Thursday, September 22, 2011

So You Do It!

Practice makes perfect. That's what I tell my students when they lament the fact that they've already written this type of piece before or read this kind of story before. Are you perfect at it? No? Then you can still improve.

Inevitably, you will have a child who reminds you that you are not perfect, either. This is only natural. Would you want to do extra work if there was a way to weasel out of it? Well, maybe you would because you want to better yourself as an individual. Most teenagers, especially those who dislike reading and writing already, don't want to do work if they can help it.

Here's a trick that gets students to do that work that they dread. Do it with them. If you want them to do a worksheet, do it yourself. If you want them to write about their personal hero, make sure you can share you're answer. If you want them to write a personal narrative, by God, be ready to write that personal narrative.

I was called out on Wednesday. I have to have my students write a personal narrative in the first unit. As my honors kids sat typing their pieces, one kept complaining. I told him he could complain all he wanted, it wasn't optional. "Oh yeah? It doesn't look like you're doing it." Sure he was getting a little sassy, but he wasn't be aggressive. And true, I wasn't doing it.

So I sat at a computer and began drafting my own personal narrative. I wrote about my experience in the mini marathon. Before I got started, about a dozen students were trying to talk or generally be off task. When I started typing, they glanced at me and immediately got to work.

It's so simple, but it works every time. Think about your family. How excited is your kid going to be when you tell him to do chores that you won't do? What if you do them together? How excited are you to do something your spouse tells you? You're probably going to be much happier if they are performing the task as well.

Never ask your students to do something you wouldn't do. If it's a ridiculous waste of time, don't do it. And be sure to share your example with your kids. They'll love it.

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