Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Practicing our descriptions

A cool breeze floated out over the BHS athletic field, washing over the dozens of students participating in high scool gym class. They played flag football while their teachers, each sporting sunglasses, watched as the students ran and jumped along the green artifical grass. Not one cloud marred the perfect blue sky. Some students did not play football. Making their way around the track, four different groups of girls walked and chatted. A bright yellow sun, heading towards the midday sky, shone bright and hot on the players and the spectators...

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

An essay describing something chronologically

Your next assignment in Writing the Essay is one that asks you to write an essay about an event that you experienced first hand. The main purpose of the assignment is to describe the changes that take place in a specific location in three different time sequences. For example, if you choose to write about a storm, you must describe a particular setting before/during/after the storm.

Your essay must:
  • 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
As with any assignment, begin by brainstorming ideas. We will also use a think sheet to organize the essay. Refer to the calendar at the right for due dates.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Some good writing to consider

Periodically through our semester Writing the Essay, I will ask you to read and consider some excellent examples of essays. The purpose of this blog is to give you a place to access the essays and provide a forum for you to post your own writing in response. Your assignment is to read both essays linked below, and then, in the comments section write a 100- to 150-word response to one of them. Your response should be thoughtful, well-written, and it should be a personal response to the ideas raised in the articles.

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.

In posting your responses, write your first name only - no last names please. You should probably write in Word or another word processing program so you can proofread and edit your work before posting it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The problem-solving essay - structure and organization

You have already been assigned the problem-solving essay, but you might be wondering just how to best organize your essay. It is important with these assignments to focus on your organization of ideas, building your idea around it.

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
As we have discussed in class, there are other important areas to focus on with this essay. Use transitions between your ideas and vary your sentence structure.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Writing the problem-solving essay

The next assignment in Writing the Essay is a problem-solving essay, an assignment that asks you to examine a difficulty or challenge that you faced, and how you over came it. Everyone has faced some kind of difficulty or challenge in his or her life and has worked through them. Let's write about it.

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

Getting started on your personal narratives

Our first assignment is to write a personal narrative. A narrative is anything that tells a story, so this assignment is quite open ended. You decide the story you want to tell. One way to get started is to think of important experiences/people/memories from your life that you believe have shaped you. As you begin deciding what you want to write about, we will also be examining examples from other students.

Read the following three narratives linked below. These student writers have explored memories, people, and hobbies.

For the love of the game

Dancing Genes

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.