Posted by Richard Scott on 6th November 2012
For seventh graders, the time has arrived for our first essay of the school year.
Our first essay will be a compare-and-contrast analysis of Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers from the story, “Brian’s Song.” This true-life story is based on the lives of two professional football players from different races, places, and backgrounds who become best friends and support each other through difficult circumstances.
Our essay will allow us to contrast their differences while comparing their similarities and the way their friendship grew based on their common ground.
So why teach the essay? The state of Alabama requires it, but that reason isn’t enough. This essay needs to be serve a higher purpose than to just fulfill the state curriculum.
Writing an essay is a lesson in organizing, planning, and producing a unique product. It’s a lesson in effective communication. It requires effective listening, attention to directions, focus, and effort.
It also challenges students’ higher-order thinking. An essay isn’t like taking a test, where most questions challenge a students ability to remember and understand. An essay pushes a student to analyze, evaluate, and produce at a much higher level.
The essay also helps prepare students for high school. Did you know one freshman English teacher at Shelby County assigns a five-paragraph essay on the first day of the school year? So many of our SCHS freshmen tell me they were prepared to write that essay. They didn’t have to be taught the essay because they knew what to do. That’s what I want for them.
I want this to be a challenge, to push students beyond their perceived limits and allow them to grow in confidence with the knowledge they produced something totally unique, something that will help them feel proud.