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An essay idea that won’t make you want to shoot your eye out

"A Christmas Story" (1983), Warner Bros.

Be honest: how many of you brought home a milk crate or bag full of student essays that you have the best intention of grading even though you know deep down inside that you’ll likely never touch them until the afternoon before you return from Christmas break?

Needless to say, student essays are rarely fun to read, and I’m sure that a vast majority of our kids would argue that they’re equally as boring to write. So why not rethink the essay? Get students excited about producing something that shows their creativity and personality all while still assessing traditional essay requirements such as attention grabbers, thesis statements, logical organization, and use of specific evidence. Here is an example I created for my students prior to giving them this assignment last year:

Obviously, I’m a big advocate for creating and publishing videos. Posting a video online allows students to share their ideas with an authentic audience, not just their English teacher. On top of that, I’ve found that students aren’t as likely to delete a video project after receiving a grade as they are to throw away a returned essay. A video captures a lasting memory. An essay? Yeah, not so much.

So, Merry Christmas to all the teachers out there. Your gift? Backs and shoulders free from the pain of hauling around papers and a classroom mostly free from the moans and groans that accompany another essay assignment.

Now, cozy up around your family, sip some eggnog, and tune to TBS. I hear that there is a pretty good movie on…all day long!

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