I usually have to make a trade off each year in order to claim the privilege of teaching history. The trade off is teaching Language Arts as well to one or two groups of students. One of the writing assignments I provide students with each year is an essay regarding the different places they have lived, or if they haven’t moved around a bit they can write about their present home.
I might as well be telling my fourth graders we are going to move a pile of bricks from one location to another over and over for the entire day when I introduce a new writing assignment. The minute I even announce a writing assignment a wide assortment of groans and moans escape the mouths of my students. I can’t really blame them because in my own writing life I don’t want to be given a topic and then told to perform right then and there. Writing is personal. You have to want to do it. You must be connected to your topic in some way, and sometimes it just takes time.
Therefore I often try to get students motivated with some sort of connection-building exercise. I tell them some sort quirky detail from my own life (I have several), I read a short story aloud to them, or I have also shown a video clip. I follow this with a discussion where as a whole group we brainstorm various points they could include in their writing.
In order to motivate students to write about their homes I like to use Thomas Jefferson as my bridge. Want to know what I share with students? Then head on over to the American Presidents Blog for my entire post.
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A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine, and Thou