teachers from elementary school to high school can write five-paragraph essays
in their sleep. While the five-paragraph essay is a popular way to teach
students the basic elements of writing a paper, it is not the only way. Instead
of sticking to the same old tired format, spice things up a bit by introducing
students to creative writing formats that still help them learn the basics.
Changing the Audience
Start by changing the audience for the paper. Students
rarely feel inspired when writing to a teacher or a random essay reader.
However, if they are writing to their favorite celebrity, a best friend or
another unique listener, they will have the opportunity to be more creative and
infuse a unique voice into their writing. Students may write to their parents,
siblings, made up pen pals in another country, a favorite celebrity or the CEO
of a major company. To expand the audience options, you can also have students
pretend to be someone else when they write. For example, they could pretend to
be a shoe expressing its true feelings to its owner or a travel agent
describing her favorite vacation to some clients.
Changing the Format
Writing to a non-academic or non-traditional audience often
leads to writing in different formats. Students should not be limited to five
paragraphs or even a traditional essay structure when they write. Branch out by
allowing students to create brochures for descriptive pieces, instruction
manuals for how-to
essays and letters for persuasive
pieces. Instead of a traditional narrative essay, students can write a
series of diary entries, a script, a
picture book or a comic strip. Changing the format does not change the
skills students build. They are still required to create well-written,
organized pieces that use the appropriate voice, transition words and the
proper conventions of Standard American English.
The same writing
standards and conventions apply when students publish their papers in
non-traditional ways. Students may be more motivated to write when asked to
move beyond the traditional pen and paper essay or the five-paragraph essay
typed in a word processing program. They can publish their writing on a
website, a blog or by sending actual e-mails. Papers can be presented as
slideshows, turned into digital storybooks or recorded as podcasts.
Thinking Outside the Box
If you are considering assigning a traditional
five-paragraph essay, think outside of the box. Ask yourself what students will
be writing about, who they will be writing to and how they will format or
publish their writing. A boring, uninspiring writing assignment will have
students write about their favorite food, to a teacher, in the form of a
five-paragraph essay. Thinking outside the box could change that same writing
assignment into writing a recipe and description of their favorite food for the
employees of a new restaurant in the form of a reference sheet for preparing
the food and describing it to diners. Imagine how much more entertaining it
will be to read the creative pieces instead of the traditional five-paragraph
essay your students could have written.