5 Creative Projects That Develop Technical Writing Skills
Knowledge is power…at least…that’s what they say.
The more you know equates to supremacy and success; it’s assumed that “smart” means potential. We can’t say it’s anything new. This reputation tradition has lived from Genesis and is only bound to continue.
You say that like it’s bad.
Well, in a way, it can be. While knowledge does help us do more things, it’s not our capacity for declarative knowledge that helps us progress.
Our what for what?
Basically, our ability to know things. That doesn’t help us move forward in life.
What does, then?
Problem-solving, divergent thinking, and creativity. Newton figured out gravity, not because he knew things, but because he noticed things. Businesses flourish, not necessarily because they already know the industry (though it helps immensely); they succeed because they try new things to see what consumers like and go from there.
Okay, so, what’s your point? What does this have to do with reading or writing?
The websites and videos I link do not “represent” my views, nor do I represent theirs. I’ve included them to supplement my work, and for no other reason. Read more about what I mean here.
American Common Core standards are emphasizing technical and informative writing and reading over creative and literature.
There’s lots of controversy about this. Many teachers now overwhelm their students with doing both on a constant basis to maintain traditional standards and meet new expectations.
While I think we need room for both in the classroom, too, having my kids read literature outside of class and articles in class–in addition to everything else they have to do–only hinders their understanding. So, I got a little manipulative. Rather than teaching the standards like products, I teach them as skills. I take the assignment’s purpose and teach the skills to accomplish the same thing with a different product–a creative product.
As long as you know the standards’ intended skills, the assignments are easy to implement.
Writing Standards (9-10 for a middle ground)
- Write argumentative texts emphasizing rhetorical devices (W.9-10.1)
- Write expository texts examining and presenting objective topics (W.9-10.2)
- Write narrative texts emphasizing figurative language and literary elements (W.9-10.3)
- Write according to task, audience, and purpose (W.9-10.4)
- Develop and strengthen writing through the writing process (W.9-10.5)
- Use technology to produce, publish, and share writing (W.9-10.6)
- Conduct short and extensive research products to answer questions or solve problems (W.9-10.7)
- Gather, evaluate, and integrate credible evidence from authoritative sources (W.9-10.8)
- “Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research” (W.9-10.9)
- Write routinely practicing various types of writing (W.9-10.10)
Alternative Creative Assignments
- Write descriptive manuals, emulating real ones from common products, to teach others how to do one of their favorite hobbies.
- Students are: more engaged since it’s something they enjoy; more confident in their skill since they know the topic; more descriptive when you talk to them through the process and they want to explain it to you; learning the importance of directions, warnings, and other things they ignore in manuals.
- Standards met: W.9-10.2, 4, 5, 6 (optional), 7 (if necessary), and 10.
Children’s Book Mythology
- Write a juvenile-appropriate picture book depicting mythology (from any civilization) and revealing the main theme/purpose of the text.
- Students are: more engaged since they pick the text; thinking deeper about diction to match their audience; using visuals in a purposeful manner; examining how other cultures depict the world around them.
- Standards met: W.9-10.3, 4, 5, 6 (optional), 7 (if necessary), 9, and 10.
Historical Fiction Project
- Write a short story depicting a different perspective of a real event, person, location, etc. from history.
- Students are: more engaged since their pick the topic; thinking deeper about types of sources they use for credible sources (primary, secondary, tertiary…); attentive to language to make it more engaging; researching extensively to get a whole picture for reference and asking questions to guide the research.
- Standards met: W.9-10.1, 2, 3 (I make it a whole project with parts that require each type of paper), 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
- Yup, it meets all the standards! It’s the longest, detailed, and most extensive writing portfolio of the year. My kids love it to the point that discipline problems are minimal because they get so into the topic!
- Conduct an interview with someone who (assign a qualification) and write out their story based on their primary account.
- Students are: more resistant to this assignment, actually. They find it “pointless”, but also intimidating and challenging to talk to others and make someone else’s story interesting… y’know, because only teens live interesting lives–duh. However, I do make them do it because they practice lots of excellent skills doing it.
- Standards met: W.9-10.2, 3, 4, 5 (optional), 8 (kind of), and 10.
- Research, design, and create a commercial or PSA that addresses (choose your topic).
- Students are: able to explore new skills or refine ones they may already have; more engaged with movement, interaction, and working with others to act; challenged to know more about the topic, adjust their work appropriately, and create a professional product.
- Standards met: W.9-10.1 or 2 (depending on the paper’s purpose), 4, 5, 6, 7-10 (depending on how extensive you want the project to be).
These are just a few assignment examples that were successful in my classes.
Each product is not so much “written”; but, the planning process before it has plenty of room for short or extensive research and writing opportunities. I do short essays and paragraphs, outlines, proposals, et cetera; because the short papers and research help them to prepare for the final “cool” product, they typically don’t complain about it too much.
The kids learn many things during the assignments, they gain lots of knowledge on topics. But, more importantly, they develop transferable skills. They don’t learn how to write a thesis for an essay, they learn how to present a clear idea they will support with credible information. They don’t regurgitate information from various sources, they present information to fulfill a purpose and supplement visuals to aid audience understanding.
These are skills needed in most professional careers, not just in English class.
Note: I did break down and connect the assignments to writing standards. However, reading, language, and speaking/listening standards apply to each of these, too.
Overall, knowledge is limited if it can’t apply beyond its taught context. This model is what students expect and how teachers have trapped themselves and taught. But, it’s structural knowledge and skills that really help us mold college and career-ready adults–like the standards intend.
How do you alter your assignments to help students do more than just get graded? How do you mingle creative and technical in your classroom?
Let us know in the comments below, and on social media, of course.
Currently, I’m in the lesson plan/outline writing process for each assignment. Check back to find out when they will be for sale on TPT!