Our lists are never the same, and never complete, but that's not the point. The point is that there are many, many real-life reasons to write that have nothing to do with school.
The point is that there are many, many real-life reasons to write that have nothing to do with school. Students keep this list at the front of their language arts notebooks, and we refer to it throughout the year. I tell them to remind me of it if I start talking about The Test too much.
Students need to know that they have plenty of opportunities to write outside the realm of tests.
Often, they are also unaware of how the things they are interested in are connected to each other-hence, the idea of an Enthusiasm Map see Figure 2. It is a kind of stream-of consciousness way of brainstorming topics to write about. I model it for students on the board or overhead before I have them do it.
They usually dive in with, well, enthusiasm. This is completely nonlinear. Students may follow one category all the way down Writing extraordinary essays david lee finkle a very specific topic, or they may list several categories around their name from the start, and then develop them.
Encourage them to look for connections between seemingly dissimilar enthusiasms. The challenge is for them to come up with everything they can possibly think of that interests them, and then to see how their different interests relate.
When students know their enthusiasms, they can write about them all in different ways. They can explain why they like something, describe how to do something, persuade other people to like it, compare something they like to something else they like or hate, or write a narrative about it.
They can even defend their enthusiasms when they come under attack. I once wrote a whole op-ed piece about the demise of traditional, hand-drawn animation in favor of computer animation, a phenomenon I heartily protest. I ask my students to update their map periodically since they may be developing new interests.
As a class, we delve into this list whenever they need an expository topic. Have students start by writing their name at the center of a blank piece of paper that is turned sideways. Then have them draw lines out to major categories and then subcategories of interests.
Spheres of Interest List Another way of looking at potential topics is to ask students to think about their spheres of interest and influence. I ask them to imagine themselves at the center of concentric circles: For many younger students, fifth or sixth graders, for instance, that is as far as their sphere of reference extends.
As students get older, their spheres of interest should begin to extend outward, not just as writers, but as people.
Writing can help students begin to extend those circles outward. Issues that interest me, bug me. TV usage, chores, which way the toilet paper should face. Internet dangers for teens, presidential election, capital punishment. One thing we note when working on this list is that some issues can fall into more than one sphere and some perhaps the best ones to write about can be both national and personal.
If the military and war are national issues, they are also personal issues if you have a sibling deployed overseas. I will sometimes assign an essay to come from a specific "sphere" so that we can discuss how the "size" of the topic influences how you write about that topic.
Writing about the school flip-flop policy requires a different kind of thinking than writing a paper about the war on terror. Ongoing Topics List As the year progresses, I ask students to begin looking for topics everywhere. I try to encourage my students to do the same.
I ask students to set aside a page at the front of their notebooks the fronts of their notebooks are very crowded and keep an ongoing list of possible writing topics-this in addition to things that they may already have thought of on their various maps.
It sometimes helps to remind them to add to this list on a regular basis, at the start of class every Monday or Friday, for example.
Just make it a habit.
I also keep a list like this myself, and I sometimes share it with them. It creates a centralized place for students to go and find provocative things to write about.NEW YORK • TORONTO • LONDON • AUCKLAND • SYDNEY MEXICO CITY • NEW DELHI • HONG KONG • BUENOS AIRES Writing Extraordinary Essays: Every Middle Schooler Can!
David Lee Finkle is a National Board-Certified Teacher who has taught English in middle and high schools throughout Florida since He is the author of Writing Extraordinary Essays-- 5/5(3).
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About The Creator. My name is David Lee Finkle, and I draw Mr. Fitz. I use my middle name, because there are other David Finkles out there.
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