Entries Tagged 'Essays & Research Papers' ↓
March 11th, 2013 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers, High school
Are your high schoolers ready for college-level writing?
One test is how well they incorporate quotations into essays and term papers. I’m not talking about tossing one or two overused, ancient proverbs or a boring dictionary definition in the intro paragraph. I’m talking about the big “R” – research!
What’s So Important?
As elementary children, we learn to write summaries. We absorb information and spill it back on paper in our own words. In high school, we meet new expectations. Now we must study source texts and create our own unique opinion (a thesis statement). Every point in a thesis statement must be defended by evidence.
Consider a headline news article. A journalist may make strong assertions, such as:
The police department will take drastic measures to prevent future incidents.
We are much more likely to believe this statement if it is followed by a quote from someone with authority:
Police chief Jason Roberts says, “I will not allow anyone in my department to wear their uniform off duty until further notice.”
Now the writer has offered evidence.
High school and college essays require evidence. If your daughter is writing about Jane Austen’s heroine Elizabeth Bennet, she must include words from the author’s (or the character’s) own mouth. If your son is writing about Northern attitudes toward slavery during the Civil War, he should avoid generalizations by including quotes from different people of that era.
Comma or Colon?
The following sentences are punctuated correctly. Can your student guess why?
- Elizabeth calmly replies, “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing.”
- “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing,” Elizabeth replies.
- Elizabeth Bennet holds her tongue about her awkward suitor: “Mr. Collins might never make the offer, and, till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.”
- Elizabeth wisely understands that her cousin “might never make the offer, and, till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.”
In the first two examples, the quotation is set off by a comma. Grammar rules tell us to always use a comma after a verb such as said, asked, or replied when it appears just before a quote.
In the third example, the sentence would convey a complete thought even without the quotation. Rule of thumb: never use a colon unless there are at least seven words before the quotation.
In the fourth example, the quote needs no commas or colons to set it off because of the little word that. When you use that, you can start the quotation mid-sentence, without ellipses or a capital letter.
A Note about Tense
The Block Quote
A block quotation is set apart with a special indent and no quotation marks. Use the block-quotation format to quote several consecutive sentences – or one especially long and complex sentence. Rule of thumb: use a block quote when the quotation is five lines or longer.
In the blogosphere, block quotes often appear in political or religious commentaries. In high school English essays, block quotes are effectively used to write about drama and poetry. Block quotes are like dessert; they should be used carefully. Too many can give the impression that a writer is lazy, trying to fill the page with words that are not his own.
Consider this block quotation from Robert Frost’s poem “Birches”:
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
Block Quote or Quotation Marks?
If ellipses were used to shorten the above sentence, it would work nicely with quotation marks: “It’s when I’m weary of considerations, / And life is too much like a pathless wood / Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs / Broken across it….”
Give Credit Where Credit’s Due
Plagiarism is a growing concern in colleges and universities across the nation. Prepare your high school student by teaching him to be above-board as a writer. If he uses someone else’s idea, he must quote their words or mention their name to avoid plagiarizing. If he references someone else’s book, article, or webpage, he must include that source in a “Bibliography” or “Works Cited” page.
Every teacher and professor may have slightly different guidelines, but MLA citation format is a good place to start. A good reference can be found here: MLA Citation Examples.
With thoughtful research, well-chosen quotations and careful citations, your student’s writing will be ready for the college campus… and beyond.
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.
October 1st, 2012 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers
AT ANY AGE, prewriting activities help your kids warm up, think about their topic, and consider the purpose and audience. Simply, prewriting gets them ready to write!
When working with teens, prewriting activities guide them toward shaping and developing their essays and reports. Prewriting can include any or all of these:
- Focusing and narrowing topics
- Determining the direction the paper will take
- Researching and gathering information
- Brainstorming, planning, and choosing details
- Organizing and outlining
From time to time, teens will need to read differently for different assignments. Let’s look at three ways reading helps them prepare for writing.
Read for a Specific Writing Assignment
When a student is asked to summarize an article, respond to a piece of literature, or write a reflection essay on a book, she first must read the selection (not merely skim it, as she might for other assignments). Sometimes she’ll have a choice (“read a novel by Mark Twain”), and sometimes not (“read Huckleberry Finn”).
If she completes the task correctly, her written response will show that she both read and understood the material.
Read to Gather Background Information
Before choosing a topic for an essay or research paper, it’s important to start with general background information. Skimming through encyclopedia articles on two or three topics should provide a good overview. As your student fine-tunes her choices, she can follow up by reading a few articles or books on the subject.
General background reading will:
- Give the student a feel for different topics.
- Direct her toward one or two that especially interest her.
- Help her narrow a broad topic to a more specific one.
- Show how certain topics relate to other topics or issues.
Read for Research Purposes
Once your student has gathered background information and settled on a topic, it’s time for more in-depth reading and research. At this stage, she should start gathering facts, examples, and scholarly opinions to include in her paper. She’ll want to make use of various sources, including periodicals and other library resources, subject-specific articles, newspaper articles, and books on her topic.
Let’s look at three kinds of sources your teen might read in preparation for research:
While encyclopedias are great for general overviews, they’re usually not detailed enough for research purposes. However, libraries usually have a variety of subject-specific encyclopedias that are more focused, have longer entries, and go into greater detail. Examples include:
- Encyclopedia of Food Science & Technology
- Encyclopedia of the Holocaust
- Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History
- Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy
A website’s URL can provide a good clue as to its reliability as a source.
- URLs ending in .edu are usually educational institutions and may be good sources for research.
- URLs ending in .gov are most likely reliable government websites. Usually, these will provide fairly trustworthy and objective statistics and reports.
- URLs ending in .org are often a non-profit organizations. Beware of any political agendas before citing such sources; an .org website may be a trustworthy research source—or it could be heavily biased.
When searching for online articles, discourage your teen from using Wikipedia as a legitimate source of information. Instead of using Wikipedia as a source, she can let it direct her to journal or newspaper articles, official web sites, and other more credible sources.
To get her started, here are some helpful links to online research sites that can supplement and improve your teen’s research efforts.
In these modern times, students are quick to rely on the Internet to provide source materials for their research. However, it’s always helpful—and often required—to find scholarly books on the topic as well.
Once your own home library has been scoured, head for the library in search of biographies, historical texts, or other works. Without reading or skimming an entire book, a quick look at the table of contents and index will help your teen determine its potential usefulness.
If the idea of research is daunting (as it is to most students!), encourage your teen that she doesn’t have to read every bit of every book. A chapter—or even just a paragraph or two—may be all she needs to read from a particular book to gather a timely quote or an important fact.
Set your teen to reading! Each of these activities—specific assignments, general overviews, and detailed research—is an important prewriting activity that will help pave the way for a solid essay or research paper.
August 27th, 2012 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers
THOUGH IT’S been 14 years, it seems like only yesterday that my first college-bound child began filling out applications, submitting transcripts, making lists of extra-curricular activities, and yes—writing essays.
Each university had its own specific essay guidelines, so each essay she wrote had to be unique as well (not to mention engaging enough to set it apart from the rest of the applicants’ submissions).
Is your child preparing for university? The admissions essay doesn’t have to be a deterrent. Here are four things you can do to help teens prepare for this task:
1. Teach Essay Writing
I’m sure this seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many parents have not begun teaching essay writing to their soon-to-graduate teens.
Whether writing is your weakest area or your strongest, it can easily take a back seat to other subjects in your homeschool. To keep writing at the forefront, make sure to schedule it into your weekly lesson plans. You may need to invest in a curriculum that lays a foundation and equips teens with tools to sharpen and enliven their writing.
In addition, regularly assign essays related to other subjects of study such as literature and history. Frequent practice with essay writing of all types will make the application-essay process that much less stressful.
2. Encourage Excellence
Lee Binz has made it her mission to help parents homeschool high school. In her article “What’s the Big Deal about a Little Essay?” she says, “Colleges want to know two things about your student – who they are and how well they communicate.”
The folks in admissions read hundreds, if not thousands, of essays every year. Many of these essays are poorly written, lacking in content, style, and creativity. It doesn’t have to be this way! When your students’ essays are lively, personal, and carefully edited, they will stand out from among their dull counterparts.
3. Promote Concise, Honest Writing
Admissions personnel are not impressed by pompous writing. Teach your teen—in all essay writing—to speak plainly, articulately, and honestly. While well-chosen, mature vocabulary words can certainly be tucked into the essay here and there, the text should be clearly written and easy to read.
4. Plan Ahead
Beginning in 9th or 10th grade, essay writing should be part of every high schooler’s language arts diet. Whatever you do, please don’t wait till they’re seniors to introduce this skill!
According to Lee, teens should start the actual college-application process on the day their senior year begins (though essay writing itself shoud be introduced well beforehand). She often suggests that students practice writing essays beginning on the first day of their junior year.
“Practice college application essays before senior year,” she says. “If you go to a college fair, grab some application packets and look at their essay topics. Use those for writing assignments.”
Admissions counselors really do read these essays. They want to see how students handle various topics and how well they express themselves in writing. Preparing your teens to write solid essays during their earlier high school years will make them more comfortable with the process and more confident in their ability to communicate—no matter what the topic.
. . . . .
WriteShop II teaches advanced descriptive narration, persuasion, and beginning essay writing (including timed essays). To learn more about WriteShop II for your high schooler, visit our website at www.writeshop.com.
May 16th, 2011 — Conventions, Essays & Research Papers, High school
May is here . . . which means it’s time once again for the annual Schoolhouse Expo, May 16-20, 2011. The fun and festivities start TODAY! Celebrating its first anniversary, the Schoolhouse Expo is a fantastic opportunity for you to hear homeschooling experts share on all sorts of topics near and dear to your heart. The 2011 Expo theme is “Homeschooling with Heart.”
New High School Track
In addition to regular sessions of general interest, there’s also a High School Track this year.
The high school track offers practical and informative sessions by speakers whose expertise lies in the area of higher education. Encourage your high school student to join in—the Expo has some great things in store! If you currently are teaching a middle school student, this track will also help prepare you to successfully homeschool through the high school years.
Kim Kautzer on Timed Essays
I’m looking forward to sharing a session called “Teaching the Timed Essay,” which will be of interest to both parents and high schoolers.
Invite your teen to sit in on the session as I give tips and suggestions for approaching this often-overwhelming side of high school writing.
How to Participate
If you have already purchased a ticket to the live event, you can join in on the workshop “Teaching the Timed Essay” Thursday, May 19 at 1 p.m. EDT/noon CDT/10 a.m. PDT.
Live tickets are sold out, but don’t despair if you missed out. You can buy an Expo to Go ticket, which gives you access to every workshop presentation—including accompanying PowerPoint slide shows—via MP3 download. You can hear each session at your convenience—over and over, if you like.
Expo to Go tickets are available here: www.schoolhouseexpo.com/?page_id=14
Visit the WriteShop Virtual Vendor Booth for some special offers and freebies: www.schoolhouseexpo.com/?page_id=4823
See you there!
April 7th, 2011 — Brainstorming, College Prep, Essays & Research Papers, High school
I recently overheard someone claim that teaching students to brainstorm is a futile exercise. “In the real world, no one actually brainstorms,” she said. “We just write.”
This statement surprised me, for it reminded me of taking a trip with little more than a vague notion of a plan (“I want to see the USA”). You can set off on your trek, but without a map, timetable, or sightseeing strategy, you’ll end up rabbit-trailing your way to your journey’s end.
While this may be fine for a bohemian, it can frustrate the traveler who really wants to visit a particular landmark but can’t find the turnoff; annoy her for missing some must-see points of interest because she lingered too long in a mediocre little town; and aggravate her when she finds herself going in circles. Worse, she could end up seeing nothing at all because she has absolutely no idea which way to go.
It’s fun to be spontaneous, but to get the most from a road trip, there’s nothing like an itinerary.
The Value of Brainstorming
Like a free-spirited traveler, a writer may have a general idea of where he wants to go. He may even know a point or two he wants to make along the way. But without a sense of direction, he too will miss important details, spend unnecessary time on a trivial side note, or spin his wheels in one rut or another.
One of the most valuable pre-writing tools for launching the writing process and avoiding other pitfalls is brainstorming.
Students often struggle with knowing how to move from a general topic to a written essay because that paralyzing blank page stands in the way. Brainstorming is a problem-solving process that helps you:
- Think freely and openly about your topic.
- Put pen to paper as you write whatever ideas come to mind.
- Explore possibilities and connections between ideas.
- Let new ideas form and shape old ones.
- Start to bring order and organization to your scattered thoughts.
Most importantly, brainstorming has no wrong answers. It allows you to think through your topic without fear of criticism or perfection.
3 Steps of the Brainstorming Process
- Free-listing: Free-listing helps you develop an initial page of ideas about the topic by writing absolutely anything—key words, phrases, examples, main points, subpoints, details, illustrations—that come to mind to jog your thoughts about your subject. Free-listing uses the heuristic inquiry, more commonly known as the 5 Ws (and an H)—who, what, when, where, why, how. Once this primary list is “complete,” note which of your ideas would qualify as main points or categories and which would be better suited as supporting details or examples.
- Mind-mapping: Next, filter your free-listing ideas through a semantic mind-map. A semantic mind-map is used to represent ideas, words, or thoughts that are connected to and organized around a central key word or concept. Mind-maps are designed to help create, visualize, classify, and structure ideas.
- Re-listing: Finally, organize your ideas according to the groups or clusters created by the semantic mind-map. Identify the central idea (main point) of the various clusters and list supporting details beneath and prioritize these clusters/main points into a logical order. Re-listing results in a rudimentary outline of your initial thoughts and ideas.
The brainstorming process reminds me of a coin-sorting machine. You start off with a jumbled, disorganized pile of coins (ideas). Nickels, dimes, quarters, pennies—there’s no rhyme or reason to their scattered placement on the kitchen table. This is your initial attempt at free-listing.
To start putting the coins in their appropriate place, you gather them up and put them into a coin-sorting machine (semantic mind-map). The machine divides the coins (ideas) by kind, just like the bubbles of a mind-map divide your ideas by category.
Finally, watch as your coins come out of the sorting machine in rows of quarters, dimes, and nickels neatly arranged (re-list). In this way, putting your ideas through a mind-map will help you rearrange them into newly organized lists that set the priorities for your paper.
Taking the Trip
You think about the gazillion places you want to visit; explore websites and sort through piles of travel brochures; plot out a route; and plan the details. Along the way you may take a detour or explore a new place, but you’ll never stray far from your original plan. Because you took time to brainstorm, your readers will enjoy the journey with you—and will thank you for being such an excellent guide!
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
January 21st, 2011 — Essays & Research Papers, Teaching Writing, Writing Across the Curriculum
Writing across the curriculum is a phrase homeschoolers hear more and more. With many students struggling under the weight of their various courses and moms juggling lesson plans and schoolwork for their large families, your response may well be, “That’s nice. But can it simplify my life?”
Two Birds with One Stone
Unfamiliar with the expression “writing across the curriculum”? Simply put, it means using writing assignments as a vehicle to help kids explore other areas of study.
Those who use a writing program “as is” tend to teach writing as a separate subject, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But if you’re teaching many children or you want to streamline your schedule, writing across the curriculum may be ideal for you. Rather than approach writing as a separate discipline, students apply generic writing lessons to subjects like history, literature, or science. Not only does it boost writing ability, it helps them better understand the content and specialized vocabulary of a particular subject.
Writing across the curriculum increases knowledge of the subject matter while helping students develop critical thinking skills. To prepare for the assignment, they must do a bit of reading or research. As they take in the information, brainstorm, and write, they gain greater understanding of the topic.
Second, it makes everyone’s life simpler. Instead of a “writing” assignment here and a history or literature composition there, the two can be easily combined. The result? Less writing for the kids and less grading and lesson planning for Mom.
Students can use writing across the curriculum to write descriptively by examining details of food, costumes, or objects from a culture they’re learning about. They can write about an oriole’s nest for science, a carved African antelope for geography, a coonskin cap for literature, or a Peruvian flute for music.
If you don’t have the object on hand, a vivid photograph can serve as an acceptable substitute. DK Eyewitness Books make excellent choices because of their clear, intricate photos.
Consider a news article. Students can use the five Ws—who, what, when, where, why—to explore an incident they’re studying in another subject. What a great opportunity to learn more about an historical event, an archaeological find, or a scientific discovery and write an article about it.
Other kinds of informative writing, such as biographies, news articles, or short reports, can also dovetail with current areas of study. That’s what writing across the curriculum is all about!
Looking for more ways to write across the curriculum? Look no further than the personal narrative. Your student might choose to become Joan of Arc (history), Albert Einstein (science), the Apostle Paul (Bible), or George Frideric Handel (music).
After reading about an especially exciting event in her subject’s life, the student must personalize the information to write a brief first-person narrative as if she herself were that individual: journaling with a twist!
Alternatively, she can “interview” the famous person and write a third-person narrative. Writing from a different point of view challenges critical thinking skills.
In junior high and high school, you can incorporate essay writing into just about every subject. It’s important for your teen to articulate an argument, write a defendable thesis statement, and support it with facts, logic, and examples.
Essays can describe, define, persuade, or discuss cause and effect. Students can compare and contrast battles, Bible characters, or ideologies. They can write an exposé on the Virginia Company and its dealings with Jamestown, an opinion about whether the earth is round, or a letter to the editor complaining about the conditions in London factories during the Industrial Revolution.
Projects and Activities
Look for projects and activities that involve writing but don’t necessarily result in formal compositions. Here’s one idea: ditch the traditional—and boring—book report (“This book is about…”) and ask your child to make a mobile by cutting shapes from sturdy paper. On the front, have him color pictures of significant characters or scenes from the book, and on the back, write a colorful description or brief character analysis. When finished, he can string each shape with yarn and dangle the papers from a wire hanger. Such an activity can be adapted to all ages.
Your student’s talents and interests can also play a part in creating out-of-the-ordinary projects. Instead of explaining a process the traditional way, one clever student created an unusual instruction manual for a literature assignment based upon The Lord of the Rings: she explained how to make an Elvish sword. Rather than use notebook paper or a computer printout, she copied her final draft onto parchment paper whose edges she had carefully burned. Then she embellished each page, writing runic characters with a calligraphy pen to create a beautiful project worth keeping and treasuring.
- Draw and label a diagram for science to explain photosynthesis, a volcano, or the water cycle. Include a short written explanation of the process.
- Make a scrapbook of a historical period, famous person, or country (Renaissance, Vikings, Australia), or create one featuring art, music, or science. Depending on the nature of the scrapbook, elements could include daily life, journals, maps, timelines, sketches, flags, plant taxonomies, pressed leaves, photos, biographies, summaries, definitions, and news articles.
- Design a brochure about an historic location. Include drawings and brief descriptions about key events, people, and places.
Inside of "Come to California" brochure
Colonial newspaper advertisements
If “writing across the curriculum” has thus far been a mystery to you—one of those terms that everyone tosses around about but never actually defines—hopefully you now feel better equipped to give it a try with one or more of your children’s writing lessons.
Some of you may decide to use each and every writing lesson for the purpose of writing across the curriculum. Others will only apply a couple of assignments in this manner. Regardless, everyone in your family will benefit.
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
. . . . .
If you’re a WriteShop I or II user, you’ll be excited to know there’s a Writing Across the Curriculum section in Appendix B to help you tie each WriteShop assignment into other subjects you’re studying. No projects here, but at least you can direct the lesson toward history or science and kill two birds with one stone! WriteShop Primary for your little ones also offers Writing Across the Curriculum ideas with each lesson.
September 10th, 2010 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers, High school
You sit down to grade a stack of essays. As you read through one particular paper, it occurs to you that the information seems familiar—so familiar, in fact, that you recognize it as the text from an Internet article you yourself printed out in preparation for another writing class. When you look up the article and compare it with this student’s paper, you’re shocked to discover they are identical.
The term plagiarism might be relatively new to your students, but cheating is not. When it comes to writing, especially in a formal setting, these two words mean the same thing. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines plagiarizing as:
- Stealing and passing off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.
- Using (another’s production) without crediting the source.
- Committing literary theft.
- Presenting as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
Establishing a Policy
Whether you homeschool one student, tutor several, or teach creative writing or English classes, it’s wise to establish and distribute a policy on plagiarism. Here’s an example:
Plagiarism is the illegitimate use of another person’s words and/or ideas without giving appropriate credit to the original source. Such attempts to copy someone else’s work and call it your own is a very serious offense that will not be tolerated and will have significant consequences. All work done for this class must be your own original composition. When writing, you are required to properly cite any source you use—published or unpublished, from a book or from the Internet. Failure to do so will result in a zero grade for the assignment.
Reinforcing the Rules
Stand firm regarding plagiarism. In any other class setting—whether in a public or private high school, college, or even the workplace—plagiarizing an essay to the extent that our hypothetical student has done will result in an instant F on the assignment, disenrollment from the class, and/or institutional disciplinary measures.
Because most educational institutions have a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism, submitting a plagiarized essay like this could, at best, result in a lower grade, or at worst, cost the student a scholarship or expulsion over something he may have thought was “no big deal.”
It’s so important to drill into your students that trying to save a few hours’ worth of work by cutting and pasting a two-page essay from the Internet is just not worth the consequences.
Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
April 16th, 2010 — Essays & Research Papers, High school, Teaching Writing
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
~William Strunk, Elements of Style
Conciseness boils down to this: expressing as much as possible without using unnecessary words or details. Concise writing is brief and precise, but that doesn’t mean it has to be dull and dry. Help your children apply some of these tips for more concise writing.
1. Stay on track
Staying on topic is a surefire way to encourage writing concisely. When your student takes tangents and rabbit trails, he loses his focus and ends up with cumbersome, awkward, or disjointed writing. Help him create an outline before he begins writing so that he’s less likely to wander off the path.
2. Be precise
The more concrete the word choice, the clearer the writing. Your child can be wordy and say “the shaggy gray dog with the long hair hanging in his eyes,” or he can simply say “the gray sheepdog.”
3. Use plain English
Many students mistakenly think that big words impress. In truth, effective writing uses simple, straightforward language. While a handful of mature, well-placed vocabulary words can raise the level of a story or essay, using too many can make a piece of writing seem verbose, over the top, and just plain hard to read. Unless you’re writing for a scholarly audience, don’t overdo the vocabulary.
4. Avoid super-long sentences
To train children to be concise, attach a word limit or try restricting the number of paragraphs and sentences they can use. This will help them say what they need to say in the space allotted.
When kids are first learning to write descriptively and use a thesaurus, the pendulum can swing wildly from three-word sentences to 20 or 30-word sentences. It’s okay to give them the freedom to play with words; they’ll find their center over time. Just know that you may need to gently correct if their zeal begins creating log jams in their writing.
5. Don’t be redundant
Redundancy refers to extra words or phrases that should be cut out. Your student’s ability to write concisely will always trump filling a page with unnecessary text.
It’s not uncommon for beginning writers to repeat themselves. But such repetition bogs down the writing and makes the reader work too hard. Here are two ways to eliminate redundancy:
- Adding concrete details, facts, or examples instead of rehashing the same point.
- Slashing unnecessary words and phrases. Remember: when two words will do the trick, why use a dozen? Encourage your student to read each sentence and paragraph to see if he can cut out any words. His point will be clearer, stronger, and easier to identify.
September 24th, 2009 — Essays & Research Papers, High school, Writing Across the Curriculum
Another question from the WriteShop mailbag . . .
Q: Can you help? I’d like to learn how to use Write Shop II with topics from my high schooler’s history studies. For example, I’d like to give her an assignment such as: “Write a 3 paragraph paper on Gregory The Great.”
A: You will be glad to learn that you can use almost all WriteShop lessons to write about things you’re studying in history.
Writing Across the Curriculum
To write about history, you have several choices. First, take a look at Appendix B of your Teacher’s Manual, specifically TM pp. B-4 to B-7. This section, called “Writing Across the Curriculum,” gives you all sorts of ideas for using each WriteShop assignment as a springboard for writing about other subjects such as history or art (the WriteShop II ideas begin on TM p. B-6).
This way, you could give your daughter important practice writing the short report from Lesson 19, having her write a biography instead of an animal report. She could certainly write about Gregory the Great or any other figure from history. This important assignment is the first WriteShop lesson that teaches how to organize a longer composition.
The remaining essay section (Lessons 25-30) will then teach a new set of skills: beginning with Lesson 25, your student will write short essays that give her opinion, compare or contrast, and describe or define. Each one of these essays can be used with history lessons.
In addition to the suggestions on TM p. B-7, you can also find loads of recommended topics and essay ideas on TM pp. B-21 to B-25. For example, here are some ways you could use Gregory the Great as a subject for some of the upcoming essay assignments:
- On TM p. B-23, one of the suggestions says: “Discuss the significance of a famous battle.” You could tweak this topic to say: “Discuss the significance of the reign of Gregory the Great.”
- Also on TM p. B-23, instead of describing “what made George Washington a great president,” you might suggest: “Discuss three major accomplishments of Gregory the Great.”
- On TM p. B-25, one of the suggestions says: “Compare or contrast two presidents (scientists, explorers).” Instead, have her compare Pope Gregory I with Pope Leo I.
Once you’ve completed the lessons, it would be wise to continue re-assigning essays from Lessons 25-30 on a regular basis to keep your daughter in practice. So, once she’s used up her lesson-specific checklists, you can provide her with photocopies of the all-purpose essay checklists on pp. C-3 to C-6 (Teacher’s Manual Appendix C). With these checklists, you will be able to give your own parameters for each assignment’s length, enabling you to teach longer essays if you so desire.
. . . . .
WriteShop I and WriteShop II have a proven track record! Using the program will help prepare your teens for advanced high school and college writing. For beginning and average writers in 7th-10th grades, consider WriteShop I. For students in grades 8-11 who need a bit more challenge, take a look at WriteShop II.
September 17th, 2009 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers, High school, Writing Lessons
Discovering interesting topics is a critical component of the essay-planning process. However, a good topic is not enough to guarantee a successful paper. The goal of the initial prewriting stage is not to come up with a subject or a topic, per se, but to identify a controlling idea that will help guide and shape the student’s essay and direct her brainstorming efforts.
Why Write a Thesis Statement?
An essay focuses on a particular concept, idea, or scenario and tries to say something unique about it. It shouldn’t be a sprawling report of all possible facts and details. Instead, essay writing is about choosing and analyzing the most important elements necessary for advancing a particular position. Therefore, the thesis statement for an essay represents a condensed and carefully thought-out argument that will define, guide, and set the tone for the entirety of your student’s paper.
What Is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement presents, in one or two sentences, the central, controlling argument of an essay. It explicitly identifies the purpose of the paper and/or previews its main ideas. Everything your student writes throughout the essay should in some way reinforce this primary claim. A good thesis statement should:
- Concisely present the central idea of the essay.
- Guide the direction of the paper and establish priorities
- Take a definitive stand that justifies the case your student is about to make.
- Articulate a specific, arguable point with which people could logically disagree. It helps to ask what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about the topic. If the student is presenting a claim or statement that no one would argue against, then he’s not saying anything worth reading.
- Uncontestable claim: The world would be a better place without war.
- Contestable claim: Christians should not participate violently in war.
- Uncontestable claim: Domestic terrorism is on the rise in the United States.
- Contestable claim: The rise of domestic terrorism reflects an increased disillusionment with the United States government.
- Effectively answer the prompt or question (if given).
- Be thoughtfully and deliberately worded.
- Avoid vague generalizations.
- Use clear and concrete language.
- Pass the “So what?” test of significance. A good thesis should be substantial and important, so ask, “Who cares?” or “What difference does it make?”
- Insubstantial claim: Students at ABC University have school spirit.
- Substantial claim: The strong sense of community at ABC University is evident in its students’ commitment to campus functions and organizations. This challenges the prevailing characterization of Generation X as apathetic, uninvolved, and lazy.