Personalizing Literature

I posted a few days ago about the CRAFTS Process for prompt writing, and I ended my post by saying I use another type of essay which helps prevent plagiarism. I use the personal essay, much like the ones colleges ask students to compose for their college applications. When teaching a novel I focus on relevance: how do you (the student) connect with this piece of literature? This can come in any number of ways:

  • personal connections to the themes,
  • thematic connections to other literature including films, comics, books, etc.,
  • personal experiences matching the characters’ experiences,
  • student feelings about issues raised in the text, and more.

We can then create essays in a number of styles and lengths and contents. Regardless of the content the same skills are given and used, and the students are more engaged in the subject matter since they choose it.

Without boring you with all the details (too late, I know), the essays are more fully developed and engaging–for me and the students–when the compositions are turned in.

Some of my colleagues would argue that this style of essay does not conform to the traditional five-paragraph style of essay, and I would agree but counter that the five-paragraph style is great for absolute beginners needing absolute structure but does nothing extra for the student with a basic grasp of the essay writing process. Plus, I want my students to engage in a conversation with the text on a personal level in order to feel the literature, not just to read and to analyze it.

What do you think? What do you do to change the standard essay?

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