Ultimately it’s an analysis paper. A discussion on a specific topic with clear definitions and research done in order to present the findings. But the kids don’t know that — they get the chance to talk about themselves.
The paper, though, is only for me. I want the boring stuff. The paper is merely background for them in creating a presentation for small group discussion, and at that point they have the option to present their findings to the class via art, poetry, powerpoint, video, models, games, interactive play, quizzes, a performance, etc. I want them to have fun with this and to be creative and to think outside the box when it comes to prewriting, drafting, and writing. Once they complete the handout, their work is nearly done and they can focus on fun instead of on work.
Hopefully the excitement they showed in class today extends throughout the next week (and that I can put up with a workshop class for an entire week), because what they came up with today was pretty interesting.