This I Believe essays and the American Creed documentary are a perfect pairing to kick off first year college writing by building community and offering authentic writing opportunities to begin our writing journey. Here’s how I do it.
I have used This I Believe essays as both texts to inspire discussion, thinking, and writing as well as actual writing assignments for many years now. As I wrote back in 2020:
I love teaching TIB essays because they are flexible arguments and models that are accessible to my students.3 Ways This I Believe Essays Support Writing Instruction
Several years ago I shifted my first year writing classes to a four-square writing plan as part of my then (as compared to now even less) less is more pedagogy. This I Believe essays, or narrative arguments, became the opening unit. I continue to love how they help us build community and support authentic writing, but the real star of our first unit is actually the American Creed documentary that the National Writing Project introduced to me in a number of ways.
However, as America became more and more divided I knew that I needed to shift my approach to teaching with American Creed and that led me to focus on personal values. The pandemic inspired me to shift again to an American Creed writing marathon. This fall, again inspired by the National Writing Project, I am reinventing my What If We Told the Story of Our Values plan from last year to connect my students and their writing with the building a more perfect union work spreading across the country.
As we continue to focus our class time around writing, we have explored the following themes:
- Writing Home: How has our home, heritage, and community shaped our personal values?
- Writing A More Perfect Union: How could America be a more perfect union if more Americans lived up to one specific personal value?
- Creeds: What do you believe? What have you witnessed? What forces are at work in your life?
- Invitations: What loved ones most need to hear your American Creed?
My students have started their This I Believe American Creeds and this week are engaged in an inquiry process. They will also name their audience and the form that will work best for their individual project and audience. Then we will wrap up with a unit reflection about that final deliverable. Do you use This I Believe essays to support your classwork? Do you use American Creed? Are you engaged with the building a more perfect union work? Even if my combination of the three does not fit your teaching interests/context, I strongly recommend you explore their potential. I am inspired by the passionate writing taking place in my classes and even more inspired by the hope my students have for our future.