California State University Task Force on Expository Reading and Writing

EXPOSITORY READING AND WRITING

ASSIGNMENT TEMPLATE

Teacher Version

This template presents a process for helping students read, comprehend, and respond to non-fiction texts. At the beginning of the course, we recommend that students be guided through each step of the process.  As students become familiar with the reading and writing strategies and internalize some of the basic processes, some of the steps can be left for them to do on their own.  By the end of the course, students should be able to read an appropriate text on their own without elaborate preparation and write coherently about it. For these assignments, we recommend that students read contemporary essays, newspaper and magazine articles, editorials, reports, memos, voting materials and assorted public documents, and other non-fiction texts.

Template Overview

READING RHETORICALLY

·         PREREADING

·         READING

·         POSTREADING

Prereading

·         Getting Ready to Read

·         Surveying the Text

·         Making Predictions and Asking Questions

·         Introducing Key Vocabulary

Reading

·         First Reading

·         Looking Closely at Language

·         Rereading the Text

·         Analyzing Stylistic Choices

·         Considering the Structure of the Text

Post-reading Activities

·         Summarizing and Responding

·         Thinking Critically

CONNECTING READING TO WRITING

·         WRITING TO LEARN

·         USING THE WORDS OF OTHERS


WRITING RHETORICALLY

·         PREWRITING

·         WRITING

·         REVISING AND EDITING

·         EVALUATING AND RESPONDING

Prewriting

·         Reading the Assignment

·         Getting Ready to Write

·         Formulating a Working Thesis

Writing

·         Composing a Draft

·         Organizing the Essay

·         Developing the Content

Revising and Editing

·         Revising the Draft

·         Editing the Draft

·         Reflecting on the Writing

Evaluating and Responding

    • Grading Holistically
    • Responding to Student Writing
    • Using Portfolios

APPENDIX A: READING STRATEGIES

APPENDIX B: KEY ASSIGNMENT WORDS 

APPENDIX C:  PREWRITING STRATEGIES

APPENDIX D: EVALUATION FORM

APPENDIX E:  HOLISTIC SCORING GUIDE


EXPOSITORY READING AND WRITING

ASSIGNMENT TEMPLATE

READING RHETORICALLY

·         PREREADING

·         READING

·         POSTREADING

Prereading

·         Getting Ready to Read

·         Surveying the Text

·         Making Predictions and Asking Questions

·         Introducing Key Vocabulary

Language Arts Standard: Writing Applications 2.3

Write brief reflective compositions on topics related to text, exploring the significance of personal experiences, events, conditions, or concerns by using rhetorical strategies (e.g., narration, description, exposition, persuasion).

Getting Ready to Read

As students approach a reading assignment, you can engage them with the text through quick writes, group discussions, brainstorming, or other activities to achieve the following goals:

·       Help students make a connection between their own personal world and the world of the text.

·       Help students activate prior knowledge and experience related to the issues of the text.

·       Help students share knowledge and vocabulary relevant to the text.

·       Help students ask questions that anticipate what the text is about.

Quick write (5 minutes)

Before a discussion or a reading: What do your students know about this topic?  What do they think about it? You might have students volunteer to read their responses or discuss them with a partner or in a group.

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.1

Analyze the features and rhetorical devices of texts and the way in which authors use those features and devices.

Surveying the Text

Surveying the text gives students an overview of what the essay is about and how it is put together.  It helps students create a framework so they make predictions and form questions to guide their reading.  Surveying involves the following tasks:

·   Looking for titles and subheadings.

·   Looking at the length of the reading.

·   Finding out about the author through library research or an Internet search and discussing the results with the class.

·   Discovering when and where this text was first published.

·   Noting the topics and main ideas.


Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.1

Analyze both the features and rhetorical devices of different types of public documents (e.g., policy statements, speeches, debates, platforms) and how authors use these features and devices.

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.3

Verify and clarify facts presented in other types of expository texts by using a variety of consumer, workplace, and public documents.

Making Predictions and Asking Questions

Ask questions to help students make predictions about the text based on textual features noted in the survey process.  Help them notice textual features that are relevant to this genre and this rhetorical situation.  Have them think about the character and image of the writer, the nature of the audience, and the purpose of the writing.  Be sure to ask students to explain how they formed their predictions, making them give evidence from the text that they surveyed.  You could ask questions like the following:

  • What do you think this text is going to be about?
  • What do you think is the purpose of this text?
  • Who do you think is the intended audience for this piece? How do you know this?
  • Based on the title and other features of the text, what information/ideas might this essay present?

You might also create an Anticipation Guide (or a study guide) for the reading selection that helps students navigate through the issues in the text.  The best Anticipation Guides call upon the students to bring their experience to their reading and create a tutorial for the selection.

Have students read the first few paragraphs of the text (depending on where the introduction ends) and the first sentence after each subheading or the first sentence of each paragraph if the text is short.  Then have your students address the following questions:

  • What is the topic of the text?
  • What is the author’s opinion on that topic?
  • What do you think the writer wants us to do or believe?  How did they come to this conclusion?
  • Turn the title into a question [or questions] to answer as you read the essay.

Language Arts Standard: Word Analysis and Systematic Vocabulary

Development 1.0 (as well as 1.1 and 1.2)

Students apply their knowledge of word origins to determine the meaning of new words encountered in reading materials and use those words accurately.

These activities are also designed to develop the kinds of vocabulary skills assessed by college placement exams such as the CSU English Placement Test and the UC Subject A exam.

Students should be able to

·         Recognize word meanings in context.

·         Respond to tone and connotation.

Introducing Key Vocabulary

Before students start reading the text, give them several key words to look for as they are reading.  Choosing key words and then reinforcing them throughout the reading process is an important activity for students at all levels of proficiency.   The following are options when introducing key vocabulary.

·       Provide the meanings of key words for the students.

·       Ask students to record the meanings of key words from the context of their reading in a vocabulary log.

·       Have students work in small groups to look up key vocabulary words.

·       Go through key words as a class project.

 


Reading

·         First Reading

·         Looking Closely at Language

·         Rereading the Text

·         Analyzing Stylistic Choices

·         Considering the Structure of the Text

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.1

Analyze both the features and the rhetorical devices of texts and the way in which authors use those features and devices.

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.2

Analyze the way in which clarity of meaning is affected by the patterns of organization, hierarchical structures, repetition of main ideas, syntax, and word choice in the text.

First Reading

The first reading of an essay is intended to help the students understand the text and confirm their predictions. This is sometimes called reading “with the grain” or “playing the believing game.” Ask your students questions like the following:

  • Which of your predictions turned out to be true? 
  • What surprised you?

The following metacognitive activities are especially effective at this stage. (See Appendix A for a brief explanation of each of these strategies.)

·         Book Marks and Trouble Slips

·         Chunking

·         GIST

·         Graphic Organizers

·         Quick Writes

·         Reciprocal Teaching

·         Rereading or Repeated Reading

·         Say, Mean, Matter

·         SQP2RS

·         Talking to the Text/Annotating the Text/Highlighting

·         Think Aloud

Language Arts Standard: Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development 1.0

Students apply their knowledge of word origins both to determine the meaning of new words encountered in reading materials and to use those words accurately.

Looking Closely at Language

Looking closely at language is meant to build on the vocabulary work we started with key words. You might begin by selecting a list of words from the text that may be unfamiliar to students, and do one of the following activities. 

  • Vocabulary self-assessment worksheet
  • Vocabulary log
  • Predictions from context; look up to confirm


Language Arts Standards:  Research and Technology 1.7:

Use systematic strategies to organize and record information (e.g. anecdotal scripting, annotated bibliographies).

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.2

Analyze the way in which clarity of meaning is affected by the patterns of organization, hierarchical structures, repetition of main ideas, syntax, and word choice in the text.

Rereading the Text

In the initial reading, students read “with the grain” playing the “believing game.”  In the second reading, students should read “against the grain,” playing the “doubting game.”  Having students reread a text develops fluency and builds vocabulary, both of which are integral to successful comprehension.

As students reread the text, you might consider having them make marginal notations (i.e., ask questions, express surprise, disagree, elaborate, and/or note any moments of confusion).  Here is one way to structure marginal notations:

(1) Have students label what the author says in the left-hand margin:

·               The introduction

·               The issue or problem the author is writing about

·               The author’s main arguments

·               The author’s examples

·               The conclusion

(2) In the right hand margin, have students write reactions to what the author is saying.

Initially you may want to do this activity collaboratively as a class.  Later, you could have students exchange their annotations and compare their labeling and responses in small groups or in pairs.

Language Arts Standards: Literary Response and Analysis 3.3.

Analyze how irony, tone, mood, style, and "sound" of language are to achieve specific rhetorical and/or aesthetic purposes.

These activities are also designed to develop the kinds of close reading skills assessed by college placement exams such as the CSU English Placement Test and the UC Subject A exam.

Students should be able to

·         Draw inferences and conclusions.

·         Respond to tone and connotation.

Analyzing Stylistic Choices

This particular line of questioning is offered to help the students see that the linguistic choices writers make create certain effects for their readers.  These questions are divided into two categories: Words and Sentences.

Words:

  • What are the denotative and connotative meanings of key words?  How do the specific words the author chooses affect your response?
  • What words or synonyms are repeated?  Why?
  • What figurative language does the author use?  What does it imply?

Sentences

  • Is the sentence structure varied?
  • What effects do choices of sentence structure and length have on the reader?

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.1

Analyze both the features and the rhetorical devices of texts and the way in which authors use those features and devices.

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.2

Analyze the way in which clarity of meaning is affected by the patterns of organization, hierarchical structures, repetition of main ideas, syntax, and word choice in the text.

Considering the Structure of the Text

These activities have students map out or graphically represent different aspects of the text so that they can gain a clearer understanding of the writer’s approach to the essay’s content itself.  They lead up to more questions that will help students analyze what they have read.

      Mapping the Organizational Structure:

Have students map the text’s organization by following these       directions:

  • Divide the text into sections. 
  • Draw a line where the introduction ends.  Is it after the first paragraph, or are there several introductory paragraphs?
  • Draw a line where the conclusion begins.

      Clustering or Webbing:

Have students cluster the text’s ideas by following these       directions:

  • Draw a circle in the center of a blank page, and label it with the text’s main idea.
  • Record the text’s supporting ideas on branches that connect to the central idea.

Mapping the Content:

Have students map the text’s content by following these       directions:

  • Ask how the ideas are related to one another.
  • Draw a picture of the argument.  Map the sequential flow chart of the text verbally or graphically.

      Descriptive Outlining:

Have students write brief statements describing the rhetorical function and content of each section.

    • How does each section affect the reader?  What is the writer trying to accomplish?
    • What does each section say?  What is the content? 
    • Which section is most developed?
    • Which section is least developed?  Does it need more development?
    • Which section is most persuasive?  Least persuasive?
    • From your chart of the text, what do you think is the text’s main argument?  Is it explicit or implicit?

      Graphic Organizers:

Create a partially blank chart that students can fill in with key elements, such as main ideas, arguments, evidence, key quotations, and responses.  You will need to supply clear prompts on the chart so students know what they are to fill in.

      Analyzing their Findings:
  • Discuss with the class how the text is organized (text structures).
  • In pairs or small groups, have students discuss what the major parts of the text and their purposes are.

Post-reading Activities

·         Summarizing and Responding

·         Thinking Critically

Prerequisite 7th Grade Language Arts Standard: Writing Application 2.5

Write summaries of reading materials, including main ideas and most significant details.  Use own words.  Reflect-explain underlying meaning.

Language Arts Standard: Writing Application 2.2a

Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the significant ideas in works or passages.

Summarizing and Responding

Summarizing is a very important strategy that students need to learn.  It involves extracting the main ideas from a reading selection and explaining what the author says about them.  Here are some options for teaching this complex strategy:

  • Use the “mapping” activity to help students construct summaries.  Show students how to construct a summary, using knowledge about the author’s structure of the text, and then how to respond to the text, based on the reader’s own experience and opinion.
  • SQP2RS and GIST are two effective approaches for teaching and reinforcing summaries.
  • Instead of writing a response, students can summarize a text and then write questions that can be the basis for discussion in class.
  • Alternatively, students in groups can summarize one of the main parts of the text and then work together as a class to create a coherent paragraph that summarizes all the main points of the text.

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.4

Make warranted and reasonable assertions about the author’s arguments by using elements of the text to defend and clarify interpretations.

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.5

Analyze an author’s implicit and explicit philosophical assumptions and beliefs about a subject.

Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.6

Critique the power, validity, and truthfulness of arguments set forth in public documents; their appeal to both friendly and hostile audiences; and the extent to which the arguments anticipate and address reader concerns and counterclaims (e.g., appeal to reason, to authority, to pathos and emotion).

These questions are also designed to develop the kinds of skills assessed by college placement exams such as the English Placement Test and the UC Subject A exam.

Students should be able to

·         Identify important ideas.

·         Understand direct statements.

·         Draw inferences and conclusions.

·         Detect underlying assumptions.

·         Recognize word meanings in context.

·         Respond to tone and connotation.

Thinking Critically

The following questions move students through the traditional rhetorical appeals.  Using this framework, help students progress from a literal to an analytical understanding of the reading material.

      Questions about Logic (Logos)

·         Locate major claims and assertions and ask, “Do you agree with the author’s claim that . . .?”

·         Look at support for major claims and ask “Is there any claim that appears to be weak or unsupported?  Which one and why?”

·         Can you think of counter-arguments that the author doesn’t consider?

·         Do you think the author has left something out on purpose?  Why?

      Questions about the Writer (Ethos)

·         Does this author have the appropriate background to speak with authority on this subject?

·         Is this author knowledgeable?

·         What does the author’s style and language tell your students about him or her? 

·         Does this author seem trustworthy?  Why or why not?

·         Does this author seem deceptive?  Why or why not?

·         Does this author appear to be serious?

      Questions about Emotions (Pathos)

·         Does this piece affect your students emotionally?  What parts?

·         Do your students think the author is trying to manipulate their emotions?  In what ways?  At what point?

·         Do their emotions conflict with their logical interpretation of the arguments?

·         Does the author use humor or irony?  How does this affect your students’ acceptance of his or her ideas?

      Other Questions to Develop Critical Thinking

·       Questions to identify important ideas

·       Questions to identify the meanings of direct statements

·       Questions that require students to draw inferences and conclusions

·       Questions to get at underlying assumptions

·       Questions about the meanings of words and phrases in context

·       Questions about tone and connotation

Quick writes (5 minutes):

At the beginning of class to get students thinking about the topic: What is this essay’s main topic?  What do you think the writer is trying to accomplish in the essay?

You can then read several quick writes to the class to get the discussion started or the students can read their own.

When a discussion bogs down or gets unfocused:  What are the main issues here?  What does this writer want us to believe? What different perspectives are represented in the text?

At the end of a session:  What did you learn from this discussion?  How might you be able to use this new information?


CONNECTING READING TO WRITING

·         WRITING TO LEARN

·         USING THE WORDS OF OTHERS

Writing to Learn

Although the writing process can be divided into stages, writing, like reading, is essentially a recursive process that continually revisits different stages.  Much of the pre-writing stage has already been accomplished at this point because students have been “writing to learn” while reading.  They have been using writing to take notes, make marginal notations, map the text, make predictions, and ask questions.  Now they are ready to use what they have learned to produce more formal assignments.

Prerequisite 9th-10th Grade Language Arts Standard: Reading Comprehension 2.4

Synthesize the content from several sources or words by a single author dealing with a single issue; paraphrase the ideas and connect them to other sources and related topics to demonstrate comprehension.

Prerequisite 9th-10th Grade Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.5, 1.6, and 1.7

1.5 Synthesize information from multiple sources and identify complexities and discrepancies in the information and the different per-spectives found in each medium (e.g., almanacs, microfiches, news sources, in-depth field studies, speeches, journals, technical documents).  

1.6 Integrate quotations and citations into a written text while maintaining the flow of ideas.

 

1.7 Use appropriate conventions for documentations in the text, notes, and bibliographies by adhering to those in style manuals (e.g., Modern Language Association Handbook, the Chicago Manual of Style).

Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.7

Use systematic strategies to organize the record information (e.g., field studies, oral histories, interviews, experiments, electronic sources).

Using the Words of Others

One of the most important features of academic writing is the use of the words and ideas from written sources to support the writer’s own points.  There are essentially four ways to incorporate words and ideas from sources.

  • Direct quotation: Jeremy Rifkin says, “Studies on pigs' social behavior funded by McDonald's at Purdue University, for example, have found that they crave affection and are easily depressed if isolated or denied playtime with each other” (15).

  • Paraphrase: In “A Change of Heart about Animals,” Jeremy Rifkin notes that McDonald’s has funded studies on pigs that show that they need affection and playtime with one another (15).

  • Summary: In “A Change of Heart about Animals,” Jeremy Rifkin cites study after study to show that animals and humans are more alike than we think.  He shows that animals feel emotions, reason, make and use tools, learn and use language, and mourn their dead.  One study even shows that pigs need affection and playtime with one another, and enjoy playing with toys (15).

What citation format should I teach? 

This is not an easy question to answer, because most students will end up using at least two formats in their college work.  The two most common documentation styles [to avoid repetition of formats] used are Modern Language Association (MLA), which is used mainly by English departments, but is also used sometimes in business, and the American Psychological Association format (APA), which is common in the social sciences.  In this template, we demonstrate the MLA format in Appendix A and the APA format in the introduction.  It is probably best for high school teachers to teach the MLA format, because the freshman composition instructor is likely to require it.  Other formats that students may encounter are CBE (Council of Biology Editors), used in the sciences, and Chicago, based on The Chicago Manual of Style published by the University of Chicago Press.  The popular Manual for Writers of Term Papers, originally written by Kate Turabian, is based on Chicago style.  When your students are in college, their instructors will tell them what format is required.

Whatever format they use, students need to learn to record all of the necessary information and to get in the habit of documenting sources.  For print material, at a minimum they need to record the author, title, city of publication, publisher, date, and page number. 

MLA Style

Here is the “Works Cited” format for a typical book in MLA style:

Bean, John C., Virginia A. Chappell, and Alice M. Gilliam.  Reading Rhetorically: A Reader for Writers. New York : Longman, 2002.

Here is the bibliographic information for the article quoted above, in MLA format.  The fact that it was published in a newspaper changes the format and the information a bit:

Rifkin, Jeremy.  “A Change of Heart about Animals.” Editorial.  Los Angeles Times. 1 Sept. 2003: B15.

Students often want to incorporate material from websites.  To document a website, they need to give the author (if known), the title of the site (or a description like “Homepage” if no title is available), the date of publication or update (if known), the name of the organization that sponsors the site, the date of access, and the web address (URL) in angle brackets.  For example:

University Writing Center . 26 June 2003. University Writing Center , Cal Poly Pomona .  26 May 2004 <http://www.csupomona.edu/uwc/>.

The author is unknown for the above site and so is left out.  This entry would appear in the “Works Cited” section alphabetized by “University.”

MLA style also requires “in text” documentation for every direct quotation, indirect quotation, paraphrase or summary.  Many students are confused about this, believing that documentation is only necessary for direct quotations.  If the author is given in the text, the page number should be given in parentheses at the end of the sentence containing the material.  For example, here is a paraphrase of material from the Rifkin article.  Because the author is not named in the text, the last name goes in the parentheses:

It is well established that animals can learn to use sign language.  A long-term study at the Gorilla Foundation in Northern California shows that Koko, a 300-pound gorilla, can use more than 1,000 signs to communicate with her keepers and can understand several thousand English words.  She also scores between 70 and 95 on human IQ tests (Rifkin 15).

An academic paper is most often a dialogue between the writer and his or her sources.  If students learn to quote, paraphrase, summarize and document sources correctly, they are well on their way to becoming college students.

This short introduction presents only the basic concepts of MLA documentation.  Students need access to some kind of handbook that covers the system in more detail.

Writing Assignment: An exercise that can help students learn to incorporate material from other sources is “Quote, Paraphrase, Respond.”  Have students choose three passages from the text they are reading that they might be able to use in an essay.   First, they write each passage down as a correctly punctuated and cited direct quotation.   Second, they paraphrase the material in their own words with the correct citation.  Finally, they respond to the idea expressed in the passage by agreeing or disagreeing with it and explaining why, again with the correct citation.  It is easy to see if the students understand the material by looking at the paraphrases.  Later, they can use this material in an essay.


WRITING RHETORICALLY

·         PREWRITING

·         WRITING

·         REVISING AND EDITING

·         EVALUATING AND RESPONDING

Prewriting

·         Reading the Assignment

·         Getting Ready to Write

·         Formulating a Working Thesis

Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.1

Demonstrate understanding of the elements of discourse (e.g., purpose, speaker, audience, form) when completing narrative, expository, persuasive, informational, or descriptive writing assignments.

Reading the Assignment

Many students have trouble with writing assignments because they don’t read the assignment carefully.  Here are some strategies that might help students overcome this problem:

  • Read the assignment carefully with students. Many problems with student work, particularly in timed, high-stakes writing situations, arise because students fail to completely understand what the writing assignment asks them to do.  The explanations in Appendix B can help clarify some key assignment words.
  • Help students specify the subject of the essay they are going to write. Is the subject specified for them? Do they have choices to make about the subject?
  • Discuss the purpose of the assignment. Are they informing or reporting?  Are they persuading their readers of something? Help students recognize how the purpose of the assignment affects the type of writing they will do.
  • Read the assignment for information about process and deadlines. Teachers may want to help students sketch out a timeline for completing the assignment in reasonable steps.
  • Ask students to examine the assignment for information about how they will be graded. Upon what criteria will their written work be evaluated? Do they understand each criterion?
  • Look for information in the assignment about the audience to whom the writing will be addressed (see “Getting Ready to Write”).

Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.0

Students write coherent and focused texts that convey a well-defined perspective and tightly-reasoned argument. The writing demonstrates students’ awareness of the audience and purpose and progression through the stages of the writing process.

Getting Ready to Write

The following activities help students move as smoothly as possible from reading to writing.  Students may want to refer to their reading notes before engaging in these activities:

  • Invention strategies designed to generate ideas, points, and arguments. Typical strategies include brainstorming, informal outlines, quick writes, “webbing” or “clustering.” (Appendix C contains descriptions of several prewriting options.)
  • Strategies to help students consider the audience for the essay. Students should think about what most people know and think about the topic of their paper.  If students want to change the opinions of the audience, they need to think about persuasive techniques, both logical and emotional.  Discussions in groups and pairs can be helpful at this point.

Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.3

Structure ideas and arguments in a sustained, persuasive, and sophisticated way and support them with precise and relevant examples.

Formulating a Working Thesis

Most students will find it helpful to formulate a working thesis statement at this point.  Students can go through their “invention” work to decide what statement or assertion they might be able to support. Although students can be successful with different approaches to writing, a strong, focused thesis statement can keep the writer on track.

Students may want to think about or write the answers to the following questions:

  • What is your tentative thesis?
  • What support have you found for your thesis?
  • What evidence have you found for this support? For example, facts, statistics, authorities, personal experience, anecdotes, stories, scenarios, and examples.
  • How much background information do your readers need to understand your topic and thesis?
  • If readers were to disagree with your thesis or the validity of your support, what would they say? How would you address their concerns (what would you say to them)?

After students formulate a working thesis, giving them feedback, either individually or as a class activity, before they begin to write is important.  Potential writing problems can be averted at this stage before the students generate their first drafts.


Writing

·         Composing a Draft

·         Organizing the Essay

·         Developing the Content

Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.3

Structure ideas and arguments in a sustained, persuasive, and sophisticated way and support them with precise and relevant examples.

Composing a Draft

The first draft of an essay provides a time for students to discover what they think about a certain topic.  It is usually “writer-based,” the goal of which is simply to get the writer’s ideas down on paper.  Students should start with their brainstorming notes, informal outlines, freewriting, or whatever other materials they have and write a rough draft of their essay.

Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.3

Structure ideas and arguments in a sustained, persuasive, and sophisticated way and support them with precise and relevant examples.

Organizing the Essay

The following items are traditional parts of an essay.  The number of paragraphs in an essay depends upon the nature and complexity of the student’s argument.

Introduction

  • Students might want to include the following in their introductory paragraph(s):
    • A “hook” to get the reader’s attention
    • Background information the audience  may need
    • A thesis statement, along with some indication of how the essay will be developed (“forecasting”).  A thesis statement often states the topic of the essay and the writer’s position on that topic.  Students may choose to sharpen or narrow the thesis at this point.

Body

  • Paragraphs that present support of the thesis statement, usually in topic sentences supported with evidence (see ”Getting Ready to Write,” above)
  • Paragraphs that include different points of view or address counter-arguments
  • Paragraphs or sentences where the writer addresses those points of view
    • by refuting them
    • by acknowledging them but showing how the writer’s argument is better
    • by granting them altogether but showing they are irrelevant
  • Evidence that students have considered the values, beliefs, and assumptions of their audience, students’ own values, beliefs, and assumptions, and whether they have found some common ground that appeals to the various points of view

Conclusion

  • A final paragraph (or paragraphs) that includes a solid argument to support the thesis and indicates the significance of the argument—the “so what” factor

Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.1

Demonstrate understanding of the elements of discourse (e.g., purpose, speaker, audience, form) when completing narrative, expository, persuasive, informational, or descriptive writing assignments.

Developing the Content

Students need to understand that body paragraphs explain and support their thesis statements as they move their writing from writer-based to reader-based prose.

·           Most body paragraphs consist of a topic sentence (or an implied topic sentence) and concrete details to support that topic sentence.

·           Body paragraphs give evidence in the form of examples, illustrations, statistics, etc. and analyze the meaning of the evidence.

·           Each topic sentence is usually directly related to the thesis statement. 

·           No set number of paragraphs make up an essay. 

·        The thesis dictates and focuses the content of an essay.


Revising and Editing

·         Revising the Draft

·         Editing the Draft

·         Reflecting on the Writing

Prerequisite 9th and 10th Grade Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.9

Revise writing to improve the logic and coherence of the organization and controlling perspective, the prevision of word choice, and the tone by taking into consideration the audience, purpose, and formality of the context.

Language Arts Standard: Writing Strategies 1.4, 1.5, and 1.9

1.4 Organization and Focus: enhance meaning by employing rhetorical devices, including the extended use of parallelism, repetition, and analogy; the incorporation of visual aids (e.g. graphs, tables, pictures); and the issuance of a call for action;

1.5 Organization and Focus: use language in natural, fresh, and vivid ways to establish a specific tone;

1.9 Evaluation and Revision: revise text to highlight individual voice, improve sentence variety and style, and enhance subtlety of meaning and tone in ways that are consistent with the purpose, audience, and genre.

Revising the Draft

Students now need to work with the organization and development of their drafts to make sure that their essays are as effective as possible. 

·         Students should produce the next drafts based on systematic feedback from others.  These drafts will be more “reader-based” than the first draft because they will naturally take into consideration the needs of the readers as they respond to the text.

Peer Group Work:  In groups of three or four, each student can read his or her essay aloud to other members of the group.  They should then complete the Revising Evaluation Form (Appendix D, Part I) for each essay.

Paired Work:  Students can work in pairs to decide how they want to revise the problems that group members identified.

Individual Work:  Students can then revise the draft based on the feedback they have received and the decisions they have made with their partners.  You might also direct them to these additional questions for individual work.

      Revision Guidelines for Individual Work:

  • Have I responded to the assignment?
  • What is my purpose for this essay?
  • What should I keep?  What is most effective?
  • What should I add?  Where do I need more details, examples, and other evidence to support my point?
  • What could I get rid of?  Did I use irrelevant details? Was I repetitive?
  • What should I change?  Are parts of my essay confusing or contradictory?  Do I need to explain my ideas more fully?
  • What should I rethink?  Was my position clear?  Did I provide enough analysis to convince my readers?
  • How is my tone? Was I too overbearing, too firm? Do I need qualifiers?
  • Have I addressed differing points of view?
  • Does my conclusion show the significance of my essay?

Prerequisite 9th and 10th Grade Language Arts Standard: Written and Oral English Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3

1.1 Identify and correctly use clauses (e.g., main and subordinate), and phrases (e.g., gerund, infinitive, and participial), and mechanics of punctuation (e.g., semicolons, colons, ellipses, hyphens).

1.2 Understand sentence construction (e.g., parallel structure, subordination, proper placement of modifiers) and proper English usage (e.g., consistency of verb tenses).

1.3 Demonstrate an understanding of proper English usage and control of grammar, paragraph and sentence structure, diction, and syntax.

Language Arts Standard: Written and Oral English-Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3

1.1 Demonstrate control of grammar, diction, and paragraph and sentence structure and an understanding of English usage.

1.2 Produce legible work that shows accurate spelling and correct punctuation and capitalization.

1.3 Reflect appropriate manuscript requirements in writing.

Editing the Draft

Students now need to work with the grammar, punctuation, and mechanics of their drafts to make sure that their essays conform to the guidelines of standard written English.

  • In this case, students will benefit most from specific instructor or tutor feedback rather than from peer evaluation.
  • This work can be preceded by mini-lessons on common grammar, usage, punctuation, and mechanics. 

Individual Work:  Students can edit their drafts based on the information they received from an instructor or a tutor. Appendix D, Part II offers them some helpful Editing Guidelines.  The suggestions below will also help them edit their own work.

      Editing Guidelines for Individual Work:
  • If possible, set your essay aside for 24 hours before rereading to find errors.
  • If possible, read your essay out loud to a friend so you can hear your errors.
  • Focus on individual words and sentences rather than overall meaning.  Take a sheet of paper and cover everything except the line you are reading.  Then touch your pencil to each word as you read.
  • With the help of your teacher, figure out your own pattern of errors—the most serious and frequent errors you make. 
  • Only look for one type of error at a time.  Then go back and look for a second type, and if necessary, a third.
  • Use the dictionary to check spelling and confirm that you’ve chosen the right word for the context. 

Reflecting on the Writing

When you return essays to your students, a good practice is to ask them to reflect in writing about the process of writing the essay, what they learned that they can apply to their next assignment, or how they feel about the comments that you gave them on the essay.


Evaluating and Responding

    • Grading Holistically
    • Responding to Student Writing
    • Using Portfolios

Grading Holistically

Reading student papers holistically is also called “general impression” grading.  It allows you to give a student a single score or grade based on your impression of his or her management of the entire writing assignment.  The basis of this type of evaluation is a rubric or scoring guide, which is used, along with sample papers, to "norm" the readers before they read student papers. In the "norming" process, readers score

sets of sample essays.  The leader asks how many readers gave each score on each paper, and those who gave a certain score raise their hands when it is announced and are counted.  This process is repeated for each score point for each essay.  The process continues until almost all the hands are consistently going up at the same time. In a holistic reading, readers then read and score papers very quickly, without marking errors or making comments. You might consider using the adapted version of the English Placement Test scoring guide printed in Appendix E as your grading criteria for this exercise.

Grading a set of papers holistically with other faculty members lets you discuss the grading criteria and “norm” yourselves to a single set of scores.  This is an excellent exercise to keep a conversation going among department faculty about grades and assessment.

Having students grade a set of papers holistically gives you the opportunity to have the students work in groups to explain why a paper received a certain grade. Then you might have your students revise their papers based on their group’s assessment.

Responding to Student Writing

Responding to your students’ writing is the final stage of the writing process.  You have several ways to respond:

·       Use a preprinted evaluation form to respond to your students’ writing.  (See Appendix D.)  Make sure you include notes in the margin to support the marks on the evaluation form.

·       Annotate the paper, and make a summary comment at the end of the paper.  In this case, make sure the marks on the paper explain the comment at the end.

·       Meet one on one with each student and review the strengths and weaknesses of the paper.  In this situation, you might keep an index card on each student with your personal notes on each paper.

Using Portfolios

Having students keep all their writing in a folder so you can discuss it throughout the term is a very good way to get the students to see their own progress as writers.  You might even consider assigning some portfolio activities:

·       Have students explain their progress through the course, using pieces of their own writing to support their claims.

·       Have students find their best and worst paper and explain the difference between the two pieces of writing.

·       Have students revise their worst paper and summarize the pattern of their changes.


APPENDIX A:  READING STRATEGIES

Book Marks: Book Marks can be used to help students think about how they read (reflecting on the mental process itself) and what they read (focusing strategically on content, style, and form).  They can also facilitate a reader’s ability to develop interpretations and aid in their formulation of questions to help anchor reading in the text.  See Burke (2000) for examples of classroom uses. 

Chunking: Proficient readers monitor their comprehension and often “chunk” language–break it up into smaller units–within sentences to help them understand what they read.  Chunking can be used with complex sentences or with longer passages according to a reader’s needs.  Such divisions will vary from person to person.  See Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, & Hurwitz (1999) and Burke (2000) for examples of classroom uses. 

GIST: Involving five major steps, this strategy is an excellent way to show students how to write a summary: (1) read the passage or chapter; (2) circle or list the important words/phrases/ideas; (3) put the reading material aside; (4) use the important words/phrases/ideas to generate summary sentences, and (5) add a topic sentence.  See Cunningham et al (2000) for more information on this strategy.

Graphic Organizers: By visually representing a text, graphic organizers help students understand textual and informational structures and perceive connections between ideas.  Graphic Organizers can also support comprehension and help students reflect on which parts of a text are most important.  See Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, & Hurwitz (1999) and Burke (2000) for examples of classroom uses. 

Quick Writes:  A form of freewriting, quick writes are spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness responses to a single issue or related issues (Fulwiler 1987).

Reciprocal Teaching:  Reciprocal teaching entails taking turns leading a discussion on a reading selection with the intention of helping oneself and others understand and retain the author’s main points; it involves guiding the group toward reasonable predictions, important questions, essential clarifications or explanations, and coherent summaries.  See Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko & Hurwitz (1999) and Burke (2000) for examples of classroom uses.  Also see Palincsar and Brown (1984) and Palincsar and Brown (1986).

Rereading or Repeated Reading : Rereading increases comprehension and raises readers’ confidence, especially with challenging texts.  It also helps less skillful readers develop fluency.  See Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, & Hurwitz (1999) and Burke (2000) for examples of classroom uses. 

Say, Mean, Matter:  This strategy is the process of answering three questions as they relate to a reading selection: What does it say?  What does it mean?  What/Why does it matter?  The purpose of this exercise is to encourage students to move beyond literal-level thinking (Blau 2003).

SQP2RS: This is the process of Surveying (previewing a text or part of a text), Questioning (listing 2-3 questions that you think will be answered by reading this text), Predicting (stating 3-4 things you think will be learned by reading this text and then having the class narrow the list of questions to focus on 3-4), Reading (reading the assigned text), Responding (confirming and negating predictions; answering the questions already generated and asking new ones; and discussing the text with the class), and Summarizing (either orally or in writing). See Vogt (2002) and Echevarria et al (2004). 

Talking to the Text/Annotating the Text/Highlighting:  Writing responses and questions in the margins, underlining, and highlighting key ideas are all ways of getting readers more engaged with ideas in the text.  These ways of interacting with the reading material help activate students’ prior knowledge and support comprehension.  See Jordan, Jensen, & Greenleaf (2001) and Burke (2000) for examples of classroom uses.  Also see Davey (1983). 

Think Aloud: Narrating the thought process while reading a passage aloud can help students externalize points of confusion, articulate questions about the text or its content, and make connections between the text and students’ background knowledge and life experience.  “Think alouds” help make our internal thinking processes observable.  See Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, & Hurwitz (1999) and Burke (2000) for examples of classroom uses.  Also see Kucan & Beck (1997) for a review of the research. 

Works Cited

Blau, Sheridan.  The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and their Readers.  Portsmouth , NH :

Heinemann, 2003.

Burke, Jim. Reading Reminders: Tools, Tips, and Techniques.  Portsmouth , NH : Boynton/Cook,

2000.

Cunningham, Patricia, Dorothy Hall, and James Cunningham.  Guided Reading the Four Blocks Way .  Greensboro , NC : Carson-Dellosa, 2000.

Davey, Beth. “Think aloud—modeling the cognitive processes of reading comprehension.” 

Journal of Reading , 27 (1983): 184-193. 

Echevarria, Jana, MaryEllen Vogt, and Deborah Short.  Making Content Comprehensible For

English Learners: The SIOP Model.  Boston : Allyn & Bacon, 2004. 

Fulwiler, Toby.  The Journal Book.  Portsmouth , NH : Boynton/Cook, 1987.

Jordan, Merean, Rita Jensen, and Cynthia Greenleaf. “Amidst Familial Gatherings.” Voices from

the Middle, 8.4 (2001):15-24. 

Kucan, Linda. and Isabel L. Beck.  “Thinking Aloud and Reading Comprehension

Research: Inquiry, Instruction and Social Interaction.”  Review of Educational Research,

67.3 (1997): 271-299. 

Palincsar, Annemarie Sullivan and Anne L. Brown. “Reciprocal Teaching of Comprehension-

Fostering and Comprehension-Monitoring Activities.”  Cognition and Instruction, 1

(1984): 117-175. 

---.  “Interactive Teaching To Promote Independent Learning From Text.”  The Reading Teacher,

Apr. 1986: 771-777. 

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz.  Reading For

Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. 

SF: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

Vogt, Mary Ellen.  “Content Learning for Students Needing Modifications: An Issue of Access.” 

            Creativity and Innovation in Content-Area Teaching.  Eds. Maureen McLaughlin and

Mary Ellen Vogt.  Norwood , MA : Christopher Gordon Publishers, 2002.  329-351.


APPENDIX B:  KEY ASSIGNMENT WORDS

Analyze

Break the issue or problem into separate parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part and the relationships between them.  Sometimes this involves looking carefully at causes and effects.

Analyze the

Argument and the

Conclusion

Look at the truth and persuasiveness of the reasons given for a position and the degree to which the conclusion is justified based on these reasons.

Compare and Contrast

Describe the similarities and differences between two objects, situations, or ideas.  Sometimes this involves a before and after comparison. 

Define

Tell what a particular word or term means in your essay.  Usually, this is not a dictionary definition, but rather clarifies how you are using the term.

Describe

Give a detailed account, naming characteristics, parts, or qualities.

Discuss

This is a general term that covers explanations, reasoning, pro and con arguments, examples, analysis, etc. 

Evaluate

This term literally means to determine the “value” of something, to discover how good or bad something is.  It usually means that you should argue that something is good or bad and then discuss your reasoning.

Explain

Help your reader understand the reasoning behind your position by showing the logical development in step-by-step fashion.  You might also be asked to show how something works or how to do something.

Illustrate

In a writing prompt, this usually does not mean to draw pictures.  Instead, it means to give examples.

Prove

This usually means that you should support your opinion with facts and arguments.

State

Tell the reader your opinion strongly and concisely.


 APPENDIX C: PREWRITING STRATEGIES

Brainstorming:  Based on free association, the act of making a list of related words and phrases.

Clustering/Webbing:  The process of “mapping” any ideas that come to mind on a specific topic.  It involves writing a key word or phrase in the center of a page and drawing a circle around it, then writing down and circling any related ideas that come to mind and drawing lines to the words that prompted the new words. 

Discussing:  Talking to another person about your subject matter and grappling aggressively with ideas in the process.

Freewriting:  Based on free association, the strategy of writing for a brief period of time about anything that comes to your mind.

Outlining:  Listing the main ideas and details related to your subject in the order that you will probably address them.

Questioning:  The process of asking questions that will generate new ideas and topics.  This process is often based on the five Ws and one H:  Who?  What?  Why?  Where?  When? and How?

Scanning:  Scanning and spot reading to specifically generate ideas and form opinions.


APPENDIX D:  EVALUATION FORM

Based on the CSU English Placement Test (EPT)

Part I: Revising Checklist—Circle the appropriate categories.                         

Superior

Strong

Adequate

Marginal

Weak

Very Weak

Comments

Response to the topic

Addresses the topic clearly and responds effectively to all aspects of the task.

Addresses the topic clearly, but may respond to some aspects of the task more effectively than others.

Addresses the topic, but may slight some aspects of the task.

Distorts or neglects aspects of the task.

Indicates confusion about the topic or neglects important aspects of the task.

Suggests an inability to comprehend the question or to respond meaningfully to the topic.

Understanding and use of the assigned reading

Demonstrates a thorough critical understanding of the assigned reading in developing an insightful response.

Demonstrates a sound critical understanding of the assigned reading in developing a well-reasoned response.

Demonstrates a generally accurate understanding of the assigned reading in developing a sensible response.

Demonstrates some understanding of the assigned reading, but may misconstrue parts of it or make limited use of it in developing a weak response.

Demonstrates very poor understanding of the main points of the assigned reading, does not use the reading appropriately in developing a response, or may not use the reading at all.

Demonstrates little or no ability to understand the assigned reading or to use it in developing a response.

Quality and clarity of thought

Explores the issues thoughtfully and in depth.

Shows some depth and complexity of thought.

May treat the topic simplistically or repetitively.

Lacks focus or demonstrates confused or simplistic thinking.

Lacks focus and coherence, and often fails to communicate its ideas.

Is unfocused, illogical, or incoherent.

Organization, development, and support

Is coherently organized and developed, with ideas supported by apt reasons and well-chosen examples.

Is well organized and developed, with ideas supported by appropriate reasons and examples.

Is adequately organized and developed, generally supporting ideas with reasons and examples.

Is poorly organized and developed, presenting generalizations without adequate support, or details without generalizations.

Has very weak organization and development, providing simplistic generalizations without support.

Is disorganized and undeveloped, providing little or no relevant support.

Syntax and command of language

Has an effective, fluent style marked by syntactic variety and a clear command of language.

Displays some syntactic variety and facility in the use of language.

Demonstrates adequate use of syntax and language.

Has limited control of syntax and vocabulary.

Has inadequate control of syntax and vocabulary.

Lacks basic control of syntax and vocabulary.

Grammar, usage, and mechanics (See list on back for details)

Is generally free from errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics.

May have a few errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics.

May have some errors, but generally demonstrates control of grammar, usage, and mechanics.

Has an accumulation of errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that sometimes interfere with meaning.

Is marred by numerous errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that frequently interfere with meaning.

Has serious and persistent errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that severely interfere with meaning.

Part II: Editing Checklist                                                                                                                   

Problem

Questions

Comments

Sentence Boundaries

Are there fragments, comma splices, or fused sentences?

Word Choice

Are word choices appropriate in meaning, connotation, and tone?

Verb/Subject Agreement

Do main verbs agree with the subject in person and number?

Verb Tense

Is the tense appropriate to the topic and style?  Does the writing shift back and forth from present to past inappropriately?

Word Forms

Are any parts of verb phrases missing or incorrect?  Are verb endings correct?  Do other words have correct endings and forms?

Noun Plurals

Do regular plurals end in “s”?  Are irregular plurals correct?  Are there problems with count and non-count nouns?

Articles

Are articles (a, an, and the) used correctly?  (Note: Proper nouns generally don’t have an article, with exceptions like “the United States ” and “the Soviet Union ,” which are more like descriptions than names.)

Prepositions

Are prepositions used the way a native-speaker of English would naturally use them?  (Note: It is difficult to learn prepositions through definitions or rules.  They have to be acquired through seeing or hearing them in use.)

Spelling

Are words spelled correctly? 

Punctuation

Are periods, commas, and question marks used correctly?  Are quotations punctuated correctly?  Are capital letters used appropriately?

Pronoun Reference

Does every pronoun have a clear referent?  (Note: Pronouns without referents, or with multiple possible referents, create a vague, confusing style.)

Other Problems

Are there other important problems not on the list?


APPENDIX E:  HOLISTIC SCORING GUIDE

(Based on the English Placement Test criteria)

The categories of each score are consistent with the following legend:

a.                 = response to the topic

b.                  = understanding and use of the passage

c.                  = quality and clarity of thought

d.                 = organization, development, and support

e.                 = syntax and command of language

f.                   = grammar, usage, and mechanics

Score of 6:  Superior

A 6 essay is superior writing, but may have minor flaws.

A typical essay at this level is characterized by these features:

a.     addresses the topic clearly and responds effectively to all aspects of the task

b.      demonstrates a thorough critical understanding of the passage in developing an insightful response

c.      explores the issues thoughtfully and in depth

d.     is coherently organized and developed, with ideas supported by apt reasons and well-chosen examples

e.     has an effective, fluent style marked by syntactic variety and a clear command of language

f.       is generally free from errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

Score of 5:  Strong

A 5 essay demonstrates clear competence in writing.  It may have some errors, but they are not serious enough to distract or confuse the reader.

A typical essay at this level is characterized by these features:

a.     addresses the topic clearly, but may respond to some aspects of the task more effectively than others

b.      demonstrates a sound critical understanding of the passage in developing a well reasoned response

c.      shows some depth and complexity of thought

d.     is well organized and developed, with ideas supported by appropriate reasons and examples

e.     displays some syntactic variety and facility in the use of language

f.       may have a few errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

Score of 4:  Adequate

A 4 essay demonstrates adequate writing.  It may have some errors that distract the reader, but they do not significantly obscure meaning.

A typical essay at this level is characterized by these features:

a.     addresses the topic, but may slight some aspects of the task

b.  demonstrates a generally accurate understanding of the passage in developing a sensible response

c.  may treat the topic simplistically or repetitively

d.  is adequately organized and developed, generally supporting ideas with reasons and examples

e.  demonstrates adequate use of syntax and language

f.   may have some errors, but generally demonstrates control of grammar, usage, and mechanics  

Score of 3:  Marginal

A 3 essay demonstrates developing competence, but is flawed in some significant way(s).

A typical essay at this level reveals one or more of the following weaknesses

a.  distorts or neglects aspects of the task

b.  demonstrates some understanding of the passage, but may misconstrue parts of it or make limited use of it in developing a weak response

c.  lacks focus, or demonstrates confused or simplistic thinking

d.  is poorly organized and developed, presenting generalizations without adequate and appropriate support or presenting details without generalizations

e.  has limited control of syntax and vocabulary

f.   has an accumulation of errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that sometimes interfere with meaning

Score of 2:  Very Weak

A 2 essay is seriously flawed.

A typical essay at this level reveals one or more of the following weaknesses:

a.    indicates confusion about the topic or neglects important aspects of the task

b.     demonstrates very poor understanding of the main points of the passage, does not use the passage appropriately in developing a response, or may not use the passage at all

c.     lacks focus and coherence, and often fails to communicate its ideas

d.    has very weak organization and development, providing simplistic generalizations without support

e.    has inadequate control of syntax and vocabulary

f.     is marred by numerous errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that frequently interfere with meaning

Score of 1:  Incompetent

A 1 essay demonstrates fundamental deficiencies in writing skills.

A typical essay at this level reveals one or more of the following weaknesses:

a.    suggests an inability to comprehend the question or to respond meaningfully to the topic

b.     demonstrates little or no ability to understand the passage or to use it in developing a response

c.     is unfocused, illogical, or incoherent

d.    is disorganized and undeveloped, providing little or no relevant support

e.    lacks basic control of syntax and vocabulary

f.     has serious and persistent errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that severely interfere with meaning

Readers should not penalize ESL writers excessively for slight shifts in idiom, problems with articles, confusion over prepositions, and occasional misuse of verb tense and verb forms, so long as such features do not obscure meaning.