Students will be able to illuminate the characteristics of expository and persuasive essays.
After grading approximately 260 expository and persuasive essays, 260 short answer responses, scanning and correcting 130 bubbled answer documents, and sifting through 6,100 pages of test booklets, I finished with the benchmark exam today. Besides losing five entire class days to the test and around ten hours grading it, I also realized that these are in many ways the worst essays I’ve seen all year.
I blame the fact that they were exhausted after five days of testing. Otherwise, I think I am possibly the worst teacher in the world and have accomplished nothing in six months of teaching. In fact, my students may have regressed.
While fuming over the quality of these essays, I put together a top ten list of the mistakes that keep occurring over and over and over again. Topping the list is, as always, my students’ addiction to writing in second person – you, your, yourself, yours. They can write in first person as well, avoid third person like they avoid making eye contact when you see them outside of school, and insist on writing everything directly to the reader. For a literary essay this is passable, but for an informative expository essay or a persuasive essay it absolutely isn’t – and The State says so for its exam.
So how to shake them of this habit?
I sat on my storytime stool and I compared them to a toddler potty training. While having no children myself, I do enjoy occasionally reading some of the potty training tips that pop up on Pinterest (I’m a sociologist at heart – I enjoy reading about how people learn. I’m not that weird, I promise). One of the reasons it can be so hard to get toddlers to go potty on the toilet is that they’ve been conditioned their whole lives to poop in any position other than sitting down. They may be standing at their Little Tykes kitchen, or at the park, or in their crib, but almost never in a seated position. Potty training involves completely reconditioning a child to do something in a completely new way – and never do the old thing again. My students insisting on writing in second person is like this scenario; they’ve been training for going on a decade to write with “you” and need to never do that again and try something different. It’s a hard transition. Hopefully, though, it’s a bit cleaner than the average two-year-old…
[Disclaimer: I told my husband about my comparison over dinner and he thought I was nuts. If you agree with him, I apologize for any discomfort caused.]