This semester, I’ve been working towards creating opportunities for my students to marry an insightful analysis of literature with a creative use of language that highlights unique authorial voice. I documented my efforts (and background on my course) in my last post, Unburying Voice. Now, as the semester winds down, I have the fruit of my labor to examine. When you take a bite out of these projects, what will you find?
For a little context, my most recent project asked students to “Create a magazine featuring a long-form journalistic essay exploring the idea of subjective truth as power, [in which they must make] a claim that relies on an analysis of subversions of truth by the governments in George Orwell’s 1984, in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, in two historical moments, and in one current event.” I taught students some principles of design layout and how to use a free online program that afforded them a lot of creative freedom (Canva.com). The initial result was astounding. While reviewing the assignment, students literally said the project sounded like fun. I want to repeat that: my students said a 10+ page project sounded like it would be fun.
I began to think, perhaps asking students to be creative with the form of their assessments might actually students to imbue their work with creativity of voice. Maybe, creative-function would follow creative-form!?!?! So, fast forward a few weeks. Picture yourself back in my apartment (that’s where we went in my last post, to sit with me on my couch grading papers) with a pile of student-made magazines to grade. Mmmmm, boy was it sweet! (Is it too late to revisit the fruit metaphor?) The papers actually had voice (disclaimer: not all of them, but enough of them to make it worth the effort)!
The proof is in the pudding: Sample Student Magazine. So, the project felt like a huge success, but was the result replicable? Could I make any essay into a magazine? I tried again with a 9th/10th grade class on dystopian literature: It worked again! and again!
So, as I end the semester on this high note, I’m left wondering whether the lesson learned from this experiment can be applied repeatedly without the shine wearing off. It was a lot of effort to do once, on both my end frontloading the skills and on their end doing all the work. I assume it will get easier for them (and certainly for me) with repetition, but will it get boring?