When I look at today’s prompt, it reminds me of one of the most common questions used by teachers all around the world for a five-paragraph essay or speech: ‘If you have a million dollars, what would you do?’ Of course there are many variations to the value of the money such as ten thousand dollars, a billion dollars or something to that amount.
One question comes to mind – what kind of answers are teachers expecting from the students? In 5 paragraphs? What skills are they trying to teach the students? What proficiency are they expecting to be developed in the students? What is there to write based on that question?
The most that the student could write are these: “I would like to travel round the world because……I would buy a beautiful house because…..I would buy a Ferrari because…..I would donate some to charity because,….I would save some for my future because……and so on…..
Writing an essay is supposed to help the students in honing their writing skills, their thinking skills, their creativity skills, their critical-thinking skills and their problem-solving skills. Are these achieved by that single question? Hardly.
“The key to mature writing is learning to write critically. Without criticism, texts that you read have no life beyond that of the author. Without criticism, you also have no distance from the text by which you give life to yourself as a thinker. Why is this the case? ” Deborah Dewitt Marchant
Instead of that title, maybe teachers should explore these kind of questions:
- If you were born in Africa, to a very poor family, what would you do?
- If you live in a war-torn country like Syria, what would you do?
- If one of your family members suffers from a terminal disease, what would you do?
- If one of your family members is a drug addict or an alcoholic, what would you do?
- If you were homeless, what would you do?
I believe writing based on these questions will bring out more from our students and help to sharpen their thinking skills. It will make them reflect on their lives, to think deeper, to feel sympathetic, to empathize and to realize that there are many problems plaguing the world than just having a million dollars.