Something from Tutoring

I haven’t made a secret of stepping up my freelance work, which has for some years included a fair bit of tutoring. Although I am outside formal teaching structures–for good, this time, I’m pretty sure–I do still very much enjoy working with people who want to learn things as they work through ideas and come to have fuller, better understandings of the world and what people have said about it.

William Shakespeare, associated with John Taylor - NPG 1
Yes, it’s him, shown in the Chandos Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery and used under a Creative Commons license for commentary.

One such tutorial recently saw me working with a high school student in New York City whose teacher had asked for responses in verse to verse. The poem in question when I worked with the student was Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, the one beginning “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” It’s a fairly standard piece for high schoolers to treat, in my experience, and it’s not exactly uncommon in college classrooms, either; I’ve taught it, and more than once, as well as reading it more times than that. So it wasn’t really a hard thing for me to walk the student through a closer reading of the text than they‘d yet done, and it wasn’t much harder to help the student get their work in line with the sonnet, itself, mimicking its form closely to make the response more targeted and emphatic.

It occurred to me that the exercise is a good one–not that I’d ever done such a thing with my students; my pedagogy was…not innovative so much as solid and predictable, but structure’s far from a bad thing in the classroom–and that it might be useful for me to do something like it. I can use the practice, always, and it’s not a bad thing to show what all I can do.

Another fairly common reading in high school and college classrooms is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

As is typical of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, the poem is fourteen lines of iambic pentameter rhyming in three quatrains and a couplet, with a (somewhat shaded) turn into the couplet. There are any number of readings of the poem, of course, ranging from the romantic to the lewd, and I’m happy to get into them–another time. For now, what matters is how to address a response to the poem. The assignment on which my client was working asked for a personal response; as we conferred, the student and I arrived at the idea of answering the poem with another, something like the Marlowe / Raleigh / Donne sequence that receives classroom attention. (It occurs to me that responding to the Donne piece, “The Bait,” would also be a good exercise.) If I follow that model here, I find that I am given three options:

  1. Agree with the poet,
  2. Disagree with the poet, or
  3. Go off in a completely different direction.

Of the three, the first seems…boring. The third is likely not to be productive; I go off on tangents already without doing so on purpose. This leaves the second option, disagreeing with the poet. And that obliges me to have an idea of what the poem is saying. Fortunately, again, there are any number of readings out there, among which are surface-level interpretations–love is only real if it stays in place as it is. It’s an easy enough interpretation to contest; nothing that lives fails to change, and things cannot improve if they remain as they are. If love is a living thing, then, and something that can deepen and be enriched over time–and there are many who argue as much–then “the message of the poem” is wrong; disagreeing is easy enough to do.

Foregrounding that disagreement is also easy enough to do. The poem’s own lines can–and probably should, in the circumstance–be used against it, such that the response opens more or less as the original closes. To wit: “You never writ, nor no man ever loved.” The line makes clear both what it responds to and the thrust of the response, good things to do for such an assignment.

That much set, and knowing that the form of the poem should be mimicked, it stands to reason that the points the poet raises should be taken in order for the succeeding lines of the poem. One result of such taking might well follow:

You never writ, nor no man ever loved,
If love is never love that, finding change,
Stays as it is when it first ever moved
Or strives not living patterns to arrange
In hopes of bringing its love to the mark
That looks on tempests and is not shaken.
No, use will change the shape of every bark
That plies the waves, whatever standard’s taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, oh no, but is its flow’r
And fruit that ripens not all in one go,
But in its season and appointed hour
If tended well, made better, and let grow.
No thing that is made better stays the same,
And stasis gives the lie to goodness’s claim.

It is a rough cut, of course, a first draft of something usefully reworked. I am apt to blot my lines, after all, knowing well that matters can always be made better. But it’s also a good start, and no journey proceeds but that it has a beginning.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written or taught, and we’ll talk! Or send me a spot of help here, investing in my future!

Sample Assignment Response: Career Connection Analysis

Female Boss Gives Presentation To Team Of Young Businesswomen Meeting Around Table In Modern Office
Female Boss Gives Presentation to Team of Young Businesswomen Meeting Around Table in Modern Office from Shutterstock, used for commentary

The final assignment required of students in ENGL 135 during the November 2019 instructional session at DeVry University is a career connection analysis. For it, students are asked to compose a somewhat informal paper (formatted in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper, but not requiring formal citation or most other APA apparatus) of some 500 words in length that addresses one of two prompts (quoted from University materials here):

  1. Discuss how the skills of writing, researching, presenting, working in teams, and using technological tools help you in your current role in the workplace. Which of these skills do you find most important right now? Which skills do you think will be important to you in helping you achieve future goals?


  1. Look up an occupation you are interested in pursuing after you graduate from DeVry. To find information on occupations, you can visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook at Search for a career you are interested in, such as software developer. Then, click on the “What They Do” tab. Compare the duties of that occupation to what you learned in this class. Which skills that you learned in this class will be most useful to you in your chosen career?

Being well past my own graduation, I cannot address the second prompt directly as given. I can, however, address the first. As such, in the interest of posting an example for my students’ use, I set up a Word document with the requisite formatting and proceeded to draft a response to the prompt. To do so, I divided the task into several short, informal sections (i.e., I stubbed out keywords to guide my drafting, but I did not put in headings, as such): my current workplace role; uses of writing, researching, presenting, working in teams, and employing technological tools; most important skills; and future-goals-related skills.

As I began drafting, I found that the first “section” occasioned only a little bit of attention; it was enough to note the position and its basic duties before moving into the details of composition-class skills I use. The rest, though, seemed to fall into place relatively easily; having taught college-level writing since 2006, I have had time to think about how the skills such classes trade in apply to the working world outside. Since leaving off the search for full-time academic work (note here, here, and elsewhere in this webspace), I have had more occasion to think about how what I have learned can continue to serve me outside the enterprise I had sought to enter. Compiling half a thousand words on the subject took little doing in light of such thinking.

Having composed the document, I looked over it for ease of reading, hoping to keep it in late high school or early college, per Flesch-Kincaid grade levels. I also looked it over for adherence to usage standards; even an informal document benefits from easy reading. That done, I rendered the document such that it can be opened by multiple operating systems, which I offer here in the reiterated hopes that it will be of use: G. Elliott Sample Career Connection Analysis.

This is the last one, perhaps ever. Send a little help to send me on my way?

Sample Assignment Response: Case Study Presentation

Yet another assignment required of students in ENGL 135 during the November 2019 instructional session at DeVry University is a presentation deriving from the earlier Persuasive Writing and Counterargument Case Study that distills and re-presents the materials from the written document in more interactive form. The assignment asks for seven to ten slides and ten to twelve minutes of audio, which precludes giving a straight reading of the paper. (Typically, a five-page paper will be a ten-minute read–and not all of the papers will be the full five pages.) Slides to introduce the presentation and to provide references are obligatory; slides to present content will vary based on the needs of the presentation.

Presentation Screenshot
Once again, I’ve gotten to do a lot of staring at this kind of thing.
The image is still a screenshot taken from my earlier work.

I’ll note here that I make liberal use of previously prepared materials in this discussion, as the assignment and its preparation follow general models I’ve already established, here and here.

As I had with previous exercises of this sort, I opened the paper I would be remaking for presentation, printing out a copy (because I still work on some things better physically than on a screen) and conducting a reverse outline of it to highlight what ideas I treat and in what proportions. Doing so, I found that I had overlooked some typographical errors in the piece when I had proofread it (annoyingly enough, but correcting them is an effort for another situation); I also found that I had eight “sections” in the paper. Taking them with the requested introductory and references components would yield ten slides (and the paper from which the presentation emerges only deploys four references, so one slide for citations would likely be enough).

With the basic organization of the presentation taking shape, I once again opened the PowerPoint template I have prepared against use for this webspace and saved it as a working document for ease of finding it again at need. (I should emphasize here the utility of saving self-generated templates; it makes much easier later on if there is going to be continuation of a project.) After I had, I stubbed out the slides I expected to need, leaving myself an additional blank one ready to use at need. I also set up the overall introduction on the title slide, as well as inserting the references list where it needed to go. (Again, I do that early so as to prevent forgetting to do it later.)

Having set up my basic slideshow, I knew I would need to introduce explanatory images; as I’ve noted elsewhere, such media as students are asked to produce for the assignment rely on graphics for their effect, but merely decorative pieces distract and annoy. Fortunately, an early slide appeared to admit of some illustration for context, as did at least one of the more argumentative slides later on in the presentation. I pulled down images for those slides, putting them into place and citing them both at their inclusion and in the references slide. It did introduce more material into the last, not enough to prompt an additional slide, but enough to occasion reformatting. As with earlier presentations, however, the fact that the references slide could be examined in isolation allowed me to feel comfortable with the changes.

Figures in place, I began to put text into the slides. A commonplace of presentations is that the text on the slides is not a script but a guide for the audience and the presenter; it is neither necessary nor advisable that the presenter read straight from slides (save for quotations). Instead, the text on the slide should help orient both presenter and audience to the information being delivered verbally. Consequently, while I did find myself once again making some notes that came out as complete sentences, I worked to avoid such in stubbing out text on my slides, and I produced versions of my earlier writing of much less formality, given the demands of the medium.

Text laid out, the time came to insert audio into the presentation. Following my previous practice, I worked slide by slide, recording short stretches of audio through the embedded recorder in PowerPoint. (The convenience of having such is part of what keeps me using the program.) I also once again made sure to save after each slide, still having no desire to suffer data loss if it can be avoided. And, following previous practice, I made sure to keep my audio cues in the same place on each slide, the consistency serving to make my slides easier to navigate.

Getting that done, I gave the presentation a final review to check it against assignment requirements (and, hopefully, to eliminate any typographical errors in the current version). Afterwards, I put it where my students and others can see it, where I hope it will be of some help–here: G. Elliott Sample Presentation. As noted, it is a PowerPoint, so it requires such a program to view it.

I shall continue to thank you for your support as the holidays approach.

Sample Assignment Response: Persuasive Writing and Counterargument Case Study

Another assignment required of students in ENGL 135 during the November 2019 instructional session at DeVry University is a short paper that explicates one argument and offers a refutation of that same piece; the paper will form the basis of a graded presentation later in the session. Students are asked by the University to select “a scholarly article from a reliable source that relays a strong position on a debatable topic” for treatment. A further refinement specific to the class advises students that a set of topics will not be acceptable for treatment (i.e., papers treating them will be refused or awarded failing grades):

  • Abortion
  • Gun Control
  • Legalization of Marijuana
  • LGBTQIA+ Rights
  • Political Ideology
  • Religious Ideology

Image result for game of thrones
An indication of the topic treated…
Image taken from, used for commentary

The paper is to be some four to five pages, or 1,300 to 1,625 words, exclusive of title and references pages, formatted and copy-edited to align to APA standards. It is also to address a University-provided series of questions that presents a serviceable outline for a short paper; in brief, they ask for an introduction to the selected article, a summary of the selected article, a short rhetorical analysis of the same, presentation of one or more counterarguments, and an explication of the writer’s own position on the selected topic (with the tacit acknowledgement that the position may well have changed in the course of doing the reading and drafting for the paper).

In preparing an example of such a paper for student use–whether my own or others’ who may happen across such things–I began by selecting a topic to consider. Most of those occupying current news headlines have not received formal scholarly study such as would be printed in academic journals, so, for me, recourse to my own more scholarly interests seemed to be in order. Much of my work focuses how the medieval is mis/used by later periods (i.e., medievalism, as distinct from medieval studies), so I figured to look at some of the ongoing scholarly arguments in that area. Knowing that the piece to be written is fairly brief, I figured that more involved scholarly treatments would not be ideal for me to select, so I thought to turn to The Explicator, which focuses on presenting shorter pieces of literary explication.

Neither the University library nor my local library had access to The Explicator, however, so I expanded out from the specific journal to the Academic Search Complete database that both have, using my local library (which I find easier to access) and entering the term “medievalism” as a general search parameter. The search returned a total of 555 hits, so I moved to narrow my search parameters. First came restricting results to peer-reviewed full-text articles, which trimmed the results down to 209. Next, I restricted results to the previous ten years–2009 to 2019; 107 results remained. I did notice, though, that the database offered another search limiter, restricting to academic journals only; I selected it, narrowing my search results to 60 sources–a much more manageable number than the original set of results.

Skimming the 60 results, I found a couple of articles that appeared to directly address medievalist texts with which I have had some engagement. Both were longer, perhaps, than I had originally intended to treat for the present project, but my familiarity with the subject matter of both suggested that they would be relatively quick reads for me. I looked at their references lists to see what lines of argument they would be engaging, and one made more use of secondary and critical materials with which I am familiar than the other; I chose that article, printing it out for my own ease of reading and notation.

Having pulled down the article, I did as I had done with the earlier current event assignment, setting up a Word document in which to draft my sample and inserting the article’s APA-style citation into it immediately so as not to forget to do so later. Then I read the article, making marginal notes (and benefiting from wide margins on my printed copy) as I did.

After reading the article, I stubbed out a prospective paper structure in my set-up Word document, following the general structure lined out by the University. With that structure in place, I began working towards a thesis statement, knowing that a fair bit of the material I would compose in the process of arriving at that thesis would need to be discarded as I worked on a fuller draft of the sample assignment. It does not pay to get too attached to words amid drafting; they are supposed to change in revision.

When I arrived at a working thesis, I followed my common composition practice of copying it, pasting it to the end of my working text, and highlighting it in green–something I do to help keep myself on target while reminding myself that I need to delete it later. For me, it’s like scaffolding when building; it’s needed to get the building up, but once the building’s up, it needs to be taken down. Once that was done, I started drafting, working backwards from the thesis to flesh out the introduction and then moving forward through the paper.

A couple notes about that drafting need making. For one, I did not work linearly through the draft. I rarely, if ever, do so when I am composing with a keyboard. Instead, I stub out bits to ease transitions into parts of my papers, and I halt work on one part when I have an idea about another part. I am usually able to get back into my own head when I read what I have written, but I lose track of ideas easily if I do not write them down, so I spend a fair bit of time jumping back and forth as I put words on the page, working to smooth them together as I go and in revision. I suppose that I make some small, repetitive use of what Asimov discusses in “The Eureka Phenomenon,” namely letting my subconscious mind address issues while I attend elsewhere.

For another, I did not have the luxury of sitting down to compose in the same place where I have my standing research apparatus. Over years of study, I’ve put together a workable library of scholarly texts, most of which are not open-access, and all of which have my marginalia throughout; even where the texts are now in the public domain, my annotations are not, and I use my annotations a fair bit. Consequently, as I drafted, there were several points at which I noted that reference to other sources would be useful. Following my long-standing practice, I made in-text notes about them, highlighting the notes in teal so that they would attract my attention for fleshing out and removal.

When I had fleshed out a draft, I saved it and sent it where I could supply the references that were yet missing. Once I had filled those gaps in the paper and expanded somewhat, I reviewed my draft for ease of reading; once again, considering the needs of the audience for which I write it, I strove to peg its reading level late in high school, perhaps early in college. Finding some success in that, and having proofread for adherence to APA usage conventions as I did so (again, with the note about the problems in doing it so close to having done the writing), I rendered the paper into a form accessible to readers. I present it here, hoping that it, and my efforts more generally, will continue to be of some value: G. Elliott Sample Case Study.

I shall thank you for your support as I move towards new endeavors.

Sample Assignment Response: Analyzing Debatable Claims

Another of the assignments students are asked to do in ENGL 135 in the November 2019 session, following a course redesign, is an analysis of debatable claims. (A previous assignment is discussed here.) Students are asked to “select a TED Talk that presents a persuasive argument on a debatable issue,” record its identifying information, and draft a two- to three-page (so 650- to 975-word) summary that addresses a number of points evocative of other classes’ rhetorical analysis. To continue my practice of providing models for students to follow, I offer what appears below:
Image taken from the thumbnail on the TED talk treated in the present sample, here, used for commentary

As with earlier sample work, the first task is to select a subject. To do so for the present sample, I went to and ran a simple search for one of my major areas of interest, using the search term “medieval.” Doing so yielded 92 results, which is a larger set than admits of effective parsing within the confines of the session and its demands. Accordingly, I restricted myself to the first page of results returned–which, at 30, was still a fair number. Given that the assignment calls for only two to three pages of work (plus title and references pages), I determined that the talk I would treat should be a shorter one. I was fortunate that two of the first three results returned fit that criterion, and I decided to treat the less formal of the two, since I want to make my work as fun for myself as I can reasonably do.

With a subject selected, I went ahead and set up my document, stubbing out a title page, main text, and references page and ensuring that the document as a whole was set to double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. I also inserted running heads and page numbers as appropriate. I also made sure to enter an APA-style reference entry for my selected TED talk to make sure that it got done.

To help keep myself oriented in what would come, I copied and pasted the series of questions from the University’s assignment materials into my document. I then highlighted it in green so that I would remember to remove it later; I tend to give myself writing targets (such as theses for more formal work) in my documents, coloring them thusly so I know what I need to write towards and that I need to get rid of it later. It is a method I recommend, though I know others’ results will vary.

That done watched the talk, doing so twice. The first time was simply to get a feel for the talk as a whole. The second, though, I took notes, using the assignment questions as a guide. It made for somewhat jerky watching, to be fair, but it did allow me to get a basic outline down of the sample assignment.

With my notes ready, I began drafting. The first pass consisted mostly of expanding my notes into cohesive, coherent sentences and paragraphs, as well as adding introduction and conclusion. Revision ensued thence, focusing mainly on smoothing out transitions among materials–I opted to retain the order of the assignment’s questions in large part, mostly for ease, though I did alter their groupings somewhat–and on making the language accessible to student readers (as determined by Flesch-Kincaid grade level).

All that done, I reviewed my draft to make sure it adheres to usage standards that will be applied to student work. Once done with that, I rendered the draft accessible; it appears below, iteration of my continued hope to be of use to others: G. Elliott Sample Debatable Claim Analysis.

I still continue to appreciate support for drafting new teaching materials.

Sample Assignment Response: Rhetorical Strategies Persuasive Presentation

Typing Monkey GIF - Typing Monkey GIFs
Hopefully, it goes better.
Image: “Typing Monkey GIF” from

Another of the assignments students in ENGL 112 are asked to do in the July 2019 session, following a course redesign, is a “persuasive” presentation that derives from the earlier “persuasive” essay. The presentation should be five to seven minutes in length, containing five to seven slides (possibly more, if the references list is particularly long), and should provide a summary and breakdown of the earlier essay. Following previous practice, I propose to provide a more targeted one for the current session–the more so because the assignment is new to my experience of the present course (though I have examples relevant to other courses on hand).

To draft the presentation, I knew I would need to work from the materials I have previously developed, so I opened my saved copy of the earlier essay. That ready to hand, I did a reverse outline of it, noting how much space I allocated to which components of the paper (excluding cover page and references list, which take a prescribed length and “as long as they need,” respectively). Doing so showed me with an introduction, three points that take up approximately 206 words each, a final point that takes close to 400 words to develop, and a conclusion, plus references. That leaves me seven slides’ worth of material, possibly eight due to the length of my references list. Knowing I need to observe length guidelines and that the introduction slide cannot be the same as the introduction of the paper (the slide needs to reflect the cover page, with an overview slide that glosses the introduction to the paper), I knew I could not simply bring over the points as presented.

With two slides at the beginning and at least one at the end already reserved, I knew I had two or three slides to make my points. Normally, this would mean I would make two or three points only, out of the four available; generally, one slide takes one point. From my outline, though, I knew I had one point that outweighed the rest, and by a large margin. I figured that that point would get a slide of its own, reflecting its importance. The other three could be glossed together, perhaps in one slide, compressing them to effect. I would be able to touch on all of my points while emphasizing the importance of the most pertinent, while still allowing myself room to expand if I needed it.

A rough plan in place to put together the presentation, I opened a PowerPoint template I’ve long had for use in this webspace; it’s colored and formatted such that it lines up with the materials I present here, coming off as of a piece with them and helping me to present my work in a unified manner that increases my perceived professionalism, thus ethos. I saved it as my working project so that I could find it again at need and began to stub out the slides I knew I would need. Some adjustments needed making to keep my formatting consistent, which happens; one exception was the References list, which I allowed to auto-format in the interest of compressing the information. The slide can be looked at in isolation and at larger magnification, if needed, so its legibility amid the presentation is less of an issue than it might otherwise be.

Presentations rely on graphics to make their point, and I had not generated graphics in drafting the essay from which the presentation derives. I was obliged, then, to do so, rather than to use decorative graphics such as the GIF at the top of this blog entry; presentation graphics need to be informative rather than entertaining. I tend to use Excel to do so, finding the program useful for converting numbers to figures and setting them up appropriately. As I developed each graphic, I inserted it into the appropriate slide; the graphics take precedence over any text, so I placed them with the intent to insert text around them. I also inserted text-box captions, as appropriate. Too, I made sure to save my work with each adjustment; I’ve lost too many projects not to do so.

With the graphics in place, I inserted the text I wanted to have present. Reading straight from slides is far from ideal; the text on slides should serve as a set of guideposts for speaker and audience, rather than as a script. I placed the text with that principle in mind, moving swiftly to bullet out my ideas. Owing to my background, I did draft complete sentences for my text, but that need not always be the case, as long as what is presented conforms to the usage standards expected by an audience working in the field the presentation treats.

The text in place, it came time to record audio for the presentation. Moving slide by slide, I recorded short audio pieces to embed in each slide, saving after doing each; again, I’ve lost projects, and I have no desire to repeat the experience. I did not read straight from my preceding paper, though I had it ready for review; instead, I extemporized from each of the sections I had identified in the reverse outline, making sure to note my sources of support in my narration (in addition to where they appear in the presentation’s text already). Because I want my audience to engage with the presentation, rather than passively receive it, I made sure the audio does not automatically play; I placed audio icons consistently in the slides to ease access.

All that done, I reviewed my work, making adjustments I saw as needed to bring the presentation in line with stated requirements as nearly as I could determine. With that done, I put the presentation–which I hope is helpful–where my students and others can get it: G. Elliott Sample Presentation July 2019. It is a PowerPoint file, so it has to be opened with that program or a similar one…

I continue to appreciate support for drafting better teaching materials.

Sample Assignment Response: Rhetorical Strategies Persuasive Essay

One of the assignments students in ENGL 112 are asked to do in the July 2019 session, following a course redesign, is a four- to five-page “persuasion” essay that builds on the previous rhetorical analysis to see if the students can do the kind of things they’ve seen done. Students are provided a brief list of topics to address and are allowed to select others with instructor permission. They are also asked to involve at least four reliable sources, of which two are expected to come from University-accessible holdings; all are expected to be cited, in-text and at the end of the text, in APA format, and the paper is expected to conform to APA layout and usage standards. As I continue to believe that students benefit from targeted models, I think it fit not only to point to an earlier example that would still be applicable, but to generate a new one.

May we all be as productive as Kermit.
Image from, used for commentary.

Per my previous practice, I began work by setting up a properly formatted document: letter-sized pages typed in left-aligned double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins; half-inch indentations; and cover page, titles, running heads, and page numbers as prescribed by APA. Because the essay is expected to be a researched one, I also made sure to set up a references page with appropriate alignment.

That much done, I remembered that I did not yet have a topic to treat. Fortunately, I’ve written about a fair number of things, many of which have gaps that needed filling; others led to different ideas yet. I recalled that I’ve often asked students to suggest changes to their curricula and that I’ve written on such things myself (witness here, among many others). Having taught many of the writing classes that DeVry offers, I am in a position to be able to speak to what its writing curriculum does well–and does less well. And that led me to a topic.

Having arrived at a topic, I ruminated upon it, and a thesis emerged from that rumination and my past work. I typed it into my document, highlighting it in green for my ease of seeing it, and I began to draft an introduction that would lead up to it. Given the need to contextualize the topic and thesis, I was also able to pull from one of the required outside sources–a primary source, in the event, so necessarily meeting the “reliable” criterion.

With a thesis and an introduction in place, I found myself in position to draft a conclusion, leading back out from the thesis to future implications. It does not normally happen thus for me; I usually move from my thesis to drafting the body of my essay, framing that body in and filling the frame in fits and starts as ideas come to me. But I had an idea for a way out of the paper in mind, and I usually have more trouble with endings than with any other part of my papers, so I took the chance to firm up my paper’s ending early on and give myself a place towards which to write as I did the rest of the drafting.

Knowing then where I would be going with my writing, I turned to the body of my essay, drafting an initial argumentative paragraph. I knew the first point to occur to me would not be the strongest one available to me, for reasons I made sure to note in the text. Accordingly, I determined to place it early in the body of the essay, making use in a short paper of the emphatic order typically prized in writing instruction (and which I recall having noted to my July 2019 session students as being good for such a circumstance). As it developed, though, the argumentative point took on additional strength; I left it in place in favor of mixed order, a variation of emphatic order I have discussed with students and often deploy in my other work.

I pivoted thence to develop another point of argument. I knew what I wanted to say in that point, having had some time to think about the argument, but I knew I needed to look for more source materials to allow me to strike a useful balance between situated and invented ethos. As such, I searched the University library holdings for information, and, finding my initial search gave me more to handle than I could, I limited myself to peer reviewed sources from 2010 onward. A few sources turned up, but, in the midst of reviewing them, another point of argument entirely came to mind, and another, and I worked on them in turn as they arose. Doing so sent me to other sources outside the University library’s holdings as it sent me to the original sources of the University’s holdings for accurate citation data, and I worked to incorporate a variety of sources of information in the hopes of better establishing my ethos.

At length, my argument made, I reviewed my work for clarity and cohesion. I then reviewed it again for style and orthography. The reviews done, I put the paper into an accessible form, which I offer here in the hopes that it will be of help for my students–and perhaps a few others: G. Elliott Sample Rhetorical Strategies Essay.

I can still use some support to draft better teaching materials.

Sample Assignment Response: Reflective and Planning Postscript

For the final sample of the session, I’ll be drafting the kind of postscript that students in the class are asked to compose. They are prompted to look back at their self-assessed strengths and weaknesses in reading and writing, then to articulate in one paragraph how they plan to overcome those challenges that presented themselves during the session before, in another paragraph, noting how they mean to continue to improve upon their performances as they move forward through classes. Students are asked to submit those reflections in an APA-formatted document. Consequently, I’ll be doing much the same.

It seems apt.
Image from Pinterest.

To begin my own work on the exercise, I once again set up an APA-formatted document in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type, with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. I constructed my title page and stubbed out my main text as appropriate, inserting running head and pagination as needed. And I then pulled up my own self-assessment from the first week of the session, which I reproduce here from the online discussion:

To offer an example:

  • What do I do well as a reader?
    • Through dint of practice, I read swiftly and deeply. That is, I can make my way through texts quickly, and I both retain much of what I read and assess it against / integrate it into what I already know relatively easily.
  • What do I do well as a writer?
    • I write regularly and often, working to address multiple audiences through multiple venues–and I think I do well at it.
  • What could I improve upon as a reader?
    • I could read more than I do. The past few years have not seen me with as many books in hand as I ought to have–and certainly not so many as I used to have.
  • What could I improve upon as a writer?
    • I could also write more than I do, sending what I write to publication venues that might reject me and would offer more honest critique than I often get.

I look forward to your responses.

With that list before me, I considered how I had worked to address the challenges I’d identified, drafting a narrative report of that work as my first paragraph of response and making sure to include explicit reference to my earlier words to help my readers understand my topic of discussion.

The second paragraph required a bit of adjustment; I’m not enrolled in any future classes, and I am not likely to become so. (I toy with the idea of going after an MBA, but that’s a later concern–if it ever becomes one.) But the fact that I am not in any formal education at this point does not mean that I cannot look for ways to improve my performance further, and reflecting on that allowed me to draft materials for the second requested paragraph.

The materials composed, I worked to make the writing more accessible to my expected primary audience, again acknowledging a consistent issue in my work. Once it was at a place I felt comfortable giving it to that audience, I reviewed my work for alignment with the orthographical standards at work in the course. Finding no deviations, I rendered the document into an accessible format once again, which I present here as what I hope will be of useful service to my students and others: G. Elliott Wk 8 Sample Assignment Response.

This won’t be my last go-around; I’ll still appreciate help.

Sample Assignment Response: Revised Response Essay

Last week, noted here, I posted a sample of a response essay, another piece working to emulate the work my students are asked to do. I felt obliged, for several reasons, to address a slightly different prompt than that offered to them, but I still feel that the model offered was useful. But there is more to do, both for the students and on the piece I offered, for which reason I proceed now to narrate my process for arriving at a model for the revised essay expected of students and to provide the model arrived at. I do so in the continuing hopes that my students and others will benefit from my efforts.

Sometimes, you succeed beyond expectation.
Image from

The week’s assignment asks students to take the draft provided the previous week and expand upon and revise it with comments from the instructor. While the previous week would have admitted of a partial draft (I did not offer one), the current exercise requires a completed draft, albeit one admittedly brief. Aside from the expectation of fuller development (“fuller” instead of “full” because every piece of writing can be refined further), requirements follow those of the previous week’s work.

To mimic the exercise, I began by opening the previous week’s assignment and saving it under an updated name; doing so allowed me to retain a base copy in case things went strangely during revision while still letting me make updates–and helping me to find them. Then, as with a previous revision exercise, I printed out a hard copy of the text on which to make my initial edits. (I might note, too, that when I review my own work in hard copy, I rarely use red ink, preferring blue ink or pencil. Both stand out from the black ink of the printed pages while avoiding the glaring sense of “problem” that arises from red ink. Pencil allows for more adjustment, though it tends to smear a bit, while blue ink tends not to do so.)

As I went through the earlier draft, I did so looking first for ways to make the content more accessible. I expect that relatively few of my students–my anticipated primary audience–are familiar with the content I discuss, so I have a particular burden to make that content clear and understandable. Additionally, as I reviewed my work, I found that I was not satisfied with how I had transitioned into a couple of paragraphs, so I adjusted those transitions, as well as making the aforementioned changes to content.

With my on-paper notes ready, I moved into adjusting the electronic text. As before, I worked from the end of the paper back to the front, so that my changes did not move others that would need making. And I made sure to save my work repeatedly; I’ve lost papers before, and even so brief a work as the present exercise would be an annoyance to redo. I also reviewed the text for readability; again, accessibility to the primary expected audience is a concern, and I know my tendencies well. But the document tested out as at an acceptable reading level while still reading how I would have it, so I accounted it good enough.

The essay revised, I gave it another quick review to ensure that its orthography was as it should be. Nothing showed up to that review, so I rendered the document into an accessible form that I present here in the hopes that it, too, will be helpful: G. Elliott Wk 7 Sample Essay.

Seriously, please help me keep on doing this!

Sample Assignment Response: Draft Response Essay

Last week, noted here, I had another instance of encountering an assignment for students that did not demand a new sample from me. I was fortunate to have already developed a number of samples of the kind of work students were asked to do, so I gathered an assortment of them for ease of reference and left them for the students to read through. There was some pushback from them on how I want things done–I am of the opinion that summaries need to identify their subjects, which not all of my students seemed to appreciate–but they seem to have done largely well with the exercise.

Image result for tabletop role playing games gif
It’s like that sometimes.
Image from Odyssey.

The assignment for the present week appears to be another such thing. Students are asked to expand upon their summary work by writing a response to the issue treated by the summarized piece, and the examples of summaries that I had provided to students contain responses. As such, I thought I had already done the work for this week that I sought to do to help the students. But that is not entirely accurate.

For the present week’s assignment, students are asked to write a draft of a response essay. It needs to be in APA format, and it needs to make formal reference to an outside source–in the present case, the article that had been summarized in the previous week’s work. A four-paragraph structure is suggested by the University; introduction, one paragraph relating and explaining personal experience with the subject, another summarizing the article and explaining its relevance, and conclusion. And that expanded structure suggests that I compose a sample to help guide students.

To do so, I began by stubbing out a document according to the APA format template my students and I had developed in the class. That done, I looked at my current-to-the-writing news feeds for an article to summarize and respond to; as is ever the case, I do not want to do the students’ work for them in putting together examples for their use. Nor yet do I want to be too narrowly constrained against future iterations of the class for which I write the examples. Ultimately, I pulled up an article I had long bookmarked for another project; it seemed appropriate to turn to it for the present work.

Having decided upon a piece to which I would respond, I entered its information into the required References list, looking at APA standards to do so. I then read it, annotating it for summary. And it seemed a simple thing to then draft the summary, since I would either be responding to it or prefiguring it, so I did so.

With the summary written, I then considered whether my own comments would precede or succeed it. The former would have the advantage of leading from my own situated ethos to the invented ethos of outside documentation, corresponding to traditional rhetorical ordering by placing what might appear to be a stronger point in the stronger position. The latter, though, would figure my work as a more direct response, moving from the abstract to the concrete in a way that often reads well for students. Given that the piece is meant as a sample for students, the latter course suggested itself more strongly, so I drafted my own comments after giving the summary.

As I drafted, a thesis emerged for me. I took it, rephrased it slightly, and put it in the “expected” position–just before the body of my essay begins. I then drafted an introduction to move readers into the thesis smoothly. I followed that with a conclusion that moves forward from the thesis into an idea of what can be done with that thesis, a style of conclusion I typically prefer in shorter academic pieces.

The draft compiled, I gave it a quick review to ensure that its orthography was as it should be. Nothing showed up to that review, so I rendered the document into an accessible form that I present here in the hopes that it will be helpful: G. Elliott Wk 6 Sample Essay.

Please help me keep on doing this!