Writing, think of it as calisthenics for the brain. Click To Tweet
I start off with a thought-provoking question. I have students do a five-minute free write on that question just based on whatever life experience they have. Questions like, “What are the pros and cons of believing in fate or that everything happens for a reason” or “Can you ever fully believe one person’s version of a story? Why or why not?” get students excited and thinking. The best questions, of course, can’t really be answered.
The next step is to do an in-depth close reading of a text. This could be a poem, short story, play, whatever. What matters is that we discuss the big ideas and that we use the evidence in the text as the basis for our discussion. I might give students questions to work on independently or in groups, or we might have a full class discussion. This is how we spend the bulk of the class period.
I always try to bring them back to the contradictions, complexities, and ambiguities of a text. If they think the answer is clear—that it is terrible to live your life believing in fate and there are no benefits whatsoever, for example—then I keep pointing to the evidence that questions those answers.
And then we try to come up with some ideas that bring it all together. So, maybe the author is saying that believing in fate makes you a passive observer in your own life but it also gives you meaning and purpose. Or we might decide that the poem is stating that there is no one version of the truth, but we all believe that the way we see things is the one version.
Then, when students go to write a longer essay on a text or even on an excerpt, I encourage them to follow this model. Think about their own ideas, closely examine the text, find the contradictions and complexities, and then figure out a way to bring it all together in an idea that doesn’t oversimplify.
When they can do this, they will write well.
If you like the sound of this process, and you’d like some very short passages with the questions done for you as well as prompts for longer assignments, check out this resource. Now tell me how do you get students to write in your class?
Intresting essay samples and examples: https://essays.io/examples-samples/