Before I go into the results of this experiment, I would like to apologize for not writing as often as I intended. I found myself looking for excuses to not write everyday and this scared me. I don’t want to fall into a well of excuses and not be writing. It is my career choice after all. Please forgive me and thanks for continuing to stop by and read. Okay, enough of that, and on to the results.
To review, the students were complaining about the prompt that had been assigned and so I suggested we write a prompt as a class. This excited the students and it forced them to have the reading complete in order to participate in the discussion.
I first provided them with the original prompt assigned for the reading. Then as a class we discussed what the goals were for this prompt. What major issues should the paper discuss if using this prompt, issues like ethics, social concerns, and government control (just as an example). We then took the original prompt, the goals for writing the papers, and created another prompt that encompassed the same goals. The prompt that students ended up writing was very close to the departmental prompt, but they claimed they understood it better.
Finally, they had to actually write the paper. I will admit I was quite concerned with what the outcome would be. I was so concerned I allowed the students to choose from either prompt. While the papers would undeniably be very similar as far as the big picture, letting the students decide allowed them to feel in control.
So what happened? Well, the papers were great! I was so pleasantly surprised. In the past, using the prompt style of teaching writing I found that students end up writing about the same general topics; inevitably topics discussed in class. This time, however, I read about so many different topics. I am so sure this is because in writing the prompt themselves the students were able to think of topics that they were excited about. Instead of reading 40 some odd papers about abortion and illegal immigration, I was reading about different cultures, fascinating ethical issues, technologies, and so many other unique topics. I was thrilled.
While I’ll be teaching again this summer and next fall, I will not be using the department’s reading choices and prompts, instead, I’m choosing to write my own prompts, and decide on whatever readings I please. I still think I will allow the students to attempt writing the prompt again. This will not only provide them with a better understanding of the reading but it will also provide me with more prompts to use in the future.
I would love to hear some feedback on what you think about this experiment and if you teachers out there have done anything similar.