A few weeks ago, my nephew arrived home from school with a plan. He still needed to get about 15 points for his AR (Accelerated Reader) total in order to attend the school shopping trip where kids were able to cash in points for money. He was determined, and not because he was dying to go spend what would amount to about $10 in junk but because he could not bear the thought of being left behind to write.
Yes, those that did not get the points required would be left behind on campus with a “two page” writing assignment about why they did not read the required number of books in order to earn their points. (Completely bad practice)
Yesterday, my nephew offered this feedback for such “writing as punishment” assignments.
I love writing stories, especially fiction. Writing gives me the chance to be creative because I can make up characters and have them do whatever I want. Why do teachers punish us with it though? I hate to hear, “If you don’t do this, you’re going to have to write.” I hate that so much. Sometimes when they do that, I just want to write anyway and make up everything just to annoy my teacher. Don’t they know that making us write like that just makes kids hate writing?
Please stop using writing as punishment. I like to write but when you punish us with it, it’s not fun. -Braeden, age 10
Punishment or to Waste Time
Writing as a time waster is just as bad. Upon the return from the shopping trip, Braeden’s teacher then told them to sit and write about what they bought and why they bought it.
The problem with this writing is that it begins and ends in the same place…on the student’s paper. This could have actually been creative writing and it could have even been more powerful if the experience was not limited to items but truly focused on the experience itself…and shared in some capacity for feedback. Except…it wasn’t…so there’s that.
I utilized writing in my math class frequently. My students wrote reflections, “what ifs”, wonderings, how-to letters and sometimes…just because. I read them…and gave feedback. We gave each other feedback. When were were able to write online via blogging through our LMS (My Big Campus…which I hated with all of my being), my students wrote and received feedback from their peers.
It wasn’t about punishment or “time wasting”. It was a human form of communication…sometimes real and sometimes, fictional…but always relevant.
If you are a teacher or decision maker using writing in this horrendous way, please rethink that practice. Writing is such a poetic form of expression and the moment that we turn it into something related to punishment or non-purposeful…we destroy a bit of our students’ desires to engage in such powerful practice.
Let’s rethink this…shall we?