Can we all just take a moment and remember dear, old Ms. Monotonous and the cranky, grump Mr. Stale? You probably know them, had them, or heard about them. They are the stereotypical English teacher. The ones that drone on and on, and then, at the end of the unit, they require a 10,000 word essay with little to no guidance. They are the ones that use the same lesson plans for all 40 years of their employment. They are the ones that ensure writing is a punishment for their insolent offenders (AKA students).
Obviously, this stereotypical vision of what an English teacher is like should be avoided. How can educators ensure that they are not (publicly or secretly) Ms. Monotonous or Mr. Stale? A simple way is to reimagine the process used to teach writing.
Ms. Monotonous might: Assign a 10,000 word essay with no guidance.
You should: Set students up for success by teaching not only content, but the steps necessary to produce the type of written work you are seeking. Teach and use effective pre-writing strategies like graphic organizers. There are free tools that allow for a digital brainstorming session both individually or collaboratively. This will help students to organize their content effectively.
Mr. Stale might: Make sure all students (regardless of skill set and circumstance) write essentially the same essay.
You should: Consider adding variety to how students demonstrate their understanding of the content. Multimodal composition (using more than one mode to express understanding) is becoming increasingly common in classes both nationally and around the globe. Technology access and digital resources have fueled this change. Consider a combination of visual (coloring, images), audio (sound effects, music), and linguistic (written text) demonstrations of understanding in lieu of only a written text.
Ms. Monotonous might: disengage students by using the same form of writing for every assignment.
You should: Make writing assignments exciting, engaging, and worthwhile. As a form of both expression and communication, writing is extremely valuable within and beyond the doors of the classroom. Dry, lifeless, and rote essays that do not seem applicable can be seen as punishments. Reimagine your written assignments into something more dynamic. Instead of making every paper about information regurgitation consider switching the tone and audience. For example, instead of writing a report on the Amendments to the Constitution, consider assigning students a persuasive piece where they argue if one had to be removed; which would be the least damaging to government and society? Switching perspectives can be impactful in writing as well. Instead of a report on the water cycle, assign students a narrative piece written from the perspective of a droplet of water.
Mr. Stale might: check plagiarism or cheating by keeping thick files of the work of previous students so no one can turn in a copied essay.
You should: use a plagiarism checker like Quetext. This is one technology that saves an educator time. Simply upload your student’s written work and our technology will use an advanced algorithm to find plagiarized materials. I think anyone who has ever searched by hand through an antiquated filing cabinet can agree that relying on technology to check for plagiarism is the way to go.
Ms. Monotonous might: be the only person who sees the finished work of a student.
You should: consider the processes of editing, revision, and publication through technology. Free digital sources are available that vastly increase the audience for student work. The internet makes publication easy and often free. Additionally, students can use a plagiarism checker to verify that they have not inadvertently plagiarized. In terms of publication, students are more driven to produce quality writing when they know someone (besides their teacher) will be reading it. For example, posting work to a blog that is shared with other students around the globe can create relevant and engaging conversations that increase the student’s motivation to produce engaging material.
“I want to be as ineffective as possible,” said no teacher ever. Educators don’t have to be the stereotypical Ms. Monotonous/Mr. Stale. Becoming a better English teacher is challenging but fulfilling; don’t forget that technology, a new perspective, and a little imagination can go a long way.