Essays are the bread and butter of the ELA world, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only assessment you can assign. If you or your students are sick of Essays, try one of these essay alternatives.
Essay Alternatives Idea #1: Discussions
I love discussions as summative assessments! Add a juicy novel with rich themes, and you’ll have an assessment that is enjoyable for both you and your students.
Discussions allow more flexibility for your students to share their thoughts and engage with their peers. You can still have them write and gather evidence from the text as prep work for the discussion, which you can grade or not.
The best part of discussions is that once they’re done, so is the grading! Make sure you have an easy-to-read rubric with checkbooks, grade as students talk, and you’ll be done as soon as they are.
If you’re using a discussion as a summative assessment, either break the class into small groups that you can monitor one at a time or invite some guest facilitators to lead and grade other small groups.
Essay Alternatives Idea #2: Speeches
If you still want writing to be the focus of your summative assessment, a speech is a great alternative.
Speeches include writing, like the essay, but they also provide opportunities for you to teach speaking and listening skills to your students.
Choosing a speech topic is automatic differentiation for students.
Students can turn in the written form of their speeches, so you can grade their writing. But you can also assess their delivery and engagement with other speakers. This might prove a more balanced rubric for students who struggle with writing but can effectively communicate orally.
Plus, you can grade much of the assessment as students deliver their speeches. Most of the grading will be done by the time the students have all spoken!
Need a starting point? Try the Social Justice Speech Project.
Essay Alternatives Ideas #3: Portfolios
If one big piece of writing is too much, consider having students assemble a portfolio of their writing.
Students can work on their portfolios all semester and choose their best pieces to include. They can even include pieces you’ve already graded, which means all you’ll need to do is give the portfolios a cursory overview before assigning a final grade.
There are many different kinds of portfolios you can have students assemble.
Maybe you have them include one example of each type of writing you study (say an article, a poem, and a short essay).
You can also have them create new pieces for their portfolio. Check out the Author Study Project as an example.
Essay Alternative Ideas #4: Fiction Writing
Essays can become a little dry and boring if that’s all you assign. Why not mix it up with some fiction?
Fiction still requires a mastery of language, but also more planning (plotting) and creativity than an essay.
It will challenge a lot of students more than an analytical essay ever will.
Plus assigning fiction writing can provide opportunities for all kinds of writing mini-lessons.
There are all kinds of other ways to test and challenge students’ skills besides the essay.
Taking a unit off from essay writing if it’s feeling a little stale (or if you’re short on grading time).