8 July 2011 – Essay Contest

Two weekends ago I decided to start an essay contest for Form 1 and Form 2 (Grades 7 and 8). We had been doing the same old things in class – ICT (Information and Communications Technology) theory and then practical application of that theory in the lab. I was bored and perhaps the students were bored as well. I felt the need to spice things up for my last month teaching in Ghana.


The other reason I wanted do a contest is that I still wanted to take some kids to the Vodafone Internet Cafe. My original plan was to take all of Form 2 in groups of 10. So many of you generously donated for that cause but between collecting the money and implementation of the plan things changed. In late June I learned that SBIG was going to donate an internet router to BASCO. Through discussions with them, the staff and my donors it was decided that the money I collected would be used to finance 6 months of internet access. This way students from BS 1 (grade 1) through Form 3 (grade 9) can all benefit from internet access. I was a bit disappointed because I thought it would be a blast to take the kids to an internet cafe for the first time, so I came up with this smaller and more manageable plan.


In the first class about the contest I gave the rules.


1) All work must be original

2) Topic: ICT tools are making the world smaller

3) You must submit

Brainstorming paper


First draft

Final paper

4) Write 5 or more paragraphs.


The prize would be an all expenses paid trip to the Vodafone Internet Cafe in Koforidua for four students – the top two girls and the top two boys.  They would have two hours on the internet where they would sign up for an email.


The rest of the class was devoted to brainstorming. I gave them the topic “ICT tools are making the world smaller.” I explained brainstorming to them then we brainstormed on the topic together in class.  I removed the rule that you must raise your hand before talking. First one or two answers were given. I wrote them on the board, and then the free for all started. Ideas were flying around the room and I could not catch them all to put them on the board.


Then we evaluated the ideas from the brainstorming session and made a list of ideas they could include in their essays. They wrote them down and handed them in for me to correct spelling. I know many of you will laugh at me correcting spelling but I had a dictionary!


Form 1 decided to attack the theme by talking about three ICT tools and some in Form 2 decided on a different approach. They picked three ways communication happened in a village and would show how ICT tools made the whole world able to communicate as if it were just a small village.


The next class I discussed writing a outline to help organize their thoughts. This concept was hard for them to grasp. I think some of it could have been my unfamiliarity with teaching English. I am sure a JHS English teacher would have a whole arsenal of weapons attack the subject with but alas I only had my one thought that an outline will help you get organize your ideas. As I learned after the next class, for many of the students the outline played no role in their first draft essays.


Last I collected their first drafts and edited them. The next class I handed back the edited essays and the students rewrote them during class period. We both liked this method. I think the kids liked the individual attention I gave them when they came to have my notes explained and I liked the idea that they would finish the essay in class, thus assuring they would do the final paper!


Werner, one of my German friends, helped me select the winners.  And I announced them after lunch in Form 1. Form 2 is still in the process of writing.


In the next post you can read about Form 1’s visit to the Vodafone Internet Cafe on Thursday 7 July.




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