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The Teacher Tip

Using Demographics in Writing Instruction

February 14, 2018

Adapted from Project-Based Writing by Liz Prather.

Demographic grouping is an activity that asks kids to group themselves by various identities and meet the other people in the room who share that characteristic. As a group, I want them to share stories about what it’s like to be a part of this subset of the larger population of kids at their school. They can also argue for or against their identity in this grouping. 

I might ask them to group off by zodiac signs, for example. I will have printed off a generic description of a Taurus or Gemini or Pisces, and they form groups and then share stories in these groups as to how they are alike or unlike the description that is given in the horoscope. This is a great activity because it immediately creates kinship among disparate students in the class based on their birth month. 

You can also do this activity with birth order. All the firstborn, middle, youngest, or only children get together in groups. I will have printed off descriptions of the characteristics of that particular birth order and the groups discuss whether they agree or disagree with the definition of their particular rank. Birth order is a great nugget of teacher information for me as well. 

The key to doing this activity for both community building and self-discovery is to ask kids to argue for or against their own inclusion in this arbitrary demographic based on their life experiences, hence stories. They need to tell stories, trot out evidence, and qualify themselves as they talk, talk, talk and share, share, share about who they are or who they think they are. 

To learn more about Project-Based Writing and download a sample chapter, visit 

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