development, writing workshops, and online articles, the importance of keeping assignments relevant to student life has been a constant theme. The idea sounds logical and quite simple, however, sometimes it is easier said than done. When faced with the challenges of curriculum standards and pacing guides, it isn’t always easy to keep writing assignments relevant. Additionally, it can be even more challenging to align these writing assignments with other curriculum goals – all the while trying to keep it relevant!
Luckily, with Kidblog being such a staple in my classroom, our medium of writing is current. Kidblog has allowed us to build a writing community, where we can peer edit and give constructive feedback to our fellow writers. Additionally, it has provided my students with inspiration and a voice. With that being said, even though our medium is current, I had to stop and ask myself if my writing assignments still were.
I have taught language arts enrichment for several years. It took me awhile to get into the groove, and find my bearings. I can remember feeling completely overwhelmed in my first year, and finding comfort in the large teacher’s manual that had been used by many of my predecessors. I relied heavily on the textbook in my teaching plans and writing assignments. It wasn’t until this year that I realized that perhaps my textbook, published in 2006, may not be the best source for relevant writing activities. Our tools, students, and the times themselves are changing, and it was the moment for me to change along with them. Don’t get me wrong, there is some really valuable information in the textbook. While the grammar exercises are still useful, the writing content, varying from the sample essays given to the topics assigned, was difficult for my students to relate to.
Although it can be difficult, I try to align my grammar topic with a writing style. I do my best to come up with an essay assignment that will engage and pique the interests of my students. For example, we just finished up our unit on verbs, while also working on descriptive writing. Perhaps you have heard of the novel series Divergent, written by Veronica Roth. These captivating books give off a feeling similar to The Hunger Games, and have also been turned into a movie series. Divergent consists of five futuristic factions that each represent a different virtue. The members of each faction dress, behave and live their lives according to this virtue.
We have one formal essay assignment per quarter, and this quarter’s descriptive writing topic was called “DiVERBgent.” Students had to create three factions of their own, one to represent action verbs, one for linking verbs and one for helping verbs. My sixth graders really enjoyed this topic and came up with some incredible end results. Best of all, they couldn’t wait to read and comment on the essays of their classmates on Kidblog!