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!

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