Archive | January, 2013

Mini-essays: Go Small to Get Big Results

25 Jan

450450 words are usually enough to communicate effectively, even in a blog post.

Of course, bigger is not always better…or easier. Thinking back on my schooling, however, I always encountered a direct relationship between size and rigor. In order to make writing more challenging, my teachers made papers longer. The fifteen-page term paper is a mainstay of undergraduate and graduate years. While longer writing pieces have clear merit, they are not necessarily the most effective tools when helping apprentice writers.

Students can develop the critical writing skills they need by writing “smaller.” I have been using mini-essays to great success. The concept is simple.

Students respond to a prompt with a literary analysis essay that does not exceed 450 words. I still want original, critical analysis of the text, so students must get straight to the point.

My students still write longer essays, but I have found I can teach many of the same skills by limiting the word count. The students, too, often find the mini-essays more challenging than those without word limits.

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