September 16, 2013

New alumni book explores how “real world writing” can engage diverse students

Jessica Singer Early, MAT. ‘97, recently published Real World Writing for Secondary Students, which uses the college admissions essay and other “real world” writing as a frame for how teachers can encourage students to explore their unique life stories.

The high school classroom remains one of our society’s most diverse environments, but high school students (and their teachers) often struggle to bring this ethnic and linguistic diversity into formal classroom writing projects that help students build new learning. A recent book by Jessica Singer Early, MAT. ‘97, furnishes teachers with tools for writing instruction that engages students’ cultural identities. Real World Writing for Secondary Students places an emphasis on concrete solutions—workshop lessons, teaching calendars, and detailed activities—for teachers guiding students through the composition of the college admissions essay, among other writing projects.

Singer Early focuses on “real world writing,” compositions written for an audience beyond the teacher, told through empathy and an understanding of unfamiliar cultures—the kind of communication used every day to secure jobs and scholarships. Singer Early’s guide first establishes the value of writing as a cultural currency, then outlines the challenge posed in particular by the college admissions essay, ultimately circling back to strategies that allow students to weave their cultural identities into compelling stories. The book, which includes student perspectives and work samples, offers insight into the lives and struggles of today’s diverse adolescents.

Singer Early launched her career by teaching high school English, encouraging diverse populations of students to love reading and writing. Now, as an associate professor at Arizona State University, she specializes in teacher preparation and research and directs the Central Arizona Writing Project. Her first book, Stirring up Justice: Reading and Writing to Change the World, encourages teachers to transform writing into a form of social activism.