"Learning That Matters" Student Writing Lesson

Describe a teacher or a classroom experience that helped make learning joyful and meaningful for you. Conversely, what message do you have for teachers and administrators who make learning tedious, even painful? How could they make learning more interesting and inspiring?
AcostaMuralCropped.jpg

Photo by Justin Haugen.

In the YES! Magazine article When This Teacher’s Ethnic Studies Classes Were Banned, His Students Took the District to Court—and Won, teacher activist Curtis Acosta shares how his school district’s “rehumanized” Mexican American Studies Program helped empower students by connecting their learning to their history and who they are.

Students will use Curtis Acosta’s interview to write about a joyful, meaningful learning experience—and what message they have for teachers and administrators who make learning tedious, or even painful.

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YES! Magazine Article and Writing Prompt

Read the YES! Magazine interview with Curtis Acosta, "When This Teacher’s Ethnic Studies Classes Were Banned, His Students Took the District to Court—and Won."

 

Writing Prompt

Curtis Acosta's Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes gave his students pride in their heritage and inspired them to do well in school.

Describe a teacher or a classroom experience that helped make learning joyful and meaningful for you. Conversely, what message do you have for teachers and administrators who make learning tedious, even painful? How could they make learning more interesting and inspiring?

NOTE: In addition to the writing prompt, students may discuss a time when their ethnic identity has or hasn't been addressed in school. How did this inclusion—or exclusion—affect your “joyful, meaningful” learning?

Writing Guidelines

The writing guidelines below are intended to be just that—a guide. Please adapt to fit your curriculum.

  • Provide an original essay title
  • Reference the article
  • Limit the essay to no more than 700 words
  • Pay attention to grammar and organization
  • Be original. provide personal examples and insights
  • Demonstrate clarity of content and ideas

This writing exercise meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W. 9-10.3 and W. 9-10.14 for Writing, and RI. 9-10 and RI. 9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text.*

*This standard applies to other grade levels. "9-10" is used as an examples.

Evaluation Rubric

 

Sample Essays 

The essays below were selected as winners for the Spring 2015 Student Writing Competition. Please use them as sample essays or mentor text. The ideas, structure, and writing style of these essays may provide inspiration for your own students' writing—and an excellent platform for analysis and discussion.

 

To Learn Is To Live by Noah Carey-Smith, Grade 6

 Read Noah's essay about how self-directed learning inspires him to make the world a better place.

 

What We Learn Tells Us Who We Are by Annabel Paul, Grade 7

Read Annabel's essay about why stories about transgender people should be included in the curriculum.

 

Someone Like Me by Nancy Cullen, Grade 7

Read Nancy's essay about how a classroom visitor helped her share a secret with her classmates.

 

If You Give a Student a Voice by Jennifer Aguilera, Grade 9

Read Jennifer's essay about two teachers who taught her to love learning.


Teaching Students to Shine by Salma Arredondo, Grade 11

 Read Salma's essay about her experience as a Mexican American in an American English class, and how she gained the confidence to let her light shine.

 

How to Make a Superhero by Chiwon Lee, Cascadia College

Read Chiwon's essay about how her "Making It Real" class made her feel like a superhero in training.

 

Response from Curtis Acosta to student essay winners. 

 

We Want to Hear From You! 

How do you see this lesson fitting in your curriculum? Already tried it? Tell us—and other teachers—how the lesson worked for you and your students

Please leave your comments below, including what grade you teach.