I often had students write narrative or reflective essays based on their lives. Here is one list of topics from the early 90s.
1. Draw on the best learning experiences you have had in several classes to analyze your own learning style. Do you acquire knowledge best by experience, observation, study, visual examples, or some other way?
2. Write an essay about some pastime that used to be a very big part of your life but which you have since outgrown. What was it about the pastime that was so compelling, and why have you fallen away from it? Are there times when you miss it or feel that you have lost something you canâ€™t get back?
3. Eric Fromm, a psychiatrist and social critic, says that every generation defines attractiveness in males and females differently. From your observation of old movies, photographs, and advertisements from your parentsâ€™ generation, describe the differences between you generationâ€™s definition of attractiveness in males and/or females and your parentsâ€™.
4. What is the key as you see it to getting along with other people? Illustrate your answer with personal experiences.
5. What methods do you use to cope with problems and stress in different situations, such as the death of someone close, adjusting to a new environment, having too much to do in too little time, etc.? Comment on the kinds of situations you have faced this semester, why you use the methods you do, and how they help you.
6. Discuss the ways in which qualities of your parentsâ€™ personalities appear in your own.
The papers I most remember from these topics were those that dealt with number six.