My friend Deborah Dean describes a great writing assignment in her book Strategic Writing. As I’ve talked to teachers here in Norway, I’ve thought about an interesting adaptation for foreign language teachers. A number of teachers that I’ve met here in Norway ask their students to do a research report on specific states. Instead, I suggest the following:
* Assign students a specific state to research
* Tell them the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will be honoring their state with a commemorative international stamp
* The USPS specifically wants a stamp that illustrates one of the most important events in the state’s history
* Students should research the state and identify what they think is the most important historical event
* They should then design a stamp that reflects this event
* The students should also write a rationale in order to convince the USPS that their stamp design should be selected. Why is the state important? Why is the event important? Why should Americans and Norwegians know about this state and event?
* Students present their stamp design and rationale to the class
As Debbie argues in her book, this assignment can be used to teach kids that they need to research both broadly (to identify different historical events and choose one) and deeply (to understand their chosen event more fully).