When a colleague was teaching a remedial English course, she was told to focus on the creative aspects of writing. Those beginning college students needed to able to write academic papers for college, not to write poetry and personal narratives. They would become good academic writers by focusing on the standard forms of academic writing of writing such as contrast and argument papers.
Although this is an extreme example, I wonder how often teachers forget the real purpose of the students’ learning and have their students spend time doing something that does not directly lead to learning that goal. A question to ask is “How does this directly and efficiently lead students to being proficient in this skill?” I remember watching a social studies class where ninth grade students were coloring in the countries of South America, each country in different color. The real purpose was to learn where each country was on the map but they spent about a third of the class on coloring. Locating countries on a map is a memorization activity so do memorization activities such as study a map with the names shown for half the countries and then , see a map without the names and put the names in. Likewise, in a modern language class, students do not improve in their speaking ability by doing grammar drills. A student can be proficient in grammar but not be a proficient speaker. Students become more skillful in speaking as they speak more in class through structured activities. Likewise, English students do not become better writers by just reading and answering questions about long literary essays. When educators take students through the writing process with a focus on the specific type of writing, then these students become better writers.
So how does what your students do directly and efficiently lead them to being proficient in a specific skill?
My book, Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.
My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.