(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
A frequent type comment by teachers, “I always look forward to reading these essays. They often give me new insights into my students and their cultures.”
A frequent type comment by students, “When I heard that we would write a complete essay about one word, I thought it would be impossible. But after I chose a good word, I really enjoyed writing this.”
Another frequent type comment by students, “This was the most challenging essay for me, but in the end, it was the most rewarding.”
Many ESL Writing books and instructors overlook this essay mode because they don’t realize its secret potential. It’s the Definition Essay. The potential lies in the type of words that the students write about.
Traditional Definition essays can be very unstimulating for the students to write and for the teachers to read. There are two major reasons for this:
(1) The category of topics from which to choose provides little opportunity for ESL students to feel truly invested in it.
(2) The students are given few specific or poorly designed techniques which they can use.