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Because the rubric leaves room for a lot of choice, I encouraged students to visit the featured essays site and not only read, but listen to real examples.I wanted them to see that this wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill assignment, that what they believe is important and writing is just one way to share those beliefs.
For some, deciding what to write about was easy and they began drafting immediately.
However, the majority of students struggled not so much with what they believe, but how to write about it.
I talked with a few frustrated students about this strategy and they told me it made them realize they’ve never really had to think about themselves in this way, but ultimately, it gave them direction for their essays.
Because of block scheduling, I gave students about a week and a half to complete a working draft, which required having at least two paragraphs of their essay done.
I came across the “This I Believe” site and immediately liked the concept better than an introduction letter for a teacher.
The first time I assigned a “This I Believe” essay was in the fall of 2014, during the second week of school.
Another strategy I tried was using involved sentence stems: I know I am the way I am today because______.
I know I think about things the way I do because _______. I emphasized that these phrases did not have to be included in their final products, but should help generate ideas.
I wanted to give everyone plenty of time to write but held them to a firm deadline of having four weeks to work.
This time, I crafted my writing guidelines according to those posted on the NPR site that hosts hundreds of This I Believe essays from around the world.