Communication Arts/Language Arts Teachers?

Question:What are some real-life writing and reading assignments? I need a few suggestions. Thanks!

Answers:
If you want practical applications in life, I'd gather a few job applications, a bank account application, an apartment rental application (advising the sources about the purpose of your gathering these items), and even an income tax form for the students to read and complete.

You could divide the class in to groups and rotate the forms, having a "review" team reading the applications and providing responses. For example, would you, based on the information given in this application, rent an apartment to this applicant? Would you grant a loan to this person? Would you hire this applicant?

Or you could create some applications yourself and ask the students to evaluate the scenarios you present based on the information on the applications, considering spelling, clarity of writing, content, completeness, etc.

While this initially seems extremely limited in its focus, the opportunity to explore practical uses of reading and writing could open a wide range of teachable moments, and provide a wealth of practical information for your students.

I've also had students write summaries of interviews with family or respected community members about such topics as "What do you believe to be the most important discovery made during your lifetime?" - "Who was the most influential person in your life and why?" - "What is the best book you have ever read?"

Keeping a journal for a single day of all reading and writing tasks completed is also interesting. A real different sense of what "reading" and "writing" are can come from this discussion. For example, how much "non-verbal" reading is described:
dressing in response to the weather, watching for cars to determine when to cross the street, looking for symbols indicating when to stop or to go, watching someone's face for a reaction, looking at someone's manner of dress or presentation or listening to voice tone to determine how to respond, etc.

Literal reading such as menus, ingredients, assignments, notes, text messages, shopping lists, music scores, math problems, currency denominations, cartoons, t-shirt designs, etc., are sometimes taken for granted as well.

And writing: how do I dress (do I dress for others to "read" me in a certain way), do I speak or act in a certain way, does my handwriting change when I am uncomfortable or trying to impress someone? How does "text message" writing change meaning (or does it) from a hand written letter? How does my locker decoration or room decor or ink color "write" my story?

My belief is that comprehension includes speaking, listening, reading, writing and viewing, all of which must be used to create and support meaning, and these aspects of making meaning must be identified for students in order to help them realize that multiple strategies are available to make meaning which is the basic purpose of reading.

After discussing "reading" and "writing" and brainstorming their possible applications, asking the students to keep track on a second day of all their reading and writing tasks gives the opportunity to expand their awareness of how many ways they read and write, as well as how these skills have such value in their daily lives.

It has been my experience that creating a global definition of reading and writing is vital to a student's recognition that these skills go well beyond what we "have to do" in school and include all aspects of daily living.

This approach also helps less fluent readers realize they may have a greater range of good reading strategies than they thought, and may then encourage them to expand their range of skills to enhance fluency and comprehension rather than to quit trying out of frustration.

It may also be interesting to begin work in this direction with a reading survey such as suggested by Constance Weaver in her book "Reading Comprehension". In part, it asks students to give their definition of reading (or writing), to identify a "good reader (or writer)", describe what a "good reader (or writer)" does, to rate themselves as a reader (or writer), and to identify that they'd like to be able to do better as a reader (or writer).

I use this survey with students of all ages, and have found it to be amazing in the wealth of information it provides. If a student thinks of reading and writing as tasks only to be done in school, exploring the practical daily use of these skills could be very revealing, and enlightening for everyone!
It's hard to know what you mean by real-life. My students write a personal essay they can use for college applications and scholarships; they also create a resume and write a cover letter. Your students could write an article for the local newspaper, or maybe they could create a school newsletter or newspaper. Real-life reading assignments could be anything nonfiction.

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