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Why essaypop?

Essay writing is hard for students. EssayPop simplifies the teaching and learning of essay writing by compartmentalizing the parts of the essay into easy-to-handle frames that, when combined together, form smoothly-written, organized papers.

The Problem – Students are not being taught how to write essays.

Has traditional essay writing fallen out of fashion? By “traditional essay,” we refer to the multiple-paragraph paper that begins with a focused introduction that presents a thesis, followed by several body paragraphs that support the thesis, and a conclusion that sums things up and puts matters into perspective.  The well-known, five-paragraph essay is one such paper that falls into this category, but certainly is not the only variation. A three, six or even ten-paragraph paper would certainly qualify. Shorter, one or two paragraph responses also qualify. There are those who suggest that this type of essay writing is a quaint, outdated skill; a held-over practice from a more conventional time. Actually, quite the opposite is true.  Traditional essay writing is being emphasized more than ever before.

The Standards Call for Structure, Evidence and Coherence

Consider what is prescribed by the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing.  Students are asked to:

  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1).
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.  (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2)
  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4).

And take a look at what the Smarter Balanced Performance Task (The writing portion of the Common Core State Standards-aligned test used in 15 states) assesses in its rubrics:  Both the 4-Point Informative-Explanatory Performance Task and Argumentative Performance Task  (Grades 6-11) require that “the response has a clear and effective organizational structure, creating a sense of unity and completeness. The response is fully sustained, and consistently and purposefully focused.”  The rubric additionally asks that, “the response provides thorough and convincing support/evidence for the controlling idea and supporting idea(s) that includes the effective use of sources, facts, and details. The response clearly and effectively elaborates ideas, using precise language.”  As you can see, these summative performance tasks require students to write evidence-based compositions, organized into structured paragraphs in order to demonstrate their language arts competencies.  In short, they are being asked to write traditional essays. But are today’s students prepared to produce such writing? Much of the research suggests that they are not.

The Numbers Aren’t Good

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s (NAEP) most recent assessment, only about one-quarter of students, grades 8 through 12,  perform at the Proficient level in writing.  The Atlantic Monthly’s, Peg Tyre, writes that, “based on the Nation’s Report Card, in 2015, the latest year for which this data is available, only 1 percent of all students in the 12th grade nationwide could write a sophisticated, well-­organized essay.”  She goes on to comment that “high schools are still graduating large numbers of students whose writing skills better equip them to work on farms or in factories than in offices.” Again and again the research reveals that for decades, achievement rates in writing have remained low, and this doesn’t change when students enter college.

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Universities Are Concerned

Universities are perplexed by newly enrolled students’ inability to craft a basic written argument in their research, persuasive and analytical essays.  As Soheila Battaglia of Demand Media points out, “Even before students are accepted to universities, they have to be able to write essays as part of their applications. Once accepted, they continue to write essays in courses across the humanities. Essays are assigned by instructors as a method for measuring critical thinking skills, understanding of course material, and writing skills.”  But many new college students simply aren’t prepared or able to produce these types of sustained and coherent multiple-paragraph compositions.

According to Daniel DeVise of the Washington Post, “more than 80 percent of them have never written a formal five-page paper. Instead, they’ve churned out short essay after short essay after short essay. When asked to develop an idea or argument beyond two or three pages, they look dumbfounded.”   Take a look at any college or university website and you will find guides for basic essay writing that, more or less, focus on the same things — a tightly constructed introductory paragraph with an unambiguous thesis statement, several focused body paragraphs that present some sort of evidence that is coherently explained by the writer and a conclusion that revisits the essay’s main points.  So why aren’t students able to write these kinds of traditional papers?

Some say the reason is that students just don’t spend very much time writing in middle school and high school, and when they do, it’s either creative writing, journaling or short expressions of personal opinion.  The Common Core education standards for ELA were developed, in large part, as a reaction to this, explicitly requiring students to write substantial, evidence-based expository and argumentative essays, not only in their english classes, but their history, science and math classes as well.  While well-meaning and carefully-constructed, the problem with this new approach is not the standards themselves, but, rather, the fact that teachers don’t necessarily know how to teach them. As Natalie Wexler of the Washington Post points out, “the authors of the Common Core focused just on the skills that students should have at each grade level, not on how to impart them. And few teachers have been trained to teach these writing skills, apparently because educators believe that students will just pick them up through reading. Obviously, most don’t.”  

So, essentially, the  writing standards are solid; they’re comprehensive and they are what university and business communities are asking for.  What’s missing are the methodologies and the training to provide teachers with the tools to teach these standards. The teaching of essay writing is not explicitly covered in credentialing programs.  Some teachers have figured it out on their own, but many have not. And herein lies the problem.

Teaching Essay Writing is Not Easy

The challenge is that the essay writing process is very complex; it is not easy for the instructor to teach, nor is it simple for the learner to master.  The textbook companies have given a nod to formal essay-writing instruction, but, really, they are more focused on reading development and standardized test preparation.  Sure, they provide end-of-unit essay prompts that they expect teachers will be able to guide their students through. But if the teachers don’t have the training to create writing experiences that produce substantive papers, or multiple-paragraph responses, then the cycle of not knowing how to teach the skills and not learning how to write to the standards is perpetuated.

1,000 Pages a Week = Teacher Burnout

What’s worse is even if teachers do discover a way to teach essay writing, they soon realize that with success comes a legendary grading burden.  The image of the dedicated english teacher loading crates of papers into the trunk of her car to take home for the weekend is not over-exaggerated.  And this burden takes its toll. Most experienced teachers will tell you that, over time, they assign fewer and fewer long-form papers because there simply is not enough time to grade them.  This is especially true in an era where it is not uncommon for class sizes to swell past 40 students per class. Imagine, having 200 students, all of whom produce a five-page paper, once per week.  That’s 1,000 pages per week that needs to be read, assessed given feedback — a Herculean task by any standard. It’s no wonder that even dedicated teachers back away from assigning essays to their students on a regular basis.

What Can Be Done?

What is needed is a system that explicitly helps instructors teach students how to write the types of essays that these standards require. Ideally, this system would be technology-based and would be able to be used independently by students who want to learn on their own, in concert with other collaborating peers, or in the classroom with the guidance of a teacher.

The technology would not only teach students to write better on their own, it would provide teachers with the tools to teach the writing process effectively and comprehensively. It would also take the pressure off of teachers by lessening the grading load.  Such a system would be accessible, equitable and affordable. It would also be interactive, responsive and customizable to student, teacher, parent,  school and district needs.

The solution is essaypop

EssayPop is cloud-based essay writing tool that allows beginning, developing and accomplished writers to compose traditional essays, lab reports, news articles and other types of academic writing on their computers, phones or tablets.  It is a flexible, interactive technology that provides young writers with the digital platform and the independent instruction they need to tackle the complex task of composing and organizing any type of academic paper.

Why EssayPop Works

EssayPop is fundamentally different than other writing systems in that the platform smartly breaks the paragraphs that make up an essay into their elemental parts for the writer.  Each of the parts becomes a discreet writing frame or box in which the essayist composes his or her ideas. A basic body paragraph, for example, is subdivided into the bridge, the research detail, the interpretation and the closer.  The student writes the paragraph one element at a time, box by box, until the paragraph is finished.

These boxes are not static; they can be rearranged and modified by the writer at will.  Also, within each writing frame, students can access explanations, instruction, sentence starters and ample models of good writing.  When finished with the frame, the student then moves on to the next one until the paragraph is finished. When the student completes all of the paragraph elements, she simply clicks a button and the elements become stitched together into a coherent, MLA-formatted essay that is ready to turn in.

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Students Will Love Watching Their Grades Improve

Students will love EssayPop because of a kid-friendly interface that’s intuitive, attractive, and customizable.  They’ll appreciate the simple, step-by-step approach to essay writing that removes the naturally intimidating prospect of staring at a blank piece of paper and the daunting prospect of composing a long piece of writing.

When a student needs help, they will access EssayPop’s unique messaging system that allows them to contact their teacher, a peer, all of their classmates, or an entire community of other EssayPop users.  This feature, called the hive, essentially allows students to crowdsource for assistance and feedback.  Most of all, they’re also going to love watching their grades improve when they start turning in the types of essays that their teachers want and that the standards require.

Parents Will Love the Results Too

Parents will rest easy, knowing that their children’s writing is improving demonstrably. They’re also going to appreciate that while the system works wonderfully in conjunction with direct teacher instruction, it is not teacher-dependent.  EssayPop is also a stand-alone system that, because of its comprehensive help and messaging features, allows students to work through the rigors of essay writing on their own. The inclusion of independent practice opportunities, embedded lessons, and numerous paragraph models provides further support for independent users. Parents will also be pleased by the sight of their children using their devices for something other than Snapchat or Instagram.

We Take the Pressure Off Teachers

Teachers will welcome EssayPop because it’s not just another esoteric or gimmicky educational widget soon to be shelved and forgotten. This writing application guides students, one step at a time, through the creation of academic, multiple-paragraph essays in a way that is completely scaffolded.  The messaging system will allow the teacher to give individualized feedback to students at any time, but will also create a “crowdsourcing effect” that will allow students to seek assistance from the hive community.  This feature will take a substantial load off of teachers which will naturally allow them to sign more essays.  EssayPop’s unique auto-commentary, feedback generator will also make giving support to students easier. Our system also integrates seamlessly with Google Docs, Google Classroom, Schoology and other blended learning platforms.

We invite you to adopt the essaypop system

By adopting EssayPop at your school or district, you will be providing your students with a state-of-the-art, technology-based writing system that will improve their writing skills immediately.  You will be providing your teachers, at long last, with a powerful instructional tool that will allow them to teach academic essay writing in all subject areas in ways that will satisfy today’s rigorous standards.  You’ll also be lightening their grading load without sacrificing feedback to students.

By adopting EssayPop at your school, you’ll be partnering with an organization that not only focuses on essay writing, but on customer service as well.  We will come to your school and train your teachers to master the system, and we will stay in close touch with your school and your teachers.