Lately, I have written a number of articles to help you teach kids, whether you’re teaching in a school or home-schooling your own children. Recently, I was reminded yet again of the importance of allowing children the freedom to choose their own assignments. Thanks to my son, I learned a valuable lesson to make me a more effective teacher, while turning him into a more powerful writer.
A week ago my son listened to IEW Student Writing DVD for his assignment. His lesson was on writing a biographical sketch in a 5-paragraph paper. In the back of my mind I thought it would be great if he wrote about one of the early church fathers. We were studying the end of the Roman civilization and it would help him remember one of them. Besides, he could read one of the books that we did not have time to read in history. Of course, he was not very interested in those men.
He was clearly not interested in the topic which I found so fascinating. Once we talked about baseball, that all changed. He had been reading about the life of Derek Jeter, and wanted to learn more. When I suggested that he write his biography on Jeter, his whole attitude changed – suddenly, he could not wait to get started! He already knew of three sources for more information, and could not wait to get started.
That settled it – Derek Jeter it would be.
Over the past week, he has studiously collected information on Derek Jeter for his paper. Today, we narrowed his topics down to only three, keeping him from being overwhelmed. Over the next week, he will create an outline and begin writing.
He is much happier and more enthusiastic about his assignment, since he is writing about a topic that interests him. This keeps him motivated, and his writing is most effective when he has the freedom to choose a topic. He’ll learn more, and retain more, this way.
Wherever possible, let your kids choose topics which interest them. They will take ownership of their work, and be more motivated to boot. Try it soon – simply talk with your kids to find a topic which interests them, and then let them choose. They’ll love the chance to follow their passions, leading to better papers which will be a joy to read.