One of the obstacles for reluctant learners is that they may fail to see the relevance to their own lives. Writing essays seems unrelated to the types of jobs they expect to have. More so if they don’t expect to go to college. While we know and can attempt to explain how the skills in essay writing are transferable to other types of writing, sometimes it’s valuable to actually use those real-world writing types in response to literature.
Some examples of real-world tasks for literature writing:
Friendly Letter Writing (which, truthfully, should be the guide for many friendly emails): Students will write a letter or two related to the characters or events from the story. This is a shorter activity, and includes the ability to practice addressing envelopes, which are not quite outdated yet.
Police Writing Activity (best for crime stories or stories with a crime): students will dig into the text for details. Good practice for reviewing and reading deep into the text. But also includes organizing thoughts and drawing conclusions.
Create an Infographic: This is a newer media, but continues to have popularity. It is used in marketing, memes, textbooks, and other places to quickly convey information in a fun, visual format. Students can make an infographic about the story or a character. Less emphasis on the writing part, but still includes digging into the text and analysis.
How-To Brochure Activity In: Students will take a component of the story and build a how-to brochure. They may use what the story offers or add on with research or experience. It can be a funny or serious activity. Giving information on how to do something is a common activity, and in many workplaces, writing down the instructions is needed too.
Fiction Analysis and Review Activities: Students often enjoy sharing their opinions– especially if they’re allowed to say something sucks (as long as they provide support!). Students will work to support their opinion with information from the text and analysis. Use in small chunks, with parts of a texts, or to build to a complete essay. This product includes task cards and choice lists for independent reading or whole class options. A final review can be done as a video (like YouTubers) or a writing response, either formal or informal.
Story-Based Research Project: Oftentimes a story includes topics the student may be able to explore further. It might be a small thing (like a reference to a specific type of structure) or a larger thing (historical event). Since it can be intimidating at times to come up with a fresh research topic, this allows students to be sparked by something in the text. To help, students can be informed in advance that they should be looking for something in the text that they might want to learn more about. As we know, research should be encouraged and nurtured beyond school assignments, but this is a start.
KWL Research Project: We have students complete a KWL. They dutifully fill in what they want to learn… and then the assigned reading fails to provide that information. Great. Now they can research it (and get credit in class for it!). This activity helps foster the curiosity of students, and acknowledges that rarely will any single reading on a topic answer all the questions, but that doesn’t mean we should just stop. (And sometimes students lack the drive, tools, or time to continue that research on their own, and that’s fair.) As we know, research should be encouraged and nurtured beyond school assignments, but this is a start.