How I Use It
For my AP Comp class, I usually start the year by having students write a 'This I Believe' essay. It serves to expose them to the idea of a values-driven life, and it also helps me to get to know them better. I usually start by having them follow along while the audio plays for five or six of the essays. From there, I send them off to find more essays that seem close to their own ideas. I have them analyze each essay for form to help guide them through the creation of their own essays.
This is always one of my favorite essays of the year. I learn so much about my students right off the bat, and the sheer variety of essays available here helps them to see that the five-paragraph essay is only one of many, many possible forms. The essays on this website serve as a bridge to greater freedom of expression. They also help students understand how crucial values are as we are confronted with important decisions in life.
As a teaching tool, I find this website easy to navigate, and the wide array of topics ensure that my students will find something that speaks to them. In particular, I like that I can download individual audio files, as I've had a few lessons hindered by internet problems.
One final note: I've had a number of students submit their essays to the site, and all have been accepted for their archives. I don't know if that's because my students wrote great essays, or they are just very accommodating. However, the resulting ego boost for my students was quite motivating.