Engaging High School Students in Writing — A Guest Blog Post by the #BowTieBoys

Writing assignments have turned into a burden for many high school students today.  This is mainly due to the lack of student choice in writing and assessment in the classroom.  Most the time writings and assessments are chosen by what the teacher(s) believes to be the best for the student, without consulting the opinions of the student body.  This leads to a dangerous potential of the student losing interests with the task given.

There can’t be an expectation for the student to do their best work when they’re doing something that they’re not interested in.  A classroom favorite of the teacher is the infamous in-class essay.  It’s graded based off of the student’s interpretation of a reading that the teacher has given.  If the students don’t have interest in the reading given, then the result will show their disinterest. There will be a higher chance of success if the students are provided with something they can have an interest in and something they can care about.

It’s nearly impossible to find a piece of literature that will interest every student in the class, so to prevent this issue, it can be of value to have students choose the item to interpret.  This will allow them to find a topic that they have some passion behind, and the work they produce will show that.

Creative writing can also prove to be a difficult subject for some students.  The lack of guidelines and overall completely open structure of a creative writing assignment can overwhelm many students.  This is what causes the whole “Where do I start?” issue.  When this issue occurs, a great place to start is in discussion

A discussion is a great way to spark up some ideas in students that are having a difficult time figuring out where to start.  Start a discussion on a relevant issue in today’s world. The students who are talkative and will have an opportunity to voice their opinions and the more self-reserved students will still think about the topic while learning new views and ideas from other students.  After the discussion, you could ask students to use the theme of the discussion to construct a synthetic literary demonstration of their opinion.  This tactic is also used for read and response assignments for the same reason

Another way to introduce new topics to students and give them a little introduction to all kinds of writing styles and prompts is through quick writes.  Quick writes are a brief brain-dump on a question that is provided by the teacher at the beginning of class.  This can quickly get students into the right lane of thinking for the rest of the class.  They are also a very versatile assignment.  A teacher could structure a discussion immediately after, use the brief writing the student has used as a guideline for a more in-depth writing assignment later, or set up students thinking to the content they are about to learn for that class period.

At the end of the day, in a classroom setting, the best way to engage the students is to give them an area in which they can take interest and do as they wish.  This doesn’t mean don’t set guidelines, but rather don’t set boundaries on their imagination and wants of how the assignment should be completed.  It’s very difficult to make everyone happy, but even choosing what the majority wants is a great way to start the process of pushing the class to its full potential.

Cotton Bowtie Blue White Mode

Ryan Hur, Tam Mandanis, Kellen Pluntke, Rishi Singh, Christian Sporre, and Dawson Unger are six of the Bow Tie Boys, high school students who are — or have been — students of Jason Augustowski, a teacher from Loudon County, Virginia.

Ryan is a junior who has an interest in politics, debate, and community service.  Tam is a sophomore who enjoys art, guitar, and soccer. Kellen is a junior who is an avid golfer and musician. Rishi is a sophomore who enjoys music, soccer, and drawing. Christian is a sophomore with an interest in technology. Dawson is a sophomore who is a dedicated runner and soccer player.

Click here to read more of the Bow Tie Boys’ writing.