While looking/reading through my peers blogs, I couldn’t help but to focus in on Katie Mason’s blog entry for Entry 9. Throughout past classes with Katie, she has often brought up her struggles in trying to actively engage her students in the writing process. Using this information, I found it particularly important in her blog entry when she stated, “Make writing not only purposeful, but also engaging.” Knowing the difficulties that Katie has had in trying to get her students to read and write, I believe that keeping this statement in mind, in that through motivation, students can do anything. Tompkins (2006) notes that oftentimes, students who are unmotivated, usually do the bare minimum, becoming uninterested in a writing topic or project that does not interest them (p.253). As teachers, we can help to improve these problems by allowing students to work together on collaborative compositions, or even to allow students to choose their own topics to write about Incorporating both into the classroom will not only engage students in the writing process, but also help to improve their confidence and interest in reading and writing (p.253). As teachers, we can still add a little bit of structure to the assignment if necessary, by allowing students to choose a topic from an array of choices, as well as asking students to check in with you prior to developing their pieces to make sure that their choice is appropriate as well as challenging enough for them.
Choice is intrinsically motivating for students, and I think that it was a terrific idea for Katie to allow her students to choose a topic to write about, based on something they were interested in. Although his topic on legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes may be an issue that is controversial, it is an authentic and relevant topic that is being discussed in many states right now. Katie’s student can expand and dive deep into this topic in many ways. Using this topic as a persuasive piece will help him to think critically, analyze arguments, and use written language effectively in his petition. However, I think that as an educator, Katie should make it aware to her students the differences between persuasion and propaganda, as well as to keep their selected audience in mind before and during the writing process.
Throughout Katie’s blog entry, she had mentioned that this particular student had become so enthralled in the development of his piece, that he completely ignored the instructional components of the assignment. Maybe Katie could have a conference with him on the side explaining to him that in order to develop a strong case; he must listen and understand the persuasive genre. To help students stay engaged, it might be helpful to teach students this genre through a series of mini-lessons, in which students become familiar with how to construct an argument, as well as how to persuade people. Katie could also assign students to groups/partners, using such to hold discussions on whether a given piece/book is a form of propaganda or persuasive piece and why. Such groups/pairs could also look through examples of persuasive pieces, discussing what makes such pieces a strong or weak argument and why, coming back as a whole class to discuss their findings. Each group/pair could even be assigned different pieces. Looking back to my own high school career, I found it extremely motivating and engaging when my teacher allowed each of us to choose a controversial topic to argue for/against. After developing our pieces, we had to argue for/against our pieces in front of the class, and then the class got to vote for or against my topic based on my petition. This helped me gain confidence, express myself and opinion based on something that was important to me, as well as practice my public speaking skills. It was also authentic, because my peers were my audience. I was not developing my argument for my teacher, but for a real group of people.
Overall, it sounds like Katie is on the right track. It is essential to keep in mind the importance of interest when working with students. I think that as Katie builds that trust with her students, she will be able to knock down their walls. By creating engaging activities, students will build up their confidence, becoming better readers and writers. I believe that motivation and purpose go hand in hand. If students are given a real purpose for their writing, then they will be more motivated in developing a stronger writing piece, ultimately becoming more engaged in the learning process