Most students write a lot of essays in high school. The only reason is that the government wants you to so they force it on you. It makes sense. You have to write a few pages and defend an argument. Writing essays is a great way to improve your writing.
The only problem is that you will most likely never write essays again after school. A while back on this blog I talked about how students can write blogs instead. The more a student writes the better (more on this later).
One other activity students can do is write sales copies. Email marketing is a lucrative field. I do it almost every day. Writing essays is another area where school hasn't caught up with reality. In reality, you could be training students to be effective members of the 21st century. To do that you have to select the practices of the past which are obsolete and discard them.
A great exercise would be to ask students to pick a product and write an email trying to sell it. It works out an entirely different part of writing and is really under utilized. With anything creative all you have to do is do a lot of it and you get better. It sounds contradictory but the more you produce regardless of quality the better you get.
The other activity that should be encouraged is to write a blog. This is the best way to get students to write. They can write about anything they want to. It would be very easy to mark this. The more blog posts and the more words the higher the mark. There has to be a few rules to this but essentially this is how it works.
You can even ask students to put their work into the Hemingway app. I will be doing that with this blog post.
The debate about writing specific content and reading specific content revolves around the quality. Well in the 1940s, there was a similar debate about comic books. The consensus was that if a person is reading then it is better than causing trouble or other non intelligent activities. Today a lot of teachers still scold kids to not read graphic novels. Who cares, they are reading.
The same thing happens with writing. All you have to do is give people a forum in which they find interesting and they will do more of that activity.
Writing essays is great but there is room for improvement. Instead of writing 100% essays that students hate, write something more interesting. Since this is an international blog. I am sure people from Europe are confused with this post. In North America, the school system is set with an 19th century attitude.
Simple adjustments can have a profound effect.