Category Archives: WRITING TECHNIQUE

W8, #5: FESTIVAL OF MINI-ESSAYS

Set-Up: Last week, we took a brief look at a series of mini-essays about Chapters 5 & 6 (that were written by periods 1, 2 & 3 as a group in-class essay project). Each of you picked one you thought would be interesting based on the title alone and gave us a few things to look at that you thought was successful.

Challenge: Take a look at the full list one more time.

  • Pick a new essay title to look at and read the entire essay.
  • Tell us which essay you picked.
  • Identify 5 very specific things in that essay that you thought were done well.

Length: Varies

The list:

Small group mini-essay paragraph writing challenge (in lieu of the typical in-class essay):

Links to the specific student responses

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W7, #4: STEADY PROGRESS

Set-Up: Now that we’ve begun to challenge what we mean by being writers/thinkers on many fronts, especially now that we’re in the midst of a novel that demands our radar remain on at all times, I’m curious how you see your own growth in this class.

Challenge: Share with us one way you have definitely grown as a student of English so far this year.

It can be something very specific or a big picture item. Likewise, it can be something internal or external. Finally, it can be something that has dramatically evolved or something that you think is on the verge of being an important part of how you’ll continue to write/think/debate in the future (but may be in a raw state currently).

Length: 5+ sentences

W6, #5: SHARING YOUR ESSAY’S INTRODUCTION

NOTE: This is a mandatory entry!

Hint: All students MUST do this one to get credit for the rest of their entries this week. [smile]

***

Set-Up: On Tuesday, September 30th, you will be turning in your Beowulf essay — the first major essay of the year — in two different formats:

  1. A print copy that is 2-3 pages (note: this must be double spaced)
  2. A Google Docs version (note: do not worry about double spacing for the on-line version) sent as an invitation to Mr. Long at his gmail account:  long[dot]christian[at]gmail[dot]com

Challenge:

  1. Submit your introduction paragraph in full, word for word as it currently is by Monday morning (even if you are going to improve it before your essay is done and turned in on Tuesday).
  2. Identify 2 things from your intro that you are really pleased with or proud of at this point.
  3. Identify 2 things from your intro you’d like help on:  sentence structure, thesis statement, transitions, vocabulary, etc.

Hint:  The sooner you do this — [drum roll inserted here]— the sooner you’ll get feedback from Mr. Long.  [wink]  This might be very helpful as you prepare to do your final revisions!

Length: Varies

W6, #3: KEY QUOTES

Set-Up: All of you will be turning in your Beowulf essay this coming week.  I’m curious what quotations you are using to prove the hero’s legacy.

Challenge:

  • Identify 4 quotations you are using in your essay that specifically focus on “legacy”.
  • Explain how you are using all 4 of these quotations.  2+ sentences for each one!

TIME TO START YOUR GOOGLE DOCS ACCOUNT

Note:

This is NOT a blog entry to ‘respond to’ for credit for Monday.

This is an assignment in addition to the weekly blog entries.

Due: next Wednesday (9/17)

Assignment:

  1. Required: Start your own Google Docs account (which you can start here for free). You can either use a Gmail email account (which you can start for here for free also) or any other email address you may already have. Let me know if you have trouble getting your GDs account started. We’ll figure it out together.
  2. Optional: If you haven’t watched the short video on the start page, watch it now.
  3. Required: Send me an email — longchristian@gmail.com — telling me that you’ve successfully started your Google Docs account. This will also be the email address you’ll always use to ‘invite’ me to read and comment on all of your Google Docs essays this year.
  4. Optional: Consider keeping an eye on the “Official Google Docs Blog” to learn some cool tricks and ideas that may help you using GDs in all of your classes.  And if you find out anything interesting, tell us about it.
  5. Optional: If you want, you can create a “new” document and send me an invitation to “read” or “collaborate” (i.e. comment/edit) to see how it works; look under “Share” in the upper right of any document you’ve created or uploaded. Note: If you do this, make sure you unclick these 2 options: a) “Collaborators may invite others” and b) “Invitations may be used by anyone” so that you can be assured that ONLY the person/people you invite have access to this specific document.

Explanation: Starting next week, we’ll start using Google Docs on a regular basis. The purpose is to:

  • give you a way to submit papers to me digitally/on-line (as well as turning in paper copies)
  • give me a way to leave comments ‘inside’ your paper
  • give you a way to easily revise formal essays and send updates to me
  • give you/I a way to review all of your old essays throughout the year

W4, #3: PG 300 OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Set-Up: Next year — as an 11th grader — you will begin to think about the process of applying to colleges and universities around the United States (or beyond).

Part of the application process requires writing essays to help the university learn something intriguing about you. Not only do they want to learn facts (grades, SATs, etc.), they also want your creativity and attitude.

One of the typical essay questions you may have to answer asks you to write “page 300” of your autobiography. Strange, huh?

This means:

  • you have to decide what would be taking place on page 300
  • you only have one page to write everything
  • you need to figure out how to make your reader interested in the process

Challenge:

  • Creatively begin “page 300” of your life story — aka your autobiography — in such a way that it will catch the attention of a college admissions team
  • Be creative.

Length: 7+ sentences

W3, #3: FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE A BIG DEAL

Set-Up: Last Wednesday, each of you took part in your first (of many!) in-class writing assignments. While Mr. Long knows that each of you will grow a great deal as a writer between now and the end of the year, it is vital that we begin to look at various strategies that will help our reader(s)/audience appreciate our best ideas.

Probably the most important thing that all of us can work on is understanding how vital the first paragraph — the introduction — is to the success of every essay. Figure out how to write these 3-5 sentences well, and the rest of the essay will fall into place over time.

To put it bluntly, if the reader is a) not intrigued/drawn into the paper in the opening sentences of the introduction and b) cannot identify a clear argument (a.k.a. thesis) that analyzes the story/text in a unique manner, the reader will not be confident about the rest of the paper — no matter how well written it may be.

Challenge:

  • Type your original introductory paragraph precisely as you hand-wrote it in class. That means, if there were spelling mistakes or missed punctuation in the original, include those exact mistakes in this typed version. Do not add or subtract anything. Keep it — in other words — just as it looks in the paper copy that Mr. Long still has in his possession. Making changes will make him nervous/suspicious.
  • Identify 3-5 major changes you would like to make if you were given a chance to re-write it for a better grade overall. Explain how each change would help your reader better appreciate your ideas/argument. Note: simply pointing out spelling or minor punctuation changes won’t alter the way a reader is trying to understand your argument. It would be best to focus on the specific text (not outside history), your language style, transitions between ideas/sentences, avoiding plot summary, setting up your argument in a logical way, the overall flow of ideas, your thesis statement, etc.
  • Optional: Feel free to then re-write your introduction after your list of 3-5 things. If you do so, keep an eye on making sure the reader will be interested enough to want to read the rest of the paper. While this is not mandatory, Mr. Long would be intrigued to see if you are already in a position to improve your first draft.

Hints:

  • Just enough, but not too much: 3-5 sentences is a good goal for an in-class essay introduction. In longer papers, you can add to this sentence count.
  • Avoid fluff: Every word counts. Cut out anything/everything that is not absolutely vital to helping your reader understand exactly what you are trying to say in this essay. Treading water helps you survive in the middle of the ocean; it has zero value as an essay writer.
  • Start universal; end specific: Allow your first sentence to introduce the text/author and to help the reader put things into perspective. Your middle sentence(s) should help narrow down the reader’s attention so that they are ready to read the heart of your argument. Your final sentence should be a unique argument that helps to understand the story/text in a unique way.
  • Answer the question: If your thesis does not state or imply an answer, it is not complete. Your reader will start your paper lost, confused, and possibly not interested. Do not save the answer for the end of your essay. It is not a surprise party. Your goal is to prove your argument, not keep it hidden.
  • Stay inside the story/text: Avoid (like the plague) any temptations to talk about history, the author’s childhood, how society works then/now, or to make bland generalizations about mankind. You have very few sentences to work with; do not waste a single one.
  • No lists: If you read it aloud and it ‘sounds’ like a list, think about transitions between sentences and altering how you start each sentence.
  • Ask yourself, “Who Cares?!” Seriously. Ask yourself this question at the end of your intro. If you honestly don’t believe that anyone would care about what you’ve written…re-write it. And if everything you’ve already said is pretty obvious or simply a generic plot summary…re-write it.