Motivating Students and Not Licking Desks

21 Oct

So many of us are struggling to help our students to see the relevance of classroom assignments to their lives and to help motivate students to do their best work. Though this article is from the perspective of a college instructor, I think that middle and high school teachers can glean a number of good ideas from her article. Namely, let’s create authentic tasks for our kiddos! They’ll believe us in our never-ending campaign to try to convince them that writing is important if we actually help them to do important writing. 

My sister is in her first year of college, and I wish her freshman writing instructor were practicing some of these ideas. My sister, who is an animal science major, was most recently asked to write a descriptive paper about an item in her dorm room – she chose her desk – in which she uses her five senses. Snooze fest! And good luck trying to convince someone who loves science that this writing (My desk tastes like…chili?) is going to help her – ever. That’s the tremendously sad thing. Descriptive writing is, of course, hugely important in the sciences, but my sister isn’t buying it. Bring her a real-world example of science writing, and let her try her hand at that. I mean, I have two degrees in English and 10 years of teaching experience in the field, and I have never had to lick my desk. Let’s try not to ask our students to lick theirs. 

On that note, check out this awesome article on the immortal jellyfish. This is one of the best pieces of science writing I’ve read recently. Let’s do more of this!

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