Writing Is Hard Work

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  • Roger Colby

Common Core Writing: First Day of School Assignment

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbin...

You never know what will hatch from the minds of your students. (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

Yesterday was the first day of school for our students.  Often it is difficult to have something for students to do right out of the box on the first day, since our syllabi may not have arrived from the copy center, our room may not be 100% ready or we may not have written a single lesson plan to start the week.  Below is what I did with my students on the first day, and it is a great way to gauge student writing ability so that we can begin building a strategy to improve their critical thinking and writing ability.

1.  Open by telling students to think of something that causes them to have extreme emotion, either anger, sadness, happiness, disgust or joy.  This will curb all random nonsense that teens sometimes like to discuss that slows down the class.

2.  Students will find someone in the room with whom they are not very familiar.  If there are an odd number of students, the teacher should pair themselves up with one student.

3.  Students will then interview each other, asking the following question:  “What is something that you feel strongly about and why?”

4.  Students should write down whatever the interviewee says, with explicit instructions not to judge or try to interpret what the interviewee says at first.

5.  Students then go back to their seats and write a few sentences in which they will write about what they learned from the interview.

6.  Students will then write a few sentences in which they will record their own thoughts and judgements about what the interviewee said.

7.  Students will then write a 3 paragraph essay along the following guidelines:

  1. Students must write a claim statement that states the interviewee’s strong feeling.

  2. Students must write a paragraph explaining that strong feeling without bias or judgement.

  3. Students must write a paragraph describing what they learned from the interview.

  4. Students must write a paragraph judging the strong feeling based on personal feelings.

The rationale behind this exercise is that students are going to get a sense of what it is to listen to a point of view and then judge that point of view through their own lens.  They will also find out that some people have different opinions about life and that we do not have to agree with one another completely to have relationships with each other.

Do you have a first day of school writing assignment?  Share them below!

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