Make it Relevant

A language arts classroom needs to have relevancy, and especially so in writing.  It is hard enough to write good essays and stories, and even more arduous if the chosen theme or prompt is out of context.  Teachers may sometimes create a prompt in which a majority of students struggle for inspiration; the teacher will then discard that prompt for the future, or reorganize it.  It seems silly to have standardized testing have one prompt as shown by Kittle in “No Evidence of Achievement.”  The students won’t have a second chance at those.  The questions asked may be completely out of context, or as shown by Kittle, impossible to answer based on circumstances at home.

To this day, I will display pitiful writing if a wordy prompt “scenario” is chosen for me.  I can acquiesce from time to time, and be fine.  But if I had to follow topical creative writing prompts for the rest of my life I would simply quit writing.  Writing has to be an individualized process and to pose one writing prompt on a standard test is quite laughable.  Typically, I remember getting to chose between three or four but still it immediately shuts down imaginative processes and shifts the measuring stick towards ridged structure.  The prompts probably were not written by somebody who has dedicated their life to language arts and teaching.

The point of relevancy, for me, was best taken in the article entitled “Introduction to Teaching for Joy and Justice” by Linda Christensen.  It starts with Christensen pointing out that students may not need to be “fixed.”  This immediately says a student is flawed and out of order with normality.  I think anybody who loves to write knows it is okay to have some dings.  Students aren’t commodities in which the oil has to be changed for future efficiency.  Students don’t have to be weighed and measured every day, and teachers shouldn’t have to feel the pressure of standardized assessment lurking in the weeks ahead.  The more students read and write the better they will score on tests, and students will read and write more if the topics are relevant to their lives.  Christensen clearly backs up here method by posing a killer writing prompt in which students ask themselves or their parents how they “read without words.”  Meaning how are the duties of the day processed, physically and cognitively, without words.  For example, reading the slope of a construction site, or how to read customers coming into a business.

The articles this week were about teaching towards the students, and how this can be accomplished by reading out loud, personalized writing prompts, writing about authentic experience, and positive feedback which stresses on trigger words like “this piece of writing is important and you should pursue it” (Kittle).

Efforts should be sounded forth on getting students to believe their experience in the world is unique and authentic.  This will create better writers because the teacher will be able to give feedback in an area of interest rather than boredom.  Students will be receptive to feedback on pieces of writing that contain relevancy.

My independent reading this week has been “Black Elk Speaks” by Nicholas Black Elk and told by John Neihardt.  I’m only fifty pages in but it’s a great book, so far, about the spirituality of Sioux culture in the wake of Anglo expansion.  index4


Author: Zane Hesting

I am an education student at Chadron State College in Nebraska. My interests include fly fishing, reading books, watching movies, hanging out with family, and exploring.

One thought on “Make it Relevant”

  1. One thing that education courses typically leave out–and understandably so–is STUDENTS. When you aren’t in the classroom teaching yet, it’s hard to find a way to teach towards real students. But I think we risk designing irrelevant and inappropriate content when we aren’t focusing on work on the real human beings we are responsible to and for. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to think about curriculum that can invite us to teach towards students, as you so aptly phrase it.


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