Most assignments we assign in a writing class are created for the sole reader—the teacher. However, there is no reason students should write only for their teacher. Sharing their ideas with a broader audience can increase student motivation, encourage them to further develop their writing skills, help them connect and interact with many people from all over the world, and in some cases, even assist someone. In this post, I’d like to share a few examples of projects that you can implement in your course to help your students write for an audience beyond the classroom.
Review of a Product
Online product reviews are very common. Unbiased and well-written reviews can be very helpful to users, byers, and customers. The purpose of product reviews is simple: to help people decide if the product is effective and worth purchasing. As a teacher, you can create a course assignment in which students would write an online review of a product they are familiar with. To do that, students would have to examine the product carefully, perhaps even take notes on its positive and negative attributes, then think of why they initially bought the product and what they expected to get out of it. They could also consider answering these questions: Did this product satisfy your expectations? Why or why not? Would you recommend that others buy the same product?
To prepare students to write their review, you would develop several classroom activities and tasks helping them become familiar with genre characteristics of product reviews, and organizational and stylistic features. Students would also learn how to express their informed opinion about the selected product and how to contextualize the review within their experience.
Creating a Wikipedia Entry
Creating a Wikipedia entry would be an excellent assignment for an advanced-level writing course in which students are working on academic research skills. In addition to rhetorical, organizational, and research skills, which you would need to cover in class to help students compose their article, you can also use the following (or other available online) materials in order to guide the students through the process:
I also suggest that you encourage students to write on a topic they are familiar with or feel passionate about. This project can also be done as a group assignment.
Blog on English Learning (or Any Other Topic)
Blogs are a very popular writing genre, and hundreds of blogs are being written every day for various reasons, including establishing yourself as a professional; attracting potential customers and clients; exchanging ideas, thoughts, materials, and experiences; and meeting new people. In a writing course, a blog assignment can be a great opportunity for students to practice their writing skills, express themselves in a written form, share their experiences with others, and of course, reach to the readers beyond the classroom.
This assignment can be developed in many different ways, but the main point is blog regularity. In other words, students have to produce a series of entries in order to complete this project. Therefore, you should encourage them to write on something that they deal with on a daily basis. For example, they can write a blog on their English language learning experiences, or intercultural experiences (if applicable), or provide tips to other language learners or students studying abroad, or simply share their thoughts about a certain concept or problem. Options are numerous! You can also ask all students in the class to respond to each other’s blogs to establish a sense of interaction and further motivate the writers.
Writing an Analysis of a YouTube Video
You can also ask students to write a constructive and detailed analysis of a YouTube video and post it as a comment. Students would learn how to objectively evaluate a video by considering its positive and negative features. They would also learn about various rhetorical skills, including summarizing, forming, and supporting an argument; providing counterclaims and supporting them with examples; analyzing and evaluating; and proposing.
Responding to a Comment on a Video/Article
Instead of writing a detailed evaluation of a video, students can respond to a comment that other people provided on a video, article, or blog entry. Because students’ responses would probably be less detailed than full-fledged analyses, you can require several responses on various pieces (all of the same genre or various genres). Students would learn such rhetorical skills as arguing, providing counterclaims and supporting them with evidence, and expressing their opinion.
Sharing a Recipe on a Cooking Website
There are lots of cooking websites out there, where people share their favorite recipes and exchange culinary skills. This could be a great opportunity for students to share with the whole world something that they enjoy cooking or/and eating. From a rhetorical perspective, sharing a recipe is a chance for students to learn how to describe a process in a succinct yet clear manner. You can also encourage students to take pictures to supplement their step-by-step descriptions.
Alternatively, as a class, you can create a class cooking blog, where all students would post their favorite recipes. Finally, students can also create their own cooking blogs if they wish. They can be also thematic, for example, how to cook Chinese food from local ingredients (if you are teaching a class outside of China). Options are numerous! One important thing to remember, though: The descriptions of the recipes have to be students’ own, not copied from other websites or other electronic or materials.
Finally, if your students don’t feel comfortable sharing their writing with the entire world, there are certainly other options of a smaller scale, for example, a school newsletter. Students could describe their intercultural or language-learning experiences, for example, or share thoughts about current events or report on participating in events and activities sponsored by the local community.
What Are Your Ideas?
Please feel free to share your ideas about projects teachers can implement in their writing classes to help students write for an audience beyond the classroom.