What's that for?
I italicized the above word because it's important to the question. This came from one of the instructors of the Eastern Iowa Writer's Workshop, which I was privileged to attend a couple of summers ago. I don't know if it's something he coined himself, or if it came out of one of the many inspirational teacher type books he read aloud from. At any rate, from this simple question comes much wisdom. As teachers, parents, human beings, we should often pause and ask ourselves the question, What's that for?
In my classroom, I have students listen to new words and repeat. What's that for? So they can practice good Spanish pronunciation. Good pronunciation leads to being able to spell, since Spanish is a phonetic language.
The students sometimes relate to me what goes on in others' classrooms. I don't encourage it, but sometimes they've just gotta vent. Apparently, one of my colleagues gives only half credit to assignments that do not have the EXACT heading on the paper. Same goes for homework done with 2 different writing utensils- pen ran out, changed to pencil, etc. What is that for? Personally, I don't have that much time in my day or room in my head to be that anal. Perhaps this person has a good reason?
Our instructor told a story of how one of his daughters wrote her name in cursive at the top of one of her papers in first grade- before the teaching of cursive. Her teacher drew a frowny face next to it, I guess because she didn't want her to write in cursive before the Time To Write Cursive. What was that for?
I think it's a good, quick way of doing some self-eval. in the classroom. Assigned an activity? What was it for? Said something to a student? What was that for? Sometimes, I can't come up with a decent answer, and it makes me rethink what I do and say.