The only way I’ve found for students to really grow as custom essay writers is for them to write a lot and get meaningful feedback on their work. The reality, though, is there’s only one of me and 170+ of them, so my time with each student is limited. One way to maximize writing growth is a technique my students have dubbed, “Crazy Custom Essay Week.”
Here’s how it works: In three days, students write three different in-class custom essays, which I collect at the end of each hour. On the fourth day, I randomly choose one of the three prompts and that’s the paper students clean up and turn in as their final draft. Basically, they write three custom essays and I grade one.
More details: This routine started because of the pressure my students were facing out here in California with the required EAP custom essay at the end of the year. Students are given an agree/disagree topic and have 45 minutes to construct their response. To get them ready for this challenge, I decided to use a little academic strength training. On Monday, they might write about unhealthy competition among peers. On Tuesday, the prompt could deal with helicopter parents. On Wednesday, they’ll decide whether celebrity product endorsements should be banned. Then, on Thursday, it’s Topic Reveal Day, meaning I put all three topics into a sack and a brave student volunteer draws one to determine which topic’s first draft will be polished in class that day during a writers’ workshop session; the double-spaced handwritten final draft must be submitted to me by the end of the hour. On Friday, students collapse into their SSR books while I grade like a maniac. I finish the stack over the weekend and they get their scores and detailed feedback on Monday, the next class when I see them.
At first, students groan about the process. Teenagers who complain? What a surprise. In fact, each year at
least one student has tried to switch out of my class when he/she realizes I’m going to fold in several Crazy Custom Essay Week sessions throughout the year. (Thank you, counseling department, for always rejecting those requests.) But when paired with my codes and custom essay corrections, m-a-n-y students tell me at the end of the year that they appreciate the tangible growth in their writing skills and they feel completely prepared for their timed EAP and SAT essay exams.
Sometimes, kids want to keep them and you could add those unmarked drafts to students’ writing portfolios, but I just toss them after class ends on Thursday afternoon. Word of warning: Don’t pitch the stacks in front of students. It hurts their hearts more that you’d think.
On the following pages, you’ll find nine different prompts you could use with your classes, enough for three rounds of Crazy Custom Essay Week. These prompts are aligned with California’s EAP, though you can visit the College Board website for SAT-based prompts or use prompts released by your local district or state’s exam board.
Hope this is a useful idea to help your students!