In a stack of papers called Connections.

  • Sep
  • 28
  • 2010

Why Can’t I Do Something With This?

Good lord, WCYDWT is such a good idea that I want to use it for English. I walk around with a camera, too. I also enjoy my job more today than I ever have. I likewise want to share my passion for not just English but many other subjects. All I end up snapping shots of, though, are misused apostrophes and needed commas – very boring things that are still contrived attempts to make my content area relevant.

I’ve been a closet fan of this since Dan first started it. I lurk an awful lot and good writing often makes me just want to give up because I can’t compete. This has been running through my head for at least two years now. I just don’t see the way to bring this to my classroom, though. That depresses me for a number of reasons.


  • Am I so thick in the head that there’s an obvious way to get WCYDWT into the English classroom that I’m missing?
  • Do I believe that English is so removed from practical application that I can’t bring the WCYDWT noise?
  • Would any testing regime support my use of this kind of instruction in one of the most valuable API/AYP/APR areas a school has?
  • Would this kind of instruction help us get out of PI?
  • Would this kind of instruction create graduates better able to handle writing demands of employers, the primary concern about high school graduates the business world has expressed?


So I wonder if I just grab shots or pull video of things I find interesting for a variety of reasons and simply put them up in front of the class for a bit to harvest the discussion. I want more than that, but maybe this is the way it starts. What do you think? Have you been gathering a bunch of ELA WCYDWT lessons over the years? Do you see something I’m missing that opens us up to the English All Around Us kind of lens needed? Let me know and let’s get this going.


1. Damian says:

[9/28/2010 - 3:31 pm]

The most immediate example that pops into my mind is one of creative writing – snap a random picture or grab something off FlickrCC or what have you, and give the students two prompts: 1) What happened leading up to when this picture was taken? 2) What happened right after the picture was taken? Adjust wording to taste, but you get the idea.

I used to do something like this specifically tied to ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ in that it captures a specific moment in time, but why not roll it out as a weekly writing exercise? No 5-paragraph essay, no sentence diagramming, just having fun with writing.

Just a thought…

2. Todd says:

[9/29/2010 - 11:28 am]

The weekly writing exercise is a good thought and something I plan to test out in second semester. Thanks, Damian. I can get behind that. The two prompts you suggest work just fine to expand on any visual text.

But I’m speaking more about looking around the world and taking things into my classroom that show my content area in action, that will cause my students to ask questions in order for them to see how necessary it is to, say, write an argumentative piece or a literary response and such. That’s what I like about this WCYDWT approach, that it doesn’t give students any more information than they ask for yet encourages them to ask for more information and shows that the content area (both in general and the specific skill on which we’re currently working) has an application in the world.

3. Ryan says:

[9/30/2010 - 7:08 am]

I’ve been watching that Dan Meyer blog too, quite jealously. If you’re going to keep on, then I’ll start throwing ideas and responses at you.

“Real” surgeon. Try to produce a flier for this person without being ironic. Teaching tone.

4. Todd says:

[9/30/2010 - 5:01 pm]

I want to be able to, say, bring in some video clip and put students to figuring out why I brought it in and how what we’ve studied has anything to do with it. I like the idea of students, equipped with a set of skills we’ve worked on over previous weeks, using those skills on their own without me telling them to use argumentation here, expository there, and the like. Better yet, put them in the position to need argumentation and expository to solve a problem in front of them, then go into teaching those things and set them loose again.

Ryan, I’m going to keep on. Some serious life changes over the past year have kept me from this place on a consistent basis, but I think I’ve got the rhythm again and should be around more. I don’t know that I’ll do anything like an English version of WCYDWT, but I’ll keep pushing out ideas. If you haven’t already, glance at an entry I put together 2 years ago (gulp! has it been that long!?). I like your idea of the flier that honestly tries to sell that person, maybe even going so far as to explain away the use of those punctuation marks.

5. Tom says:

[12/20/2010 - 1:09 pm]

I’m struggling with the same things. I can come up with lots of ways to make media encourage actions (prompts essentially) but I’m failing to figure out ways to make them require specific skills/understanding.

The question is the key element it seems. The question has to drive the whole thing. Every question I come up with ends up with possible skills all over the place but missing the requirement for a specific set of skills.

I like the flyer concept but it doesn’t do for me what I feel like WCYDWT achieves for Dan. It’s less a puzzle to figure out that will require specific skills and more of a task to accomplish that I can complete to a greater or lesser degree depending on a variety of skills.

I wonder if it doesn’t come down to the fact that in English we often (always?) lack a definitive “right” answer.

Take the serial comma example that was posted there a while back. I ended up at Wikipedia pondering a way to make this into something that had a question and required understanding the serial comma to answer the question.

What I wanted to ask is something like -“Given the sentence below, how many people went to Oregon?”

I went to Oregon with Betty, a maid, and a cook.

Then drop this one in-

I went to Oregon with Betty, a maid and a cook.

But I don’t feel like I end up with clarity.

6. WCYDWT English? « Bionic Teaching says:

[12/20/2010 - 6:38 pm]

[…] seem to be struggling with the same things that Todd Seal is/was struggling with over on Thoughts on […]

7. WCYDWT « NspireD2: Learning Technology in Higher Ed. says:

[12/22/2010 - 7:43 am]

[…] teaching history, offers this example. Others are thinking about applications in teaching English (Todd Seal and  . What can YOU do with […]

8. Tom says:

[4/24/2012 - 6:55 am]

For what it’s worth, I’m still thinking about this.

I like these examples.

Colon vs cologne

‘Sort of’ is such a harmless thing to say… sort of. It’s just a filler. Sort of… it doesn’t really mean anything. But after certain things, sort of means everything. Like… after “I love you”… or “You’re going to live”… or “It’s a boy!”

I just can’t figure out what do with it other than – “Make three more examples where a homophone creates an unpleasant result.”