Fix-It, An Essay

by Mr. Sheehy

My favorite essay prompts push students to use skills we’ve been learning but allow them flexibility of response. I like flexible responses not only because they allow students to write about things they care about, but because they prevent me from reading essays that are overly similar. (Few things discourage the grading process more than 40 essays about how Huck Finn’s being the narrator colors The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.)

This year we had been studying how to write more without adding clutter, so I created the “Fix It” essay.

My goal was for students to expand their thinking, drawing their ideas out over many paragraphs, pulling their reader through a full experience. Too often students write a page and declare themselves finished; here, I wanted them to need to talk more, to face the predicament where less is actually less, not more.

Here is my handout on the essay:

In that handout I reference our study of They Say, I Say as well as the “three-legged stool,” which is the solution I presented to the question “How do we write more without adding clutter?”

In my future versions of the Fix It essay, I will likely encourage students to stick to real solutions–a few students took their essays into comedic, fictional directions, which could potentially be fun but ultimately hindered their ability to judge what their arguments needed. Also, a few days after assigning this essay I read some comments from Alan Jacobs that I might incorporate somehow, but I have yet to discern how without miring my own assignment in complexity.