Most of the time, students are writing for a very small target audience; primarily their teachers. Often the students are writing without attachment to the task at hand. Students are writing simply because it is an assigned task and not for the love of learning, literacy or writing. Sadly, any assigned writing task is merely one of the many homework assignments they have added to a long list of tasks or to-dos.
This is certainly less from ideal as students should be engaged and motivated writers who are connected to their publications regardless of how big, or how small their target audience is.
As an educator, one of my priorities is to create lessons that are meaningful whilst teaching required conventions, techniques or skills. It is without a doubt that authentic learning can only take place when the task has value beyond simply meeting a deadline. The value must cultivate intrinsic motivation to facilitate a true learning experience and outcome. For this reason, I asked myself, “How can I create a meaningful writing assignment that the students are connected to and that will have long lasting effects?”
To answer this question, I assigned an ABC Book Project to my students. The assignment directed students to question “How can I help others learn how to read?” As well as“How can I generate excitement around literacy?” The Rooster students answered the questions by creating ABC Books with a social justice mission.
Creating a book is a complicated task despite how it may look on the surface. On the surface it may just look like a series of drawings coupled with simple text; however, when the assignment is viewed from the very start, one can see that there were a lot of choices to be made. Students had to decide what message they wanted to share that was well beyond a simple ABC Book including the likes of “A is for Apple.” They had to think of effective ways to deliver an idea. The students had to create, write and illustrate the books and they also had to present their books to a young audience.
They had to practice their presentation skills; thus, compelling the students to connect with their writing on a number of levels. They had to be willing to move beyond the page into an active arena where others can interact with what they are doing. The students were given the opportunity to become the authors that they are.
Not only did the students become authors and publishers, they became community builders. Creating books and reading them to an audience is a community building activity because the students’ writing no longer lives on a tired page only to be read by the teacher. The students also donated their books to the school library allowing their work to have long lasting effects.
Authentic learning has long lasting effects. Whilst the physical books will remain on the shelves at Little Mountain Learning Academy, I am hoping that the lesson will remain always in the hearts and minds of the students.
By Jacqueline Stewart