Where do we start?
I want to get to know you as writers, so I have to give you a test to see what you can do. Please do your very best. Always do your best.

Our Writing Process:

  1. Freewrite or brainstorm to find a topic.*
  2. Freewrite or brainstorm to narrow the topic.
  3. Develop a thesis.
  4. Test your thesis, using a concept map.
  5. Cluster map or outline to organize your ideas.
  6. Write your first draft.*
  7. Read that draft aloud to yourself, highlighting areas that need work. Save that draft.*
  8. Revise the draft. (Revise means to reread, "re-look at" and make changes to your draft.) Save that draft too.*
  9. Read that draft aloud to another person, highlighting areas that need work as you read. The other person will highlight and make written comments on your draft too. Save that draft too.*
  10. Revise the draft. Save it.*
  11. Workshop with the class. Write comments on a printed draft during the workshop. Save that draft.
  12. Revise the draft. Save that draft.*
  13. Conference with the teacher. Save the draft with the teacher's comments on it.*
  14. Revise the draft into a final draft, making all the changes the teacher suggested. Find at least five more things you can change and then change those things.*
  15. Proofread and edit.*
  16. Format the final version, and print it.*
  17. Highlight all the changes you made since you met with the teacher. Turn it in with copies of your previous drafts. You must include the copy that has teacher's comments on it. The newest one goes on top. Don't forget to staple it.*

Need Help?

Watch this presentation:

Things to Avoid:

Avoid Using Metadiscourse!

What is metadiscourse?

This is the act of writing about writing. Students do this all the time to make transitions or as filler. Don’t do it. It’s almost always bad. Why?

It is a waste of time. It is meaningless. And it dilutes the content of your essay.

Here are some examples of metadiscourse you should not use:

•In my opinion. . . .
•I think. . .
•some of my reasons are. . .
•examples of this are. . .
•In this paper I will. . .
•The point of my essay is. . .
•This example supports my reason because. . .
•So, in conclusion, for the examples that I have stated above that support my reason, this is how the character had missed things in life throughout the poem.

Go back and check your essay to make sure you don’t have these or anything like them. If you do, cut them.

Avoid using words that make you sound insecure.

•In truth
•It seems that

Avoid the passive voice.

The passive voice is not the most direct way of saying something. It emphasizes the process instead of who is doing it. It makes you sound like you are hiding.

Here is an example: In the last stanza, it is stated that. . . .
This would be better: In the last stanza, the speaker says. . .

Here is another example: The character had missed things. . .
This would be better: The character missed things. . .

Here is one more: Joe is writing a composition about literature.
This would be better: Joe writes a composition about literature.

Writing The Introduction

The introduction is a difficult task for some. It it supposed to be both general and interesting enough to capture the reader's attention. It is supposed to include the thesis and background information. But, it needs to be relevant all the same. Tough deed.

When writing an introduction for an essay about a poem, for example, you can try different things to move the prose forward. You may discuss who the speaker of the poem is, what she is doing and what idea or feeling she is trying to communicate. It really depends upon the topic and focus of your essay. If you are writing about a poem or story where the setting is important, you may write two or three sentences explaining the time and place. These two or three sentences will create a foundation for the essay. But if your essay focuses on character, then providing as much background information about that character will help prepare the reader.

See the introduction as a why to prepare the reader for the rest of the essay. You might write an essay that deals with a particular aspect of plot that the reader needs to know about to understand your essay. In that case, you will be summarizing a situation. Tailor your introduction toward your need to communicate your ideas to the reader.

Another thing you can try in your introductory paragraph is to take one word from your thesis and expand it, explain it or define it. Here is an example of an introduction for an essay about Plath's poem, "Metaphors."

"Metaphors" by Sylvia Plath is about a woman who regrets getting pregnant. Having a child represents a huge change in a person's life. All of the plans, goals and relationships that person has must be redirected due to the arrival of a new person. The speaker in Path's poem may have had plans that need to be changed now. Her new responsibilities will eclipse any dreams she had for herself. Her life will no longer be her own. Everything that she does now will have to factor in the needs of the child. Giving up these plans, these hopes, these dreams causes her to feel disappointed. She is saying goodbye to her life. She is losing her autonomy.

Your introduction should be at least four sentences long. In the example above, I took one word and expanded it. I just took the word pregnancy and went nuts with it. But, I made sure I related it back to the idea of regret. I did NOT quote the poem (that comes later). I did NOT analyze what the poem means. That comes later too--in your body paragraphs. What I did was provide context. I showed the reader what the speaker is going through. The introduction is about giving the reader perspective on the poem so he can understand your ideas about it.

Things to avoid in your introduction:

•Analyzing the poem or story.
•Interpreting the poem or story.
.•Explaining what the poem or story
is about.

Here is an example:

Example of a good introduction.

Here is a website that might give you some ideas:


Writing Body Paragraphs

You have to know enough about your topic to break it up into sections that will make it clear to your reader. These sections are going to be your body paragraphs. This can be done in a concept map or outline first, so composing your sentences requires only organizational skills instead of simultaneously having to create and organize while constructing sentences into paragraphs.

First, write a topic sentence. Then, show your evidence. After that, make a concluding sentence.

Writing the Topic Sentence

Writing a topic sentence requires you to go back to your concept map to retrieve an idea that will help you explain or prove your point. You will shape that idea into a sentence. For example, if you are writing about a poem like Plath's "Metaphors," you will want to show in your first body paragraph that she is, in fact, pregnant. If you can't prove she is pregnant, you can't prove she regrets it.

So, I go back to my concept map and I see that three ideas show she is pregnant. The speaker shows that she is fat and that she is round. She also shows that she has a valuable thing inside her. What images show this? The elephant, the melon and the money show these ideas. Those images will become my evidence. Now, I need to make a topic sentence that introduces to the reader that I am going to prove she is pregnant. I need to think about how my reader will connect the idea of my thesis to the evidence that I am going to show in my first body paragraph. Here is an example:

This is my topic sentence:
It is evident that the speaker in the poem is pregnant, because she shows that she is round, fat and values what is inside of her.

What I did here was to take the ideas of round, fat and value and put them right inside my sentence. I don't have to explain them in the topic sentence. I just have to introduce them. The explaining come next when I quote the poem. I also put these ideas in the context of how they relate to the speaker, because my poem is about my speaker. Most poems are.

Writing the Concluding Sentence

One of the toughest things to do when you are writing your body paragraph is to write a concluding sentence to your body paragraphs. There is no easy solution to this problem, but here are some ideas.

You do not always need to have a concluding sentence to each body paragraph in your essay. But you usually do, or it will not seem to be finished. Your concluding sentence, sometimes called a closing sentence, will serve as a transition to the next paragraph.

Here are some things you can try:

  1. Re-write your topic sentence.
  2. Wrap-up, close, finish or paraphrase your whole paragraph in that sentence by reviewing the details and ideas.
  3. You can summarize your paragraph by touching on the key ideas that are included in it, but summaries are usually lame.
  4. Remember that your concluding sentences are supposed to encapsulate the subtopic of your paragraph, so concentrate on the ideas in that paragraph to get your concluding sentence right.
  5. Writers of formal essays do not usually use quotations in their concluding sentences, but this sometimes works.
  6. Making predictions, suggestions or asking questions sometimes works too.

Here are some things you should not do:

  1. Do not use the words "In closing."
  2. Do not use the words "In conclusion."
  3. Do not repeat something you already said.
  4. Do not introduce a new idea.
  5. Do not confuse the reader.

All writing requires trial and error, so start early, experiment and revise. If you think I spent too much time writing about how to write one kind of sentence, without even giving you any concrete formula about how to get it done, you are right. There is no formula, and I am overly concerned with writing, but I am an English teacher

Writing Your Conclusion

Before you begin writing your conclusion, reread what you have written so far. Reread you introduction and your body paragraphs. Also, reread the poem that you are writing about. Ask yourself "What am I trying to say?" "Why does my essay matter?" "What is my point?"

Your concluding paragraph should have at least five sentences.

  • Answer the question "So What?"
    • Show your readers why this paper was important. Show them that your paper was meaningful and useful.
  • Synthesize, don't summarize
    • Don't simply repeat things that were in your paper. They have read it. Show them how the points you made and the support and examples you used were not random, but fit together.
  • Redirect your readers
    • Give your reader something to think about, perhaps a way to use your paper in the "real" world. If your introduction went from general to specific, make your conclusion go from specific to general. Think globally.
  • Create a new meaning
    • You don't have to give new information to create a new meaning. By demonstrating how your ideas work together, you can create a new picture. Often the sum of the paper is worth more than its parts.

from: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html


"In conclusion. . . ."

"Finally. . . . "

"It is obvious that. . . "

"I think. . . "

Instead of repeating, try to make some connections between the ideas in your essay and the facts you use to support those ideas.

AVOID: Quoting in your conclusion. There is no need to quote the poem in the conclusion, unless you are a genius--and have an idea that can't be ignored.

HERE'S A TRICK: You could discuss what the title means, why the poet used that title, what the symbolism of the title is.

Here is my conclusion:

The poem is filled with metaphors, each one showing how the speaker is facing a new challenge. She is changing, and her life is going to change dramatically. In many ways, this poem is about change and her resistance to it. She doesn't welcome this new life. She has trouble accepting that she will become a mother. Although she values the baby, she feels trapped by it at the same time. Her ambivalence is present in every metaphor she uses to describe her situation.

You may want to start your conclusion with:

"The speaker. . . "

"The poem. . . "

"The ideas. . ."

"What is important is. . ."

How do I make my own customized revision checklist?

You have to make your own customized revision checklist, because we all have our own special weaknesses that we have to pay attention to. I have my own checklist. I add to it all the time. Now it's time to make your own checklist. Make sure it has at least 10 items listed. It should be based on the types of errors that you tend to make. If you forget to place commas where they are needed, put that on your checklist. If your writing has apostrophes where they do not belong, put that on your checklist. If teachers or classmates tell you that your sentences are incomplete, include sentence structure on your own customized checklist.

My checklist is below. You don't have to put 40 on it, but 10 or more are required.

Revision Checklist

1. Did you make a thesis statement/topic/question?
2. Is your introduction paragraph general in nature?
3. Do you have an introduction paragraph that engages your reader?
4. Are your body paragraphs specific in nature?
5. Are your body paragraphs grouped into different themes?
6. Do you use details and examples and definitions where necessary?
7. Is your concluding paragraph general, and does it give a sense of “closing”?
8. Is your writing concise?
9. Is your writing cohesive?
10. Is your writing clear?
11. Do you have at least four sentences in each paragraph?
12. Is your essay organized?
13. Do you properly elaborate?
14. Did you consider your audience?
15. Do you have voice?
16. Is your vocabulary well chosen?
17. Did you place punctuation marks where they belong?
(i.e. periods, commas, apostrophes).
18. Did you spell check?
19. Is your grammar correct?
20. Do you have proper agreement in number and in tense?
21. Did you capitalize proper nouns?
22. Did you capitalize the first letter of the first word of every sentence?
23. Did you capitalize the word I?
24. Do you use transitional expressions where necessary?
25. Do you use commas after transitional expressions where they are needed?
26. Do you have any fragments?
27. Do you vary your sentence structure?
28. Do you have any run-on sentences?
29. Did you type it?
30. Is it double spaced?
31. Do you use Times New Roman 12?
32. Did you paginate and staple?
33. Did you put your name on it?
34. Did you attach your first draft and any prewriting?
35. Did you make a title?
36. Is your punctuation inside your quotation marks?
37. When you refer to the author, poet or playwright, do you do so by his last name?
38. Did you introduce your quotations?
39. Did you quote accurately and with the appropriate length?
40. Did you explain how each quotation applies to your thesis?

Now it's time to make your own checklist. Make sure it has at least 10 items listed. You should turn it in with your rough draft.

How is the Rough Draft graded?

1. Idea/topic development
2. Organization
3. Details
4. Language and style (word choice & sentence structure)
5. Grammar
6. Spelling capitalization, punctuation and formatting.

What do I do when I get my rough draft back?

1. Read the teacher's comments.
2. Ask questions of the teacher if you have them?
3. Figure out how to put the teacher's suggestions into effect.
4. Use http://www.merriam-webster.com/mw/table/proofrea.htm to interpret the comments.
5. Change your rough draft to make it better, using the comments the teacher put on your draft.
6. Apply skills equally throughout the essay when editing. For example, if you failed to capitalize the first letter of the first word in sentence number ten, and the teacher made a comment, when you see a lowercase letter in the beginning of sentence number 14, you need to change that too.
7. When you have made all the improvements that you can make and your essay is your best work, save, print and highlight the changes you made.

What does that comment mean?

There will be comments on your draft when you get it back. If you don't understand them, google them. If you still don't understand after googling it, ask me. You will learn more about your own writing by paying attention to those comments than anything else. If you want to be a better write you will take advantage of the feedback people give you.

Here are some frequent problems students have:

Agreement Problem
There are two types of agreement problems, number and tense. This is when the subject of your sentence and the verb in your sentence are not consistent with each other. When you have a problem with agreement in number, your subject is either plural and your verb is singular or the other way around.

You can also have an agreement issue with your pronouns and their antecedents. If you use a noun and then a pronoun that refers to it, you must be consistent about how many there are.

Here is an example:

It is all about how the reader looks at it and the image they create from it.

Which kind of agreement problem is present in the sentence above?

Now, how do you fix it?

Agreement in tense means that the subject and verb are in the same tense. If a subject is in the past tense, then the verb must match that. If the subject is in the present tense the verb must match that too. To read more about agreement go to http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/599/01/


Run-on sentences

Poor word choice

How Your Writing Will Be Graded:
1. How well you followed suggestions given by the teacher. (-5pts/suggestion that you ignored)
2. How well you were able to apply skills taught in one area of your writing to another area. (-3pts/lack of application)
3. The overall level of improvement between the first draft and the second.
4. How well you followed directions, deadlines, and formatting requirements. (-5pts/error)
5. How well you followed our writing process. (-10pts/step you missed, -25pts for a missing first draft with teacher comments)
6. The quality of your changes. (-1pt/every change that creates a new problem)

How Your Writing Will Be Assessed:
1. Topic Development.
2. Organization
3. Details
4. Language/Style
5. Sentence Structure, Grammar & Usage
6. Spelling, Punctuation & Capitalization

What is the difference between assessment and grades?
Grading is "summative" evaluation. It is used for the purpose of holding students accountable for their learning behavior. This is often called performance. Grades hold students to "standards" set by the teacher, class or school. Assessment is "formative" evaluation. The purpose is different from grading. Assessment is used to measure where a student's ability level is. Assessment has the purpose of finding out what a student can do; whereas, grades are a judgment as to what they actually do.

Proofreading Checklist For Your Final Draft:
1. Did you make all the changes that the teacher recommended?
2. Do you have your first draft with comments from the teacher?
3. Did you highlight all the changes you made on the final draft?
4. Are the changes you made improvements, or do your editions have their own problems?
5. Did you paginate?
6. Did you put your name on your paper?
7. Does it have a title?
8. Is it long or short enough?
9. Did you staple?

A Few Words About Computers:
1. Use googledocs if you can. (And don't forget the "s." It will secure your connection.
2. If you can't use googeldocs, use Microsoft Word.
Just remember that the computer you save on is where that doc lives. You can back it up to the server, giving you better access. Ask me for help if you need to.
3. Save your docs with filenames that will be easy to find. For example, use your last name. (ie.brown.doc)
4. Don't waste time playing with fonts and formats.
5. Note where you save to, so you can find it later. (ie.documents folder on computer #5)
6. Blaming the computer will make me laugh.
7. You can use the classroom server as a backup, but remember that it is not secure.

Tips On Making your Title

1. Be creative.
2. Don't write the title until you have finished your essay.
3. Base it on the ideas you have about whatever you are writing about.
4. Make it short.
5. Make it catchy and easy to read.
6. Keep your reader in mind.
7. If you are writing about a poem, a book or a play, don't use the title of that work as your title.
8. Don't do anything like this: My Essay About Catcher in the Rye.
9. Don't underline your title, don't use bold, don't make the size larger and don't make the font different.
10. Try to grab your reader's attention. The title should make your reader want to read your essay.
11. Capitalize all the important words in the title. This is called "title case." If you can't decide which words are important, capitalize them all.
12. One idea is to use a short quotation from the literature you are writing about and make a play on words.
13. Do not place quotation marks around your title.