The last few years have been turbulent, to say the least. Students have been faced with previously unknown challenges that have taken their toll on many aspects of their lives, including their academic ones. For two years between government mandates and school division direction, students had a pass on getting work completed. This was largely due to the unknowns of online school and equitable access. What students completed before we went online was the grade they got unless they wanted to improve and then they could do more. This led to many students over the last few years writing minimally. As the world decided to pretend covid is behind us and schools are to operate as close to business as usual as is possible I wanted to get back to writing. Increasing the volume, time spent, feedback, and the explored genres.
Twice in the last two years, I have had students report that the only writing they had done in school was essays before my class. I thought this was interesting as I have started exploring project-based writing, poetry, fiction writing, narratives, and of course the often tested essay. I have dabbled in multigenre work throughout my years in upper elementary and junior high but nothing to the extent that I do now. In our province, students must write essays as part of their year-end government assessments. Students have to be prepared for these tests and this urgency has led to a "teach to the test" mentality. I remember seeing a quote from Kelly Gallagher that helped me shift my thinking. The point was mainly that we don't need to teach to a test. If we provide multiple writing opportunities, students will be able to write the test with not much more than going over the form of the assessment. With that in mind, I wanted to develop ways that got students writing, and the multigenre project provided us with plenty of opportunities.
For my 9th Grade classes, I have students crafting magazines either solo or with their classmates in small groups. The grade 9 government-mandated assessment asks students to write a narrative around a guiding question. We have worked on the idea of writing around a controlling idea and taking the guiding question or statement, and turning it into a narrative essay response. For the Magazine project, students looked through a series of topics (maybe there were a hundred); they grouped topics they thought would complement each other, and they began to write. The entire project is compromised of
1 Book Review
1 Letter to the editor
Students are writing out their essays, and then we will be using Canva to format them into more of an article look. The finished product can either be digital or printed out and assembled in a layout type format. Class time has been structured in a workshop model so that students are free to run with ideas when they have them but I am free to support them when needed.
For the Seniors, I have found their engagement in writing is increased when they can be more creative. We have seen some incredible writing pieces this year when students have been able to craft writing around their own lived experiences. With that in mind and the fact that 2/3 of the class are graduating this year I played around with the idea of leaving a legacy and what you want to be remembered for to guide their multigenre assignment.
Make Your Mark
2 Personal Essays
1 Multimodal Submission
4 Additional choice pieces of writing that fit the theme
We looked at different writing genres to include journal entries, letters, essays, blog posts, graphic novels, and short stories. Students' only requirement is that all pieces must be tied to the idea of legacy or leaving your mark. Already the work that is coming in is incredible. Students are writing in genres that they are comfortable with and exploring areas new to them. I am thrilled with how the writing is going.
By the end of the semester, in my grade 9 and 12 classes, the students will have written somewhere between 8-12 essays and various other types of writing. We write a lot. I read a lot of student work, and we celebrate so much. This year students have learned to take chances; they have created texts in many forms. Giving students chances to explore and take risks has increased the volume of our writing. Students have never thanked me for providing them with more opportunities to write. I don't hear the groans about writing time like I did when the choices were not in their hands.
To start the school year, I sit down with the kids and say we do three things: We Read-We Write- We Talk. Exploring Multigenre work affords us opportunities to do it all.