learning to write a school essay means expressing one’s vision of the world
In my time the class was divided into two categories: those who knew how to write the essays (and took good grades), and those who could not write them (and always took mediocre votes).
It was accepted as a fact. Both by professors and by pupils. In five years there was no room for improvement: the exercise was expected to take place, as if it were a gift the student had of his own.
But if I said: I don’t know how to solve an equation, this thing was not accepted and seemed more serious, both by the professors, both by parents and students. In short, it seemed that not knowing how to write an essay implied a minor responsibility.
In my opinion, if a student does not know how to write an essay (and does not want to improve, or do not give him the tools to do so) it is equivalent to saying: I do not have my opinion on this topic, I don’t know anything about it, I don’t know I’m interested.
The professors should, before entering into the merits of writing techniques and contents, transmit the concept and that a concept articulated in a thousand words will be deeper than one expressed in a hundred. A student who knows how to reason through rhetoric, persuasion, creative writing, will be an adult who will be more difficult to manipulate.
What we have to explain to our students is that when we ask them to write an essay, we are asking them: tell me about yourself, through a track. Tell me about yourself, through the poetics of Manzoni or Pascoli, tell me about your dreams and your frustrations, through the exploits of Napoleon.
Of course, to write an essay you need to know the topic. To learn about the topic you need to study. You can’t escape from here. But studying is a necessary but not sufficient condition in the development of an essay. What is generally lacking is the development of the critical sense; what the school does not teach is to train and stimulate creativity and the desire to play and experiment.
A bit like when the fateful moment comes to explain the figures of speech.
Instead of demanding definitions from memory and useless lists, why don’t we try to relate them to life? The songs that the students love, the series that follow, the films they watch are full. But above all: when they feel that grief for a disappointment of love, that shiver under the skin for a new falling in love, or the bitter taste for a bad grade.
How to make an essay
There are various types of school subjects. We can summarize them in:
- argumentative essay;
- expressive essay;
- descriptive essay;
- short essay;
- newspaper article;
- historical essay;
- current topic;
- letter and diary.
Each has different characteristics; it is necessary to decline writing and performance in order to respect the required task. But we can identify strategies that are common to all types of essays.