Writing the Perfect Essay– Student Responses

Recently I wrote about having my students write “the perfect essay” and how Evernote portfolios really helped me stay organized. When school resumed after the Christmas break, I had my students respond to this prompt:

What did you think about having to write a perfect essay?

Before you write, think about these things:
What did you like?      
What did you not like?
How many drafts did you end up writing?
How much time did it really take?
Did it help having to focus on a specific “Area of Improvement”?
Have you ever had to write a “perfect” essay before? If not, why do you think that is?
Now, write a paragraph (or several) about your experience. Be honest (and nice).
Here are some of the responses:
“I have never had to write a perfect essay before.  I thought it was cool for more than one reason.  One was that I knew if I did the essay and made the corrections I was going to get a good grade.  Another reason is I found out some things that I need to change that I didn’t know before because I would just get counted off for it and that was the end of it I never learned it. There were also one main reason I didn’t like it and that was that I had to write a bunch if papers.  It seemed to take forever, I would turn in an essay and later that day you would give it back to me or email it to me and I would have to do it over and over again.  I don’t know how many drafts I wrote but I know it was at least 5 or 6.  I do know that next time of we do an essay like this I am going to get on it so I don’t have to do 3 or 4 essays the night it is due.  Over all it was a pretty cool thing.  I wish all of the essays I wrote the teachers would do the same thing.”
“Having to write a perfect essay was a little tough. Having to go back and fix all the little mistakes was frustrating for me. I only had two drafts so it wasn’t that bad for me. I loved doing my essay on Evernote though because I didn’t have to rewrite the entire thing. I could just go back and fix the little things. Having an area of improvement was nice so that you could see what you needed to work on and apply it to your work. I’ve never had to write a perfect essay before. I mean, I’ve had to go back and fix typos and such, but I have never had to make it perfect. It really wasn’t a big deal to me at all. I actually kind of enjoyed doing a perfect essay. It was a little challenging at first, but then after we got to work and got farther along into the essay, it was pretty easy to me.”
“I thought writing the perfect essay was a good learning experience. I liked knowing all I have to do to get a hundred is take my time and really try to write like I know I can. I did not like writing multiple final drafts but even though I didn’t like it I know it has to be done. I ended up writing  four final drafts. It took me about three or four hours to finish the perfect essay. It [the areas of improvement] helped me to stay on topic and relate each paragraph back to the main idea. I have never had to write a perfect essay before because none of my teachers have really cared enough to help the all of their students get a one hundred.”
The rest of the responses were just like these, which definitely surprised me. My students, despite the multiple drafts and time they spent– loved this assignment. Many of them mentioned something about a sense of accomplishment.
Was it extra work for me? Sort of. I did grade multiple drafts of essays, but they were really easy to grade the third and fourth and even eighth time around.
Was it worth it? Yes.
Was it challenging for me? Yes.
Was it challenging for my students? Without a doubt.
Will I do it again? Absolutely!

5 Reasons Students Will Love Using Evernote

I surveyed my 8th graders to see what tech devices they could use at school if needed and the results were astounding:

98% of my students had at least one device.

The overall ratio was 2.1 devices/student.

If this is true, then why do students still prefer to hand-write assignments? Why do students lose notes and assignments? Why do students lug around bulging backpacks and have one unorganized notebook for each class?

I use my phone and iPad for just about everything. If it works for me, wouldn’t it work for the digital natives who think an iPhone has always been around? Students could use their phones and tablets to help them at school and stay organized, right?

But they don’t.

It’s not because they don’t want to; it’s because they don’t know how.

So this year I’ve tried my hardest to teach students (and other teachers) how using Evernote at school will help them stay organized, be less stressed, and be better prepared for school. I hosted a workshop, wrote a handbook, started a blog, and I use Evernote daily in my class to teach my students the benefits of digital organization.

Here are five reasons reluctant students may try using Evernote:

1. Search notes instantly. This is by far the coolest feature of Evernote. Type a note, snap a picture, or scan a handwritten document into Evernote and it becomes a searchable document (even handwritten notes). For students, this is a complete time-saver and great when studying for tests.

2. Keep a digital notebook for every class. By using Evernote, students no longer need a 3-ring binder for each class. Instead, by creating notebooks and notebook stacks for each class, students can keep all of their notes, assignments, and class papers in one place– Evernote. Say goodbye to this:


3. No more lost or misplaced papers. If students complete notes or an assignment on paper, they can snap a picture of it (or scan it) and save it directly to Evernote. I’ve had several students this year lose an assignment, but email me their scanned document when the assignment was due. Storing assignments digitally definitely saved their grades!

4. Share notebooks. When students work in groups, inevitably the student who has the group’s folder is absent or goes on a “unexpected” family vacation. It always happens. Using a shared notebook allows students to have one location to save and share information regardless of their physical locations. Whether they are working from school, from home, from Starbucks, or from Disney, each group member always has access to the shared notebook.

5. Text papers in class. Students are FAST at texting– ridiculously fast– and most of them hate handwriting anything, especially essays. So instead of physically writing an essay in class, many of my students use their phones instead of pencil and paper. They open an Evernote note, text their paragraph or essay, and then email me the note. If they don’t finish in class, their note is automatically saved and synced on Evernote, and the next time they open the note, they can pick up where they left off. No flash drives or computers needed.

Even though the digital natives are very tech savvy, they still lack confidence and know-how when it comes to using tech at school. At first, many of them feel it’s more work or takes too much time, but like anything, the more they try, the faster they become.

To get more ideas about how students could use Evernote at school, download the free ebook 19 Practical Evernote Ideas for Students.

Click below if you’d like to purchase the Evernote Student Handbook— a how-to guide I created for my students.

Evernote Student Handbook  (Sample)

How to Import Files Automatically

In order to maintain student writing portfolios, I am constantly scanning and uploading documents. However, instead of having to scan and then upload files to Evernote, I use the Import Folders feature to automatically upload files*. This really comes in handy for student work when I have 30 different assignments for one class. I simply scan the assignments to a desktop folder, and they are automatically uploaded to Evernote where I can sort the assignments and move each student’s assignment in his personal portfolio (notebook). The time may vary based on scanners, but with my Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, scanning, saving, uploading, and sorting assignments for an entire class takes me less than 5 minutes.

How to Set-Up Import Folders:

Import Folders

*Even though my scanner has the capability of sending files directly to Evernote, I have found it more convenient to use the import folders feature.