I have recently started the persuasive writing unit with my class. After months of writing responses to literature, they have been very excited to finally write about personal topics. However, traditionally, teachers give students a few school-related topics to choose from-- gum and dress code being the most popular. Because I wanted their writing to be more authentic, we spent an entire day brainstorming problems or issues that were important to them that might make good essays. I really wanted them to have a personal connection to their compositions. Although there were some unique ideas like prohibiting children from being forced to compete in beauty pageants and forcing the government to literally print more money so they can pay elective teachers (keep in mind they don't take economics until high school), most students picked school topics like allowing personal electronics at school, dress code and gum chewing. I was completely surprised by this because, when discussing cell phone use at school, I informed them that if their phone is confiscated, teachers and administrators have the right to look through their text messages, etc. To say they outraged would be an understatement. I was certain they would want to write about this issue, but apparently the ability to rot your teeth while simultaneously giving yourself TMJ is more important than fundamental privacy. In their attempt to support their position, they cited sound evidence like "Who doesn't like gum?" and "It helps us think." How to argue with that! One student, however, admitted that students would probably spit it out on the floor and walls, but did not see this as a negative side effect. He wrote, "If you have different colors of gum and you stick them everywhere the school gets more colorful." Sounds like someone might have a future as decorator.
It is their silliness that keeps me energized. And obviously I am going to need the energy to help them with these essays!