Ah, writing assignments. How I love to create and develop you, only to watch you fall flat on your face. I have to find a balance between allowing the kids to write what they want and having enough structure to help them find a good topic. It's a tricky task. When I fail to do this, I see a wide range of enthusiasm for certain essays.
The "How To" instructional essays yielded some really amazing essays / projects, like: "How to Hunt Elk", "How to Find a Long-Lost Friend", and "How to Make an Amazing Mini-Movie." I am impressed with so many of the students' writing and creativity. Then, there are the few who are so uninspired, so beleaguered by the prospect of writing (gasp!) an essay that they fail to produce anything of substance.
It is so hard to love writing and see others view it as drudgery.