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How do your students respond when you assign an essay? Usually most students respond with a resounding GROAN. A loud SIGH. A look of dread mixed with panic and sometimes horror.
Well, I was the weird kid in class. The one that got super excited when we had an essay. I absolutely love expressing my ideas and brainstorming, planning and writing essays.
Have you ever told your tutoring students (or your entire class) that you LOVE writing essays? I always see my fair share of jaw drops at this remark.
Well, I’m here to show you how you can make essay writing exciting for your students.
Here are my five ideas:
5 Ways To Make Essay Writing Exciting
1. Let Students Choose Their Topic
Okay, this is a simple one, I know. I think teachers overlook this one a lot, though! What’s more important when you learn to write an essay – the topic, or the structure and validity of the argument? I think you all know the answer to that one! Quite a few tutoring students are not sure what to do when they realize they get to pick the topic. Sometimes, they just say “I don’t know” or shrug.
That’s because they’re not motivated.
My favourite way to let students pick the topic is to hand them a copy of 501 Writing Prompts. For tutoring students, I love to have the hard copy on hand (which is a shocker, I’m sure, for those of you who know me by now). I love my technology and being paperless, but students have fun flipping through this book.
The topics are so diverse that students are sure to find something that gets them ready to make an argument!
The book is organized by type of essay (expository, narrative, persuasive and literary), which is amazing for teaching different essay types. You can grab your copy of 501 writing prompts here. If you’re in the UK or Europe, check out 501 writing prompts here.
2. Teach Planning Skills
Some of the horror, fear and dread that go along with the word essay in some students’ minds has to do with a lack of preparation. How do you write a good essay? Planning is super important.
I recently taught a university class in Spain where the students (first year English majors) admitted to me that they had never been taught how to outline an essay or write a solid thesis statement. Wow, did their essays improve after a few classes!
Need help creating planning documents? Sign up for my free printables at the end of this post and stay tuned!
3. Integrate Essays Into Class Discussion
The best way to get students thinking about their essays is to engage them in class discussion. Actually, this is my go-to technique for literary essays. When students understand that characters in a novel are like real people – with hopes, dreams, and characteristics just like us, they can better relate to the characters to write their essays.
Talk about the literature topic. What does it tell us about the world we live in? How do the characters react in a way that’s similar or different to how you would react? Teaching literature is one of my favourite topics, so stay tuned for more posts specifically about that. Actually, my plans for this blog include a Teaching Cove Shop, where you will be able to grab novel study guides and easy-to-implement lesson plans.
4. Engage In Class Debate
Writing argumentative essays with your class? Well, class debate is definitely the way to go.
- First, split the class into two teams. Yes, even those first year university students who look at you like you’re mad for wanting them to get out of their chairs.
- Then, assign them sides to the debate using a coin toss or dice roll.
- Next, give them 10 minutes to prepare their arguments. Ask them consider the other team’s potential arguments and create rebuttals for them.
- Finally, have students debate the topic, giving Team A a set amount of time to speak (say, 30 seconds) and then Team B the same amount of time to respond.
- If you want to add more fun to the game, be a moderator and keep score of who wins each “point” of the debate.
5. Publish Your Students’ Work
Publish your students’ work! There is really nothing more motivating than seeing your work in print. Have a class website? A teacher’s blog? Maybe have your students create one as a class assignment? There are lots of ways to get students to write, and blogging is one of them. Publishing essays on a blog may help students keep motivated! Even kids get very excited to see their work in print.
By the way, if you do want to start a blog, check out my Recommendations page under the “Blogging” section. I’ve listed the ebooks and resources that were invaluable in helping me start this one.
Have you joined The Teaching Cove yet? Grab your free printables package by signing up below. Access to a library of free printables (with a new package each month and Motivational Monday posters every week) will be available soon.
What are your thoughts on motivating students to write essays? I’d love to hear from you below.
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