You know those mindset lists that tell you things like to your current students Harry Potter has always been the most popular book in the universe, M&Ms have always been pink during breast cancer awareness month, whenever the heck that is, and Jetson’s-style video phone calls have always been real–except that they don’t know who the Jetson’s are? You know the ones that make you feel old as the hills and the white elephants combined? I love/hate them. I read them every year with a macabre sense of my own mortality. I read them and laugh/weep.
They drive home the fact that I’m not a teenager. People quit believing I was still having my 29th birthday every year some time back. My students and I are from different generations. It gets harder and harder every year for me to think of writing prompts that appeal to them or even make sense to them. Still, I must try. They write better when they write about things that are meaningful to them. Alas, writing about things that are meaningful to me doesn’t help them nearly as much, aside from the fact, of course, that it helps me get through their papers. Never make them write about things you don’t want to read. That’s a disaster for everyone.
Thus, I’ve made an effort to come up with writing prompts that we can all care about as well as topics that help us think through issues we face in the world we live in now, as opposed to the one I lived in 20 years ago before many of my students were born.
I’ll just suggest a few now. I hope to come back to this topic later. I hope others will help me brainstorm my way through it.
(1) What’s in your iPod? What do your playlists say about you as a person?
(2) What are the rights and wrongs of text messaging during class?
(3) Should you friend your teachers, employers, or other authority figures on social networking sites?
(4) What are the worst Facebook/MySpace faux pas your friends should be warned against?
(5) What was the most significant TV show (or video game or pop star or other media presence) of your childhood? How did it influence your life?
These are light-hearted topics. The students do have to think a little to put them together, though, and the topics tend to inspire some creative thinking. Of course, we want our students to be writing about “more serious” social issues and ideas as well, but the job for me is to teach writing, and the challenge for me is to at least begin to teach them wherever I find them. Walk through the computer lab one day and count the earbuds if you have any doubt that you’ll find them with their heads in their iPods.