I’m sitting here at my iPad thinking about the upcoming essay tasks in two of my classes and having real trouble coming up with ideas. It’s not that I think the essay is a bad task. Writing an essay involves critical thinking, expression of ideas, good writing skills, and a variety of other skills, but I wonder if we place too much emphasis on the essay as the ‘ultimate’ assessment task in English class.
I also question the importance of having them write an essay on Shakespearian themes or aspects as it is pretty difficult to come up with an original idea. One search of the web gives you multitudes of possible topics and essays for only a small fee… Which leads me to wonder, are we teaching or encouraging our students to plagiarize? I’m not saying we tell them to go out and find essays on the web and pass them off as original work, but a task like this doesn’t really engage many students so they look for an easy way out, unfortunately.
I feel obligated, however, to give it as a task in my classes, especially at the grade ten level, as it’s something they will encounter in future English classes and I want to do my best to prepare them. I’m a project-based teacher at heart, but I know I have to make sure I give my students the preparation they need to succeed in other classes.
I guess it’s just another one of things that causes me to think.