I begin my writing classes with a diagnostic essay, which allows me to get a handle on what skills the students come into my classes possessing. Typically, I align the prompt with the theme I will teach on during that term. Since I am teaching on music this term, my diagnostic prompt is also about music:
In one or more paragraphs, name your favorite song, describe it, and discuss why it is your favorite. You may be asked to relate your response to the class.
I may end up discussing responses to the prompt later on. I do not yet know.
Align /ə*līn'/ (vb.)- to set into line, line up, put in a row
Diagnostic /dī*əg*näs'tĭk/ (adj.)- designed to find out what is going on at the moment, usually with the idea of identifying areas needing improvement
Prompt /prämpt/ (n.)- an exercise or assignment, not a question, that requires a response, usually open-ended