an essay in 140 characters or less

Andy Selsberg’s op-ed piece in the New York Times is interesting.  It is asking college writing teachers to consider the other ways in which our students write.  Rather than pushing only the 4-page expository essay or the dreaded 8-page researched essay, Selsberg argues, why don’t we our students to write a 2-sentence copy, a cover letter, or an Amazon review for a classic work of literature.  He makes other interesting suggestions.  While I still believe in the value of writing a well thought out essay that proposes and defends an argument (with good research), I do think some of his ideas are worth trying.  I particularly like this idea:

For another project, I asked them to describe the essence of the chalkboard in one or two sentences. One student wrote, “A chalkboard is a lot like memory: often jumbled, unorganized and sloppy. Even after it’s erased, there are traces of everything that’s been written on it.” (Selsberg)

While this kind of writing projects aren’t appropriate for all assignments, I do think there is something to the idea of teaching to the types of writings that our students do and will do on a day-to-day basis.  I also like the idea of memos and cover-letters.


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