Sunday, December 16, 2007
As we have talked about all year, one of the most crucial aspects of the writing process is developing an idea for writing. Put some time and effort into that, and the writing part will come much easier. This is a large writing project and one in which you cannot afford to waste too much time researching unnecessarily.
Your next assignment, then, will be to start to narrow the focus of your essay. Use your blogs to write/reflect on the following prompts in a blog due by Tuesday.
Why does this topic need to be written about? What type of audience will be reading your essay? Why would they read it? In other words, what new and interesting angle are you bringing to the topic? Where will you get your information?
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
As I thought about a topic to investigate, many ideas crossed my mind. I'm interested in the emerging web 2.0 technology that allows such rich interaction and collaboration via the internet. As I was skimming through some blog posts about using new technology, I found a blog called Students 2.0, which is run by student bloggers, for other students. Sounded kind of interesting. There was this posting on it called Plagiarism: Not Quite As Simple As It Seems by a student from New York. In her posting, she discusses the different challenges that both students and teachers encounter in terms of plagiarism. What struck me is that some of the questions she raised about plagiarism and how to define it are just as difficult for students as they are for teachers. And in many cases, the definition is just plain murky.
The student writes about how she finds herself "staring at the computer screen, unsure on whether I can copy my AP Environmental Science textbook’s definition of biodiversity or if I needed to paraphrase. Do I even know how to paraphrase that term when the textbook’s definition seems to leave no room for a more direct explanation? Teachers always tell students to reword things they write, but what if the student can’t think of another way to reword what they want to say? In this incidence, sheer laziness isn’t the factor behind it."
She goes on to say that copying word for word is inexcusable - as all students should know - and that both teachers and students should know that "technology works both ways." Teachers can use online plagiarism software or even just Google as easy as kids can cut and paste from the internet. I know I have regularly used Turnitin.com to detect plagiarism. With so much information available, what exactly is the best way to deal with it?
Anyway, her ideas got me thinking about the topic, and I think I'd like to write my paper on plagiarism. How has the internet altered the way plagiarism is detected? What are current plagiarism policies at colleges and what other issues have arisen with the new technology? I thought I had heard about a student suing a school over using Turnitin.com, so maybe there are some court cases or other information I could pursue.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
This site is a search engine search designed to help you depending on what step of the process you are in. Are you looking for a topic, or do you need to redefine and narrow your topic? Try this site first and explore several different places.
The next two sites are organized around topics that you might be interested in. Browse through and try to come up with some ideas. The VLRC Directory and the a list of Hot Topics.
Another option is looking through Teen Ink, either online or in class, for topics that other high school students are writing about.
By tomorrow, you need to post an entry to your blog that deals with your efforts to find a topic. What are you going to write about? Why? What made you come to that decision? What was your thought process? What resources did you explore to help you come to that decision?
In your posting, remember to include a hyperlink to any sources you mention or cite. Make your links part of your sentence writing, as I do above. Good luck.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
The purpose of your essay is to explore your selected topic in depth by looking at different facets or components of it and explaining how it is relevant for high school students today. In a sense, you are writing a magazine article geared towards a teenage audience.
The assignment will involve several steps. At its most simple level, we will follow the process outlined below:
- First, you will brainstorm different ideas and select a topic.
- Next, you will research several sources and take notes on relevant information.
- Then, you will decide on a focus and organization for your essay.
- Then, you will begin writing your essay, sharing parts of it with the rest of the class and me on a regular basis through your blog.
- Finally, you will write your completed essay.
Your blog will serve as a major component of this project, both as a way to compile your research and to showcase your work.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Your first task now is to write your thoughts about the two comparison essays from The New York Times. Write a blog entry in which you evaluate the two different articles. Your entry should include the following:
- Begin your blog with a paragraph that mentions something you've learned about writing (either in class or through your reading) and how it relates to what you are doing.
- Several direct links to each article as hypertext for sourcing. For your reference, the article about the brothers is here and the car article is here.
- A substantial summary of at least two important points made in the articles.
- An examination of the organizational style of the essays.
- How you plan to use this information to help you write your essay.
Your second task is to write another blog entry related to your assignment. In this entry, you must:
- Include a direct hyperlink to a source you used as part of your research. For your reference, there are resources linked at write to help you get started. I will also post more there periodically.
- Insight into your writing and thinking process related to this assignment.
- Discussion of choices you are making to help you prepare, organize and write this assignment.
- Be creative in some way ... post a picture, some interesting insight, a link to something interesting you found...
As always, run a spell check on your entry and use proper mechanics and convention. You must proofread all entries.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Your next writing assignment is to write a comparison essay. As always, the topic is up to you. But select a topic that can be explored in adequate depth and breadth for you to write a coherent, intelligent essay of at least 800 words. The ideas in your essay will be organized in a precise manner, either the block method or the flip-flop method. We will learn more about those patterns during this unit.
Your essay will be graded on the following:
- A controlling idea in the introduction that states the two topics being written about and the direction of the essay
- Ideas organized in either block or flip-flop method
- The use of specific details to support each topic explored
- The use of transition words to point out similarities or differences, or to repeat key phrases or structures
- A conclusion that ends the paper with a sense of finality, summarizing the major points or commenting on the major ideas proven in the paper
- The use of varied, powerful sentence structure
The rough draft of this essay will be due Tuesday, Dec. 4. The final draft will be due Thursday, Dec. 6.
Note: As with most of the assignments this year, this idea comes from the Stack the Deck writing program. Thank you.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Here's an example. Earlier this week, The New York Times ran an article on a growing trend in the use of electronic gadgets to block out cell phone signals. These gadgets, which are illegal in the United States, but still available for purchase overseas, allow the user to jam nearby cell phone conversations in public places. Like most of our new innovations, it has also raised a debate on the limits of privacy and the use of technology. It has spawned spirited opinions of all kinds.
One blogger used his space to bluntly express his distaste for the new gadgets. While another bloggers, offers a little more support for the use of the handheld jammers.
What is your opinion? Respond on your own blogs with your own opinions. Remember to link to any sources your cite or refer to. This includes the news article, the blog posts, or any other links you come across while reading about the topic.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
For this assignment, your subject should be a topic upon which you have strong feelings and can speak with some authority. You must take a stance on one side of a controversial issue and support your position with sound, specific arguments.
Your essay will be graded on the following:
- A strong controlling idea in the introduction
- Ideas organized in an order of importance sequence
- The use of specific details to support opinions
- The use of transition words to shift from one reason to another
- The use of varied, powerful sentence structure
Rough draft due: Wednesday, Nov. 14. Final draft due: Tuesday, Nov. 20
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
That leads me to my next point. If we are now going to do more of our writing online, using a blog, then what is it that we should know about this communication form? Writing a blog is fundamentally different than any other kind of writing you've probably been asked to do in school. One teacher in Colorado explains blogging this way: "The value of blogging, as I've come to learn, is in the way that it requires that I interact with source material, either another blogger or any other text that I can find to quote and think about. That interaction with sources is what I think is so, so, so essential in the education of students." He's right. A blog can be a strong educational tool, and I hope you come to realize that, too.
But what exactly is a blog anyway?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I hope I caught your attention. The first few lines of any essay, whether it's a blog or on traditional 8 1/2 X 11 paper, needs to stand out. If you want to grab the attention of a college admissions officer, then you better write an essay with a memorable introduction.
To help you along, for your next blog assignment I am asking you to post your introduction to your blog. But wait, it's more than just cutting and pasting the first few sentences of your college application essay. In your posting, briefly explain what you were trying to do with your introduction and why you made the choices that you did. Finally, pose a question about your introduction - your writing, choice of topic, order of information etc... - that you'd like your classmates to post a comment about.
Once you do that, go out and read the introductions of your classmates. See what they have to say and leave a comment for them.
Remember, this is a writing assignment, so the following should always apply when writing and posting:
- Proofread and run spellcheck
- Write a catchy title related to your post
- Take your time and let your thinking show in your writing
Good luck and enjoy.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
First of all, it's important to know that there is no one right formula for writing a college essay just waiting for you somewhere. I'm going to assume you have a topic or you have already begun to think about some ideas for your essay. Your topic is a crucial first step. Good writing can make almost any topic seem interesting, but keep in mind that if you're looking to stand out to a college admissions officer, you have to make it so.
What we've been learning in this class are strategies and techniques to build strong writing skills. That's what is going to Writing the Essay is how to You must write clearly, expressively, and confidently. Above all, you must write well. And you must be willing to revise, revise, revise.
So here goes. Check out some of the following sites and see what you can learn from them. Then, in your own blog entry write a posting that reflects on what makes writing a college essay so challenging and/or so important. Feel free to use ideas you glean from your reading. What are your thoughts on this entire process? What do you intend to do?
Here are some links to help provide you guidance on the college-essay writing process:
- Quintessential Careers.com spells out several important tips for you to consider.
- Here's an unusual take on the standard college essay, but if that doesn't work at school try this link
- Poke around through here to see dozens of college essays in progress from a school in Colorado.
- Here's a short tidbit from the New York Times about how the college essay plays a part in the overall application process.
- Still more tips about how to make a winning college essay.
What should be apparent in all this is that there is an abundance of advice, tips, and examples for you out there. Essentially it comes down to what you are going to do with your essay to make it stand out. This class is not designed for your college essay, but to help you write better. That's what's going to get you noticed in any writing you do.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Earlier this week you were assigned to write an observation essay, an assignment which requires you tell in detail about a specific event or experience. Your essay should include telling details and well-written, interesting sentences.
As you work on this assignment, I am going to ask that you post an excerpt from your essay in the comment section of this blog. It can be as short as three to four sentences, or as much as an entire paragraph. However, it must be an excerpt that you illustrate the following:
- Several telling, specific details that demonstrate a close observation of your event.
- Several well-crafted sentences, including those beginning with effective ING phrases or subordinate clauses.
Your excerpt is not a summary of your essay in progress. Instead, it is a paragraph that's part of your larger assignment. The purpose here is to share a piece of your work with your classmates and to provide opportunity for more feedback on your writing.
Before submitting your writing, remember to PROOFREAD!
Monday, October 8, 2007
However, you must write your essay in third-person narration. Even though it is an incident you recall or observed, you must write it as if you were simply an observer. Use the pronouns he, she, or they without referring to yourself directly.
The observation must be focused and limited, so you can develop it fully. Think about an event and describe all aspects of it, like the author of a novel might. If your event is too broad or covers too long a period of time, you will have difficulty precisely developing your idea.
Some possible topic ideas to help you get started: your most embarrassing moment, the most horrifying, or the most terrifying.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
We all spent part of class observing gym class on Wednesday, a beautiful day that felt more like early summer than early fall. What observations did you make? How would you describe the sight?
You've read the beginning of my description. Now it's time to post your own version. Write it in the comments. But remember to use strong, active verbs and ING words to help convey motion to the scene.
Here's the catch. Your description - like mine above - cannot contain any adverbs. In other words, no words that end in -ly or similar words. Let your verbs and nouns do all the work. Try it.
Monday, September 24, 2007
- Make your event the focus of the paper
- Be organized in the before, during, and after time sequences
- Balance the organization by repeating important ideas in each sequence
- Use transitions to indicate a shift in each sequence
- Include powerful words (active verbs, ING words) to convey motion and action
Monday, September 17, 2007
First, here's wonderful piece by Dave Barry, who's better known for his humorous syndicated newspaper column. This piece is serious and, like everything Barry writes, is well-crafted and memorable. The only problem is that it's a PDF file, so you may have to adjust the zoom to read it.
Here's an essay that helped a high school student from Wisconsin get into Connecticut College. Notice how the writer captures your attention immediately with his opening. Concrete nouns and strong verbs help make his case throughout the essay.
Finally, here's one by a well-renowned editor, who discusses the importance of finding the right "place" to write. Take special notice of his tone.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
You should use the following structure to build your paragraphs:
- Introduction - includes a one-sentence controlling idea
- One attempt that failed - who, what, where, why, when, how
- Another attempt that failed - who, what, where, why, when, how
- Any other attempts - who, what, where, why, when, how
- The attempt that was successful - who, what, where, why, when, how
- Bring story to finality
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
In constructing the essay, we will address the following objectives:
- stating a specific problem in the controlling idea
- explaining how the problem was solved
- providing specific details to describe each attempt to solve the problem
- using transition words to link ideas
- using concrete verbs
Start by brainstorming a list of possible topics. Narrow down your choices and create a web or idea map to generate ideas for your essay. If you are to write this effectively, your essay must adhere to a specific structure that lays out your problem, explains different attempts to solve it, and finally describes the ultimate solution.
Rough draft due Sept. 18 - Final draft due Sept. 20. Check out the calendar to the right.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Read the following three narratives linked below. These student writers have explored memories, people, and hobbies.
For the love of the game
The Birthday that never happened
As you read them, keep an eye out for what makes them effective, interesting, and/or well-written. This class is called Writing the Essay, so it is important we focus on those choices that good writers make. What is it that the authors do in these pieces to effectively tell their story and illustrate to their readers why the experience/person/memory has such significance to them. Choose one of the essays and complete a Personal Narrative Think Sheet for the essay. The Think Sheet should also help you brainstorm ideas to explore and develop in your own essays.
As a follow up to this assignment, complete a Think Sheet of your own for the personal narrative you plan to write. Bring it with you to the next class. A copy of the Think Sheet can be found here.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
As we've discussed in class, the focus of this year is writing. This blog will play a significant role in that learning process.. Here you will find regular assignments, important links, and opportunities to contribute ideas. In many instances this site will also serve as an extension of the reading, writing, and thinking we do in class. Using a blog like this allows us unique opportunity to publish our writing and maintain a record of our thinking and learning through the year. What makes a blog unique for our writing is that it allows us to publish our words, contribute ideas to others, and collaborate with one another.
You'll also notice that there is a calendar on the right of this page which lists upcoming due dates and other important announcements. I plan to add even more materials and information to help you learn in this class. And as the year goes on, you can expect this site to grow with content from me and from all of you.
Good luck and enjoy the year.