College essay lesson plan


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College essay lesson plan

  1. 1. College Essay/Resume Lesson PlansMrs. NeelyIntroduction Lesson:Overview | What makes a college essay “work”? How can writers reveal themselves through writing? Inthis lesson, students explore sample college essays and then consider advice about what separates a greatessay from a mediocre or ineffective one as well as essay-writing tips. Finally, they write essays based onthe piece of advice that resonated with them.Materials | Copies of sample personal essays, copies of the College Essay Checklist (PDF), computer withInternet access and projection equipment1. Warm-Up | Begin by asking: What do you think college admissions officers are looking for whenthey read student essays? List responses on the board, and be sure to push the conversationbeyond issues of mechanics and structure to content, voice and style.2. Then read aloud this first paragraph from a college essay:During the summer before my junior year of high school, I spent a weekend volunteering with the poor inpost-Katrina Louisiana and realized that I am privileged. Most of what these people had had been ripped outfrom under them and life was very different there from my life in suburban Massachusetts. Amazingly,though, these people still seemed happy. I learned from this experience that money isn’t everything.3. Ask: Judging just from this paragraph, do you think this essay will meet the expectations we justlisted? Does this paragraph grab you? Are you interested in reading more of this essay? What doyou think this paragraph says about this student?4. Next, divide students into small groups of “admissions officers,” and give each “committee” acollege essay to evaluate. Resources include Connecticut College’s Essays That Workedcollection and these sample essays published in The Times. In addition, give themthis handout (PDF).Tell the “admissions committees” to imagine that each of these essay writers has applied for admission totheir college or university. Each group is responsible for using the handout to evaluate the essay anddecide whether to admit this student. They should assume that each student has a similarly strong profilein terms of grades, test scores, activities and recommendations.Once students have read and evaluated the essay, reconvene the class. Invite each group to describe theiressay and what they liked or didn’t like about it, and deliver their admissions decision.
  2. 2. After each group has shared, ask: How were these essays different from the excerpt with which webegan? In what ways were they more effective? What is cliché? How did these essays avoid that trap? Isthere a way to move the experience detailed in the opening essay beyond cliché? After considering theseessays, what else should we add to our list about what college admissions officials are looking for instudent essays?Looking at other examples: Suggestions: HomeworkRead the entire article with your class or for homework, using the questions below.Questions | For discussion and reading comprehension:1. Remember that essay we started class with? Why are the options presented in the “fill-in-the-blank” introduction in the post likely to not interest or impress a college admissions official?2. Why are more mundane topics often preferable?3. What other alternatives to the standard college essay fare does this post offer?4. What are some things to avoid in a college essay?5. Mr. Marcus quotes Matthew Whelan of Stony Brook University as saying that the best collegeessays “help us understand why we want the applicant here.” Thinking of your own experiences,what are some things that make you attractive to the college(s) of your choice?Writing Their Own Essay:Activity | Explain to students that they will now start developing personal essays for their collegeapplication packages, by evaluating and then capitalizing on advice on how to write effective essays.1. First, project the multimedia feature“Counting Words, Courting College.”2. The short video from Ask: What advice do you take away from this audio slide show about what makes a great collegeessay?4. Ask: What advice here seems most useful? Despite all of this advice, what don’t you know aboutwriting college essays? What role does the reader play in determining what works and whatdoesn’t? How can you account for individual, unknown readers as you write?Choosing a topic:1. But first, they have to choose a topic. As one parent contributor to The Choice blog notes, craftingan essay is really a foray into memoir writing. And while all of the advice they have gathered isuseful, the question of what to write about remains.
  3. 3. Timeline of Significant Events2. To help students begin to discover topics that make for good essay fodder, ask them to create atimeline of significant events in their lives. Ask them to really think broadly, aiming to get at least20 items on their list. They should include “major” events like births, deaths, travel, coming ofage rituals, or course, but also the more mundane moments they remember that have markedtheir lives in some way — a car ride, a dinner, a chance meeting, etc.Group Finding Patterns:3. Then, ask them to talk in pairs or small groups about what patterns, ideas or themes emerge whenthey review their timelines. Are there significant people who crop up again and again? What aboutan experience that truly changed their perspective on things in an important way? What inspiresstrong emotion? What seems clichéd or potentially boring? (Allow students who are gravitatingtoward stories that are particularly personal to work independently.)In their discussions, ask students to narrow possible topics for essays to three they think will helpa college admissions committee “understand why [they] want the applicant.”As They Select the Their Topic1. Going further | Students use the topics they generated in class to draft a college essay around thepiece of advice they thought was the most useful.2. Offer those students who are not satisfied with their topic some or all of the following prompts tohelp them generate more ideas: Use the packet of Questions you have supplied. Remember3. When students are finished drafting their essays, ask them to bring in their drafts for peer review.Use your favorite method or one of the options presented in our lesson Getting Personal, includingusing the College Essay Checklist (PDF).Standards | This lesson is correlated to McREL’s national standards (it can also be aligned to thenew Common Core State Standards):Language Arts1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process5. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process7. Uses general skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposesLife Skills: Working With Others1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group4. Displays effective interpersonal communication skillsBehavioral Studies1. Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity and behavior2. Understands various meanings of social group, general implications of group membership and different ways that groups function3. Understands that interactions among learning, inheritance and physical development affect human behavior4. Understands conflict, cooperation and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutionsArts and Communication3. Uses critical and creative thinking in various arts and communication settings4. Understands ways in which the human experience is transmitted and reflected in the arts and communication
  4. 4. College Resume Writing: Lesson PlanIntroduction Lesson:Overview | What information does a College Résumé include? How can students reveal themselvesfurther in this medium? In this lesson, students explore sample college résumés and begin to brainstormthe list of possible achievements. Finally, they will create a resume using the word choice lessons.Materials | Copies of sample resumes, copies of the Format and Translating Skills Handout (PDF),computer with Internet access and projection equipment1. Warm-Up | Begin by viewing the Résumé PPT Introduction. Ask students to think about their HScareer? What things are note worthy that a college may look for in an applicant? What do youhave to offer?2. Activity: Student will complete the Graphic Organizer with their achievements, extracurricularactivities, and honors. Once the students have brainstormed, they may begin to add information into the template.3. Activity: Language: How should students make their experiences match up to their skills? Theactivity that shows and gives examples of how to translate their actions into skills.4. Final Activity: Students will type and peer edit their college essay. Students will place and electriccopy of both the their essay and the resume on to be saved for next year. (incase.)