Why Kids Write Boring Essays (it’s not the reason you think)

14 Mar

English: A bored person

Have you ever sat down and said to yourself, “You know what I’d like to do right now? Sit down with a nice, thick stack of five-paragraph essays written by local sixth graders. What a fabulous way to spend an afternoon that would be!”

If you’re like most people, then the answer to that question is an emphatic no. Five-paragraph essays, particularly ones by kids, are notoriously dull and poorly written, right? Don’t kids hate writing? Shouldn’t we be proud to squeeze five reasonably organized paragraphs out of them?

Not at all! I love reading my kids’ essays and, in fact, have been known to spend a cozy afternoon or two re-reading them.

The real reason that kids write boring essays is so simple it hurts: kids write boring essays because they think that essays are supposed to be boring. They are shown boring examples and given boring topics. Kids are asked to choose theses, but never to pick a topic that makes them angry, or to write about an opinion that all their friends disagree with. No one tells them that it is okay to make jokes in an essay, or to use interesting extended metaphors.

If my kids are writing something boring, I make them stop and start over again until they have a thesis that gets them excited. I’ve had a lot of success teaching essay-writing via satire; I’ve had kids write essays with titles like “Why Boys Should Wear as Much Makeup as Girls” and “Why You Should Wear a Helmet in the Hood”–and they are a fabulous read. For the lesson plan and example essays, you can order a copy of the Deep curriculum here.

How do you get your kids to write interesting essays? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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3 Responses to “Why Kids Write Boring Essays (it’s not the reason you think)”

  1. microrrelatososhortstories March 14, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    I’m working with highschool students, their most recent writing assignment was a persuasive essay…the topic was charities…the first step was finding a charity they ‘liked’ and applying the journalist questions (who, what ,where, when ,why, how) and presenting a powerpoint to the class…from there I gave them 10 tips for persuasive writing and they were to apply all 10 tips, intro (turning the ppt info into a paragraph +thesis statement) and conclusion… Up to this assignment ,they had mostly written 5 paragraph essays, but this time they achieved between 8 and 10 paragraphs…wow! The ten tips were decisive as their inspiration prompts…of course from reading the tips, 2 students found out that they weren’t really convinced with their charity org so they had to start all over with no hesitance… To have a classroom full of inspired people typing away at their laptops (the only sound I’d hear was the clicking of the typing) wonderful!! Read you soon, Alexandra

  2. cttomasso May 11, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    This is so true! The teaching out there about essay writing is all wrong. Someone needs to develop software that analyzes when your topic is too boring, and inserts fun words. It would be like Mad Libs: Essay creator edition. Or maybe that’s totally insane.

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  1. How To Write A Good History Essay (In My Opinion) | The Art of Polemics - April 23, 2013

    […] Why Kids Write Boring Essays (it’s not the reason you think) (thatwritinglady.com) […]

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