I would have never guessed that Sean, not his real name, could write as well as he does if it hadn’t been for the  first post he wrote for the blog I helped him set up last week.  LOL! Talk about the power of authentic assignments.

Sean’s career goal is to be a critic. Now, to be honest I couldn’t  see that happening ( give me a minute to wipe the egg off my face) given the writing, or should I say the lack of writing he has been doing in my class. I couldn’t get him to write more than a few sentences, let alone finish any assignments that involved writing.

I was really concerned on a couple of levels.   First,  I wasn’t sure that he was going to pass my course. He has excellent oral skills but weak writing skills, or so I thought.  Secondly, I  was concerned about his career goal. He wanted to be a critic.   I thought that career choice  was unrealistic given his writing ability.  Shows you how much I know.

We were talking in class about what courses my students would have to take given their career goals.  Sean said that he would have to take courses at college or university so he could be a critic. That’s when the light bulb came on in my head.  Sean could be a published critic without taking any courses.  He could write his critiques as posts in a blog and publish them on the Internet for anyone to read.

Sean was excited about setting up a blog so he could be a critic, and so was I.  We talked about what he wanted to be a critic of.  He wasn’t sure, so I told him to think of something he had a passion for and write about it.  Turns out he has a passion for digital games (surprise, surprise) , and that’s what he is going to write about in his blog.

I helped Sean set up his blog, and he wrote his first post and even added an appropriate image. He was delighted to see that he had 10 hits over night.  I told him that it would take a bit of time for the magic of the search engines to bring readers to his blog and that it was important that he write posts on a regular basis.  That’s when he told me he just finished writing his fifth book.  I guess  writing regularly won’t be much of a problem for a 17 year old who has just finished writing his fifth book. OMG. Who knew, and this from someone who I thought hated writing and avoided it at all costs.

Sean hated writing all right. He hated writing the assignments I gave the class and avoided completing them as much as possible. It wasn’t until he had an authentic piece of writing to do, the critique in the blog post, that he was motivated to write and demonstrate his considerable writing skills.

There’s definitely a lesson for the teacher in there somewhere.

photo thanks to topshampatti

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One Response to “The motivating power of authentic assignments.”

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