Kim Kardashian’s Stolen Jewelry.
Tom Brady’s Suspension from the NFL
If you asked your students what they have been writing about, what would they say? Ignore the blank stares at first….
Your students ARE writing.
This generation is writing and reading a lot, just not necessarily about what you’ve assigned. But between snapchat, texts and online listicles, you have plenty of high-interest fodder with which to springboard writing instruction!
What if you asked them what they were texting about recently?
What articles they read online?
What they heard their parents talk about?
What funny memes have they shared lately?
Even though we cannot always have students just write about what is on their minds, there is no better way to get them accustomed to the blank page as a canvas for expression, thought, conversation.
The following are ideas to SPARK student interest in writing, based upon what they are already talking and writing about.
1. From Under a Rock
There’s a funny bit from 30 Rock where Alec Baldwin’s character commissions Tina Fey’s character to put together a presentation of the news and pop culture top stories from the past year for someone who has missed it. You never get to see the “pop culture rap”, but it’s clear that it’s an overwhelming and awesome responsibility for Fey’s character to be tasked with and she throws herself in headlong.
Have your students do the same- ask them “If someone crawled out “From Under a Rock” right now, what pop culture references and news stories would they need to know to keep up with you and your friends?”
Let them decide whether to rap it, make a Presi, write a list-based article or whatever else they can come up with, but surely they will get creative!
-Assign genres (pop culture, sports, politics) to different groups
-Require students to write about why they chose which stories they did
-Use this as a lesson in correctly linking to photo credits and sources
2. 6-Word Story
One of the most successful writing programs I used when teaching middle school writing was that of the 6 Word Story. After introducing them to the concept from (a filtered version of) the examples from Ernest Hemmingway’s famous challenge, I set them free to create as many as they wanted within different genres.
The boundary of “6 Words Only” encouraged reluctant writers and was deceptively simple. The low barrier to entry made it fun!
-Have students retell a novel from literature class using a series of 6-word stories
-Investigate other examples of microfiction.
3. Make a Meme.
Allow your students plenty of leeway on this one. Beyond using memes for classroom rules or policies, this idea places students in the driver’s seat and encourages them to be participants, not just consumers, of the internet culture they inhabit.
If you’re unfamiliar with memes or want a brief history and explanation, check it out here.
-Have students investigate the history of a favorite meme
-Assign groups to create stories using only memes
-Challenge students to retell a novel or play from literature class using memes.
Obviously, all of these ideas require the instructor to filter and guide as you explore trends and internet fads with your students. Still, the high-interest and engagement factor is worth it!
These ideas are just a springboard. What have you come up with in your own classroom? What has sparked student interest in your school?