Marks and the Academic Essay

Academic Writing

Writing for a specific purpose- I know many students who would say- “yeah- to get a good mark” — but- regardless of whether we say write a “how to” essay, write a “persuasive” essay, “discuss”, “analyze”, or if teachers offer- or a test offers – a prompt- it is still writing to explain a point of view!

Which is why it is so important that we as educators continuously encourage students to share their opinions; when students believe that their thoughts count, they are more likely to express them in written or oral form. 

Owls hoot “whoo”; a teacher must ask “why”? What part in the story has made you feel this way? Why? Where in the text can you find the support for this opinion? Why? Why have you chosen this topic?   Does additional research exist on this topic? Why did others consider the topic important?

We also need to remind students that one essay is not saving the world, creating world peace or changing society- it is however, discovering one’s voice, entering into a discussion, learning HOW to debate an issue, and when to cite sources, when to stress personal ideals.   And equally important how to read for information. 

Reading and writing go hand in hand.  When working with students who claim they “can’t write” the student(s) and I go back to the reading- not only will improved reading skills enhance written work, but also working together on a reading will allow an instructor to find where the student first ran into difficulty. Vocabulary specific to a subject? or vocabulary in general? Comprehension of an author’s main points- clear or vague? Theme, purpose of the assignment, can a student explain this in his/her own words? According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary definitions, one of the meanings for “comprehension” is “c :  the capacity for understanding fully <mysteries that are beyond our comprehension> ” Wow- “beyond our comprehension” – a leap of faith then takes place when we communicate ideas.  The leap being that we will, in fact, understand one another.  This is why moving into connotations, figurative language and use of metaphor, is essential to building vocabulary, in turn essential to improving reading skills, essential to increasing writing development.  An art and a science- writing is crafted.  When we show “how” let’s be sure to remember to encourage students to question “why”. 

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