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ERIC Number: EJ842315
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 3
ISSN: ISSN-0013-8274
Making Writing Instruction Authentic
Kahn, Elizabeth
English Journal, v98 n5 p15-17 May 2009
Early in the fall of 2007, one of the author's students asked whether she could pass around a petition during class protesting the "moment of silence." The Illinois legislature had recently passed a law requiring all schools to observe a moment of silence at the start of each school day. A number of students who heard the conversation started expressing their views and asking questions about the moment of silence. The author seized this opportunity since her senior writing class had recently begun a unit on writing argument. She gave students the assignment to write either a letter to the editor of a local newspaper or a letter to a state legislator or the governor arguing their viewpoint on this issue. This assignment proved to be a good way to help students learn some important processes. This situation provided a great opportunity for students to learn effective strategies for writing an argument: taking a position, analyzing their audience, finding specific supporting evidence for their claims, analyzing the evidence, and anticipating and addressing counterarguments. Of course, this situation was a "teachable moment" that happened serendipitously. Such opportunities don't always arise. By second semester when the author taught the course again, students were weary of the moment-of-silence issue, and she could tell there would not be much enthusiasm for writing about it. Sometimes an issue arises about which students as a group feel strongly. But that doesn't always happen. A teacher certainly can't count on it to happen at just the right time. What can they do to generate the engagement and learning that result from writing about authentic issues and addressing real audiences? The author has found that it's possible to generate much the same response from students by presenting an event in the news that they haven't necessarily heard about. It has to be a situation that will be intriguing to them and produce a strong reaction. In this article, the author presents several examples of some cases that she has used successfully in recent years.
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois