Do you remember the days when an essay was an essay, and a presentation was a presentation?
We knew where we stood with those (even if we didn’t necessarily like them).
But now it’s all ‘create a video movie review’,
or ‘record a podcast episode about a historic figure’,
or ‘write a blog about a character in such-and-such a novel’
or… (and this is probably the most common right now)…
‘perform a TED talk about a current issue in society’
Well, I’m here to tell you that really – not a lot has changed.
Stick with me and I’ll explain why really, it’s still just essay-writing in disguise.
Tell me if your teen has been set anything like this lately…
– Create a VLOG movie review, or record a podcast episode about a historic figure,
or write a blog about a character in such-and-such a novel OR…
this is probably the most common right now… perform a TED talk about a current issue in society.
Do you remember the days when an essay was an essay, and a presentation was a presentation? Back when there wasn’t even powerpoint to take the pressure off YOU and onto the slides alongside us?
Well, I’m here to tell you that really – not a lot has changed. Stick with me and I’ll explain all…
Because oh-boy – it’s something I’m seeing crop up more and more for students and the tasks they’re being set.
I want to share with EVERYONE out there the key point that so many are missing when it comes to
these new, fun, and funky style assignments I see cropping up a TON these days.
Or at least they’re TRYING to SOUND fun and funky…
Like, perform a TED Talk, create a VLOG, or record a podcast episode.
These new-fangled assignments are supposed to:
(a) be more up-to-date and relevant to life today and
(b) be more FUN.
So that students see the point of them and enjoy doing them more.
And there is nothing wrong with that – except that actually these are all just pretty much the same thing, wrapped up in different coloured bows.
And those fancy bows are causing quite a few students a bit of confusion.
They don’t know HOW to write a blog. They’ve no idea where to start with planning a podcast.
And so I have some good news and bad news. And a very clear message to take away – so stick with me to the end here.
Okay – the good news is this:
There are no fancy or brand new structures, templates or scaffolds needed here. No new-fangled techniques, features or skills required that your teen doesn’t already know about or haven’t been shown before (or at least HOPEfully knows about if they’ve ever written a PEEL or TEEL paragraph, or a standard 5 paragraph essay).
Because the marking criteria for a TED talk will still demand an introduction, body and conclusion – but maybe just with a fancy hook thrown in as the very first sentence of the intro.
The teacher is still going to be looking for a VLOG or a podcast or a blog article to have a clear intro to the topic, discussion – in other words – a body – and a summary or – yep, you guessed it – a conclusion.
So here’s the bad news:
These cool and funky tasks really aren’t all that new and exciting when it comes down to it.
Because – shock-horror – It’s basically still an essay, with a bit of a tweak of language or an extra little bit of word-based glitter thrown on top, like a fun and engaging opening or ending.
And I’m not here to pooh-pooh the idea of making things more relevant to today or trying to make them a little more fun.
But I DO want to reveal these tasks for what they really ARE so that students aren’t left feeling confused about what they have to do or how to tackle them.
I want students to realise that really, they just have to write an essay and then perform it.
They still need an intro with a thesis statement or hypothesis or key argument, 3 body paragraphs that support and discuss their key point or theme or message, and a conclusion that reinforces it.
So, the message I want you take away from this, is no matter what the task is called, it’s very likely that it’s still an essay format behind the scenes. So don’t let any fun disguises lead to confusion or overwhelm. Just write an essay.
Intro – body – conclusion.
And tweak that essay a little to fit with the genre and final format.