An Essay Brainstorm: If I Were in Charge …

Last week, I had my students working on the dreaded Five-Paragraph Essay Project, which is a line item on our new Standards-based Progress Reports and so I must have them working in this genre. I am not a huge fan of the Five-Paragraph Essay — I find it very restricting and when in life will they ever write like this, other than in school? (I once did a series of Boolean Squared comics against the essay). But, I recognize that the essay genre does allow us to teach format, writing with constraints, and also, most importantly, organization of ideas.

My students worked on essays around the theme of improving their own community. I had them imagine that they were put in charge of the town. What needs improvement? How would you make that change? We talked about the way our town makes decisions, the form of government (Select Board and Town Meeting), and how the community is involved in making changes.

We then brainstormed possible ideas that could form the body of their essays, and I found it a wealth of great ideas.

  • More sidewalks for pedestrians
  • Build more energy-efficient buildings
  • Develop more enertainment/commercial areas
  • Street lights on side-streets
  • More crosswalks
  • Better public works (snow plow, paved roads, etc.)
  • Need bike paths
  • Preserve open space
  • Protect local animal habitats
  • Need animal shelter
  • Small medical center/hospital (emergency care)
  • Public transportation
  • New equipment/expanded service for fire and police
  • Sports equipment
  • More areas for housing/real estate (and new roads)
  • Flower gardens/community gardens
  • More recreational areas (Swimming, athletics, etc.)
  • Public space (like Look Park or Stanley Park)
  • Bike Path
  • Beautification project
  • Slow down building construction
  • Support police (new police station)
  • Medical center/hospital
  • Small airport
  • New technology for the schools
  • Bigger public park
  • Less gas stations
  • More tourist attractions
  • Combine Southampton with Easthampton/Westhampton

A few students asked if they could send their essays to Town Hall when they were done, and of course, I said “Absolutely!” and I meant it. The more authentic the audience is, the better the motivation for writing.

Peace (in the form),


One Comment
  1. Ironic. I spent all last week convincing my students NOT to use the 5 paragraph essay! I told them to write as much as they needed to write and not to worry about a silly paragraph count. Unlearnin’ them what you are learnin’ them! Education is strange…T

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