Crafting an Essay
Essay assignments and learning grammar can be a challenging and dreaded exercise for many students around the country. However, with the right tools and resources available it can make these learning experiences a little less challenging and perhaps, into an interesting experience for students to learn the writing tools that will be with them for the rest of their education and maybe into their career. I often think the best way to teach a student new tricks is to give them a book in which they think they aren’t really learning anything. Here are a few book that can help students grasp the definitions of literary terms and view essay assignments in another light. Not only will these books help teach students language arts terms in a fun way, but they can be used as recreational reading, also.
Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays by Brian Wolfe. 9781596437371. 2013. Gr 6-9.
Two words can strike fear into the hearts of middle and high school student, “essay assignment,”. This book uses the standard essay question such as, “Write about a strong memory,” or “Analyze a character from a fairy tale,”. These examples of “normal” essays questions will show students how these questions can be interpreted in a fun way that can make any essay assignment a little bit more fun to complete. Many popular authors, such as Ransom Riggs, Wendy Mass, and Scott Westerfeld, offer their interpretations of these dreaded essay questions and turn them into essays about about aliens, video games, animals, and other experiences that turn these dull questions into essays that are funny and heart warming at the same time. This book can be used to show students how they can turn an essay question into an interesting interpretation of the topic or it can be read as short stories.
Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices by Mitali Perkins. 9780763658663. 2013. Gr 9-12.
Ten teen authors and artists share their stories of life between cultures. Some of these stories are experiences from the author’s own life growing up or others are completely fictional. However, all of these stories offer their own brand of humor of growing up as a ethnic teen in a society that likes to fit people into stereotypes. In a tension filled topic like race, its important to find the common threads between every culture, and this is something that this book does quite well. This is another book that can be used as a learning experience for students to teach them that they can turn their own life experiences into a readable story for the reader to experience the memory through the writer’s shoes.
Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice by Catherine Lewis. 9781416957843. 2013. Gr 9-12.
This book uses the nursery rhyme of the “Three Blind Mice” to describe numerous literary elements in a humorous and an easy to understand format which makes the task of learning the multitude of literary terms not as challenging. Almost every term is described with illustrations featuring the mice acting out the nursery rhyme, while the mice describe the literary element, and a “Snippet of the Tale”, which provides additional insight into understanding the specific term. The definitions include descriptions of Plot, Farce, Deus Ex Machina, Sentence Diagrams, among many others. This is definitely a unique book to consider adding to any grammar learning lesson for high school students.
Guest Blogger: Anna C., Mackin Collection Management Librarian. Anna recently contributed a post about new speculative fiction for teens, and she will be joining us as a regular Books in Bloom blogger in 2014.