Although we share opinions and beliefs regularly, it can be tough to hone in on the beliefs that drive us. Last week, I asked students to do just that: to think about a core belief, something that is integral to who they are or want to be, and write an essay based on it.
We used the model developed in the 1950s by Edward R. Murrow and picked up again in recent years as an independent organization (see www.thisibelieve.org). The essays are powerful because they are short, personal, and relatable.
After spending a morning listening to other people's essays, exploring different agree/disagree statements, discussing the difference between an idea and an experience, and trying out a few free writing prompts, the students were tasked with writing their own "This I Believe" essay.
And let me tell you, the essays were awesome. As a teacher, I enjoyed dabbling with this essay format because we spend so much energy on persuasive writing. Personal essays can be a breath of fresh air: they are personal and backed up by experience, not research. They are focused, clear, and direct. And, they are the epitome of the idea in English that you can write about anything as long as you can back it up!
Students spent most of the week developing, revising, revising, revising, and editing their essays. Once the draft was polished, I asked them to sit in a room and record themselves reading their essays, just as the official "This I Believe" essays are shared. We talked about how this step is an important one because personal ideas are best expressed through the person's actual voice.
So here you go! Here are essays written and read by four of the students from the module. Enjoy!
"Three rules for teens to follow"
"I am the best"
"I believe in hope"
Christine Bailey: teacher of English, user of fountain pens, fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and advocate of parallel structure.