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You’ve given your explanation of how to write an essay. You’ve poured over all the documents. You’ve given encouragement. And when the paper deadline comes, 1/3 of your class has submitted their essay.

How can you get those insecure or unmotivated students to submit an essay? Try something new. Experiment.

I created a fill-in-the-blank essay, complete with drop down menus and instructions, for my students to use. The gray portions of the document are the only places that a student can add their ideas. They can explain their own ideas in as many sentences as they need. In addition, I created a drop down menu at the end certain segments to remind students that they need to cite their sources. Because I preselected the text and its options, I also control the formatting.

Will this teach students to create original introduction paragraphs – No. Will it give them a chance to find their “writing style” – No. But it does give them an opportunity to see an example of an opening paragraph and it gives students that are having difficulty starting a chance to show what they do know – the material. I will probably offer it to students that have missed their deadline by 7-10 days. I believe that amount of time is a clear indication that they were not going to submit the assignment.

Of course, a student that chooses to use this format should not receive the same amount of points as a student that creates their own essay from scratch. So I will probably set their score ceiling at 50% because I did half their work for them. Check out the image below and a link to the instructions on Create forms that users complete in Word.

Screen shot 2013-11-19 at 11.44.43 AM

This will be the first time I attempt to use this fill-in-the-blank essay. I’m going to have to work out some of the kinks with this. Off the top of my head:

  1. Do I offer this to students that scored less than 50% on their original essay?
  2. Do I offer this to students as an option for the second writing assignment?
  3. If I do offer it for the second assignment, do I make attempting an original essay part of the requirement to use a fill-in-the-blank essay?

Share your ideas and concerns with me in the reply section. Your comments will be part of our collegial discussion.

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