Monday, May 12, 2008

Are there alternatives to a 5 paragraph essay?

I was fortunate enough to spend two days last week with Heidi Hayes Jacobs and some of our regional teachers investigating and thinking about "active literacy." One of the comments that Heidi made, among several, that really pushed some buttons in the group is to stop teaching the 5 paragraph essay.

She is right, I think - but that didn't make it any easier to hear. I am preparing for a workshop this week on Step Up to Writing and that structure is one that many teachers apply the color coding scheme to. In working in our region, I hear "5 paragraph essay" stated as if it were a genre. I suppose in many ways, and for many different reasons, it really has become one.

But one of the things that Heidi pushed people to think about with literacy is that people are not just literate in writing and reading. That listening and speaking are critical elements of literacy. And that new technologies open up yet another form of literacy that we need to address.

So it must have been fate that as I have been sitting on everything we discussed last week, my favorite Scottish blogger and someone who really pushes my thinking about literacy posted this on his blog:

How do you measure creativity. How can we work out the struggle of the 'exchange rate' of assessment. What is "the equivalent" of a 1500 word essay?

- an animation?
- running an online discussion for a week?
- scripting and posting a 3 minute podcast?
- authoring an explanation in Flash?
- annotating a week's worth of delicious links?

What are your suggestions of 'equivalence' in an ingenius, creative school system?

I am not going to answer with my thoughts in the hopes of prompting some thoughts around this. Tell me - what do you think?


Carol W. said...

I would take five creative, critical questions for a 1500 word essay any day. :)
-Carol Weintraub

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