Earlier in the session, I found myself thwarted in my attempt to provide a sample assignment response when the first week’s assignments were quizzes alone. As I sat down to draft a response for the fifth week’s assignment, though, I found myself having the opposite problem. Instead of encountering an assignment I could not meaningfully or ethically exemplify for my students, I encountered one I have already abundantly exemplified for them. Instead of having no work that could be done, I had ample work that had already been done–which is a much better situation to be in than that I had had before.
What the students are asked to do in my class this week is read an article, write a summary of it, and write a response to it. I have no shortage of such things already available, in this webspace and elsewhere, even if they are not necessarily in the APA format requested by the institution. But I’ve practiced that format enough with my current students that I do not know that I need to give it them again, so, instead of making an offhand reference to where they can find examples in this webspace, I’ll give a list of a few of them that seem to have attracted most attention:
To follow up on the work of last week and before, continuing what I’ve found to be a useful pattern, I mean to press on in drafting sample assignments to help my students better understand what they are asked to do for the class. I also press on on in the hope that my efforts will prove to be of both that benefit and others to readers yet unknown to me. In doing so, I narrate my process of composition and present another sample paper near the end of this blog post.
For the present assignment, students are asked to revise the drafts they submitted during the previous week in light of instructor comments about them. Submission guidelines remain the same as for the previous piece.
Accordingly, to complete the exercise myself, I opened the editable copy of the paper I had written, saved it under a new filename, and printed it out. When I review my own work, I do so more effectively from paper as a result of years of practice doing so, and I try to cater to my strengths when I do such work. Printed copy in hand, I pored over my earlier work, looking for places I could tighten phrasing–particularly in the long body paragraph of the earlier paper. Where I could, I marked such passages and penned changes between the printed lines. I then transferred the comments back into the editable paper, working from the end of the paper towards the beginning so that the changes I made would not displace other phrases I needed to change.
With that done, I again reviewed the piece for readability by applying the Flesh-Kincaid reading level test. It again returned a result in line with what I had hoped to find. I was thus able to proceed to review style and mechanics in the work. After making the adjustments that needed making, given exercise requirements and ease of reading, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here in the hopes that it will be of use: G. Elliott Revised Sample Essay.
To follow up on the work of last week and continue what I’ve found to be a useful pattern in other classes, I mean to return to drafting sample assignments to help my students better understand what they are asked to do for the class. I also continue to hope that my efforts will prove to be of both that benefit and others to readers yet unknown to me. In doing so, I narrate my process of composition and present the sample paper near the end of this blog post.
For the week’s assignment, students are asked to compile a first draft of an essay that addresses one of two assigned prompts, both of which respond to themes in assigned readings. The essays are asked to be three paragraphs in length–introduction, body, and conclusion–and to come under a cover page in APA formatting. No requirement for outside sourcing is expressed, so no outside sourcing is expected, though there is specific reference to the assigned readings, themselves, so it might be permissible.
To respond to the exercise, I began by setting up an APA-format document in Word. That is, I set up my document in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman typeface with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. I also arranged my cover page, running head, and pagination as prescribed by APA style. Given that I did not expect to need to use outside sources, I did not set up a references page.
That done, I settled on a topic to which to respond, whether responses to homeless persons or a central idea around an inspiring person. The second seemed a better fit for the class and the assignment, so I opted for it. With that done, I had to identify a person I find inspiring, and, with the person identified, I had to settle upon a central impression to convey about that person. (I’d done so in an earlier piece, so I had some experience to help me along, even if the subject differed.)
I typed that central idea into my document, then copied and pasted it on the next line of my document and highlighted the second in green. I tend to do so when I compose essays so that I know what thesis I am trying to support; as I draft forward, I do so behind the highlighted thesis, leaving it as an ever-present goal for my essay to achieve.
With a thesis in place, I worked to offer a paragraph of support for it. I try to draft essays thesis first, then body, so that I know where I am going for my introduction and whence I will proceed for my conclusion. The body drafted, I began to work on my conclusion, since I was already at that point in the paper; I rephrased my highlighted thesis, stripping away the highlighting, and wrote a brief note discussing future implications of that thesis.
After I put together a brief conclusion, I returned to the beginning of the paper to lead through an introduction into the thesis I had constructed. Following a common introductory pattern, I offered some context for discussion before moving to narrow my focus and identify my topic. The thesis I already had in place followed, giving me a complete paragraph that already moved into a body of work.
With that done, I reviewed the piece for readability. I once again applied the Flesh-Kincaid reading level test, which again returned a result in line with what I had hoped to find. I was therefore able to proceed thence to review my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, given exercise requirements and ease of reading, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here in the hopes that it will be of use: G. Elliott Sample Essay.
While last week may not have seen the kind of assignment for which I can offer a sample to my students, this week does. Accordingly, I will do as I have said I will do and work to offer a sample of the kind of work I would like to see from my students, hoping that having a concrete example will help them to do better work. I also continue to hope that my work will help others outside my classroom, as well.
The assignment faced by students in the second week of Introduction to Reading and Writing at DeVry University in San Antonio is to draft a solid paragraph on one of four topics: educational reform, gender difference, family, or discrimination. Each is narrowed slightly from the overall topic heading, and responses are expected to consist of at least 100 words in APA format. The paragraph is asked to make a point, provide illustrative evidence, and explain how the evidence functions to bear out the point.
To address the exercise, I began by setting up my APA-style document. That style guide asks for black, double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins on letter-size paper, with running heads, page numbers, and title page in prescribed places; I set my document to those standards.
That done, I settled quickly on a broad topic, opting to treat class discrimination. The topic had been on my mind as I had been working on other writing, so it was an easy choice to make. Focusing more narrowly was a bit more of a challenge; a paragraph will admit of but one instance, and there are entirely too many instances of class discrimination. I opted to take what I think is an unusual approach; most pieces on discrimination treat the discrimination against those in perceived lower positions by those in higher, but there is discrimination by the perceived lower against the higher, as well–or, rather, concerns not unlike covert prestige apply. That is, eminence in areas other than are commonly recognized as conferring eminence are prized, and the commonly prized derided. Again, such matters had been on my mind already, so arriving at an example to treat was easy.
Having made the decision about the topic, I began to draft my paragraph, opening with context to aid readers in understanding my approach. From context, I moved to pivot into my specific topic, an instance of discrimination leveled at me, presenting it as the central point of the paragraph. I then moved to offer specific illustrative examples to support that point. Those provided, I connected the information I had offered back to the central point I meant to make in the paragraph, and I then offered a concluding sentence to wrap things up.
With that done, I reviewed the paragraph for readability. Applying a fairly common test, the Flesh-Kincaid, returned a result in line with what I had hoped to find; I know I have a tendency to wax verbose in ways that are not always helpful, and it was a relief to find that I had not done so. I was thus able to proceed thence to review my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, given exercise requirements and ease of reading, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Developed Paragraph January 2019. May it and its successors prove of benefit now and in time to come!
As I’ve moved into a new session of teaching, I had meant to begin developing sample assignment responses again. They seem to have helped my students in the past couple of sessions, and I do want to help my students succeed, despite what many of them seem to have thought over the past however many years I’ve taught. But when I went to look at the current session’s assignments for the first week, thinking I would get a head start on developing those new examples, I found that they are online quizzes.
I cannot offer examples of such things. For one, I do not know how limited the quiz bank is from which the students are asked to work; were I to address questions from them, I would be giving students answers, and while I approve of giving models, doing the assignments for them passes lines I am not willing to cross. For another, I am relatively certain I would get into some kind of trouble for posting the questions directly. And were I to try to write an independent example of such a quiz, it would require more work than I am willing to do without additional compensation. (I enjoy writing essays; I find the work of doing so meditative, and I often learn things from it. Quiz-writing is much more meticulous, and while it can be remunerative, I am not likely to draw extra pay for providing supplemental materials to my already-enrolled students. I do the job because I need money, after all.)
For now, therefore, I will have to defer what should have been an example of an assignment response, waiting until next week, when actual written responses begin to be asked of the few students enrolled in the current session. Because there are few, I will be able to attend to them more closely than larger classes permit, which should be to the good for the students and for me. For when I have to assess work at speed, I find myself looking for different things than I would prefer to seek but which I can only work to uncover when I have time to spend–and that is not the case with over-enrolled writing classes that have institutional deadlines I must meet. That seems not to be an issue this go-round, and I am grateful for it. I hope I have cause to continue to be.
To conclude from earlier work (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), I will carry out the assignment my students are asked to complete for their final week of the session: a brief reflective postscript. Considering work that has been done and what work is yet to be done is a useful thing, and I nourish the hope that the example I might offer will help my students and others do find such use in their own work.
For the exercise, students are asked to address a series of University-provided prompts in short paragraphs that should total some two pages of text when typed in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman on letter-sized paper with one-inch margins. The prompts ask students to consider their work and advancement during the course, especially as pertains to the commentary essay of the last few weeks of class. It is a fairly common exercise, both at the University and in colleges more generally, so it is likely students will encounter it again–and, as noted, reflection is good practice, in any event.
For my own work, I began by setting up a document in line with the expressed formatting standards. That done, I copied the prompts over from the University into the document, highlighting them in green so I could easily see what I would be addressing and would remember to delete the copy-over before completing my work.
At that point, I moved directly into drafting my responses, considering my answers to the questions posed as I went along. The questions are open-ended, but not so open-ended that they demand much delimiting. As such, answering them proved relatively easy to do–which makes sense, given the time I’ve spent on the project reflected upon and its topic.
The content made ready, I deleted the imported prompts and reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Reflective Postscript. May it and its predecessors prove of benefit now and in time to come!
To continue on from earlier work (here, here, here, here, here, and here), I will do more to round out the assignment sequence expected of the students in ENGL 112: Composition and develop the assignment students in the class are asked to do for their seventh week: a finalized commentary paper. I continue to hope that, despite the errors that are in any work, what I do will help my students and others to better understand what they are asked to do and so help them do it better.
For the exercise, students are asked to revise their work from the previous week as needed and to add to it the remaining bulk of their papers, bringing their commentaries to a full five pages (1500 to 1750 words) plus title page and references list. To complete it, I began by opening the document I’d made for last week’s exercise and saving it again as a new file for the final. (Keeping the earlier version separate allows for more radical revision in some circumstances.) Looking over it again, as it had been a few days since I had last done, so, I noted that I still had not settled on a thesis because I was still puzzling through my issue. I noted also that I had addressed appropriation but not appreciation; it was to the latter that I set myself.
I picked up writing where I had left off, moving directly into drafting as I thought through the issue and angle I had set for myself in the earlier work. As I drafted, too, I was able to determine a thesis, which I inserted into the usual place for such statements in first-year composition papers–the end of the introductory paragraph–before ensuring that connection to it sufficed throughout the rest of the text. I also made sure I offered the kind of conclusion to the paper–not filling out the repetitive “tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, tell ’em, and tell ’em what you told ’em” model, but moving ahead from the thesis–I want to see from my students and, indeed, from most of the writing I read.
The content made ready, I reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Commentary Final. I hope it will help others.
To continue on from earlier work (here, here, here, here, and here), I will go further along the assignment sequence expected of the students in ENGL 112: Composition and develop the assignment students in the class are asked to do for their sixth week: a draft of a commentary paper. I continue to hope that my efforts will assist in my students’ work and others’ to write better and help still others to do the same.
For the assignment, students are asked to generate the first three pages (excluding title page and references) of a five-page commentary essay–in effect, a position paper of the sort I’ve taught in one form or another before (here, here, here, and here, among others). Introduction, thesis, and an at-least-cursory overview of current discussion of the topic are requested, as is the beginning of the argument’s development. More will follow, of course, but three pages should be enough to establish the idea to be borne out, to provide it context, and to start developing it. Additionally, the project is a continuation of last week’s work, so what was done previously should still fit the current purpose.
To begin my response to the exercise, I opened my proposal and summary from the previous week. I also opened a new document, formatting it for submission; I set up a title page, main text, and references list, putting the whole into double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. The title page, running heads, and page numbers were set as they ought to be, while the internal title and references note were centered horizontally, and lines for references set up with half-inch hanging indentations.
With the formatting set up, I began to bring things into the new document from the old. The specific issue, the balance of appropriation and appreciation in my topic, was the first to come over; although not a thesis, as such, I copied it twice, highlighting the second in green and positioning it to serve as a moving target as I developed further materials. I also stubbed out space in which to position the thesis to come, as well as for some items I knew from the earlier work that I would want to put in place: definitions of terms relevant to the discussion. Those were highlighted in teal to remind me to attend to them.
From there, I moved to fill in context for my discussion, giving a description of my topic. I looked through earlier work done in the present session to begin with, since I could reasonably include that material in my current work without trouble. Some details in that line were forthcoming, and I was happy to incorporate them into my work to offer background. I supplemented them with my own experience, as well, since I have it to bring to bear.
A passable attempt at an introduction started, I moved to insert my relevant definitions, working from the two sources identified in the previous exercise. Citations pulled earlier also made their ways into the appropriate part of the paper, developing a short references list. I found that I needed more material for my definitions to make sense, so I ran another search for material in Academic Search Complete and found a particularly useful piece, which I incorporated similarly to the other pieces I’d noted.
It also occurred to me that I would need to incorporate primary source materials into my project. Knowing that I would be making use of it–a thing cannot be discussed without reference to that thing, particularly in a scholarly context–I incorporated the primary source into my references list. And with that done, I used the materials to offer an overview from which to conduct further discussion.
With context reasonably established, it came time to begin to reason out the argument and to work towards a thesis. When I entered the project, I did not know how the matter would fall out, so I began writing with the intent to learn as well as to convey information and understanding to my audiences. And I had to address what I saw as a glaring issue; it seemed to need doing, and it seemed to emerge well from the way in which I had established context. Too, it allowed me to meet the requirements of the exercise and position myself to undertake the next.
The content made ready, I reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making and eliminating highlighted passages, I rendered the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Commentary Draft. May it, like its predecessors, be helpful!
To continue on from earlier work (here, here, here, and here), I will go further along the assignment sequence expected of the students in ENGL 112: Composition and develop the assignment students in the class are asked to do for their fifth week: a topic proposal and source summary for a commentary paper. As previously, I hope that my efforts will assist in my students’ efforts and others’ to write better and help others to do the same.
For the assignment (which aligns fairly neatly with the ENGL 135 Topic Selection assignment), students are asked to answer a series of prompts in advance of drafting an essay. The prompts–identify a topic and outline personal involvement in it, summarize two perspectives on it–are meant to help students identify a current, complex topic in which they have some personal investment and to refine their understanding of the topic and the ongoing conversation of which it is part before moving into writing a commentary-style essay on that topic. The University explicitly discourages topics “overly emotional or rooted in religious or moral subjects,” to which proscription my teaching traditionally adds political ideology, gun control, abortion, and the legalization of marijuana.
The first challenge in addressing such an assignment is to identify a field of inquiry. Experience teaches that students, particularly students in first-year writing classes, will try to treat too broad a topic and one for which they are not necessarily well-equipped–not because they are stupid, but because they believe they have to treat major philosophical and cultural concerns to do “real” work. The truth is that working on a narrow topic will yield better results than trying to grapple at a pass with questions that have been debated for millennia without resolution; it is more true in the short sessions at DeVry than at many other schools.
I decided to address the matter by falling back on the topic I seem to have been treating throughout the sample responses I’ve been developing for the present session: roleplaying games, specifically the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying game, with which I have ample experience, as I’ve attested. It is, admittedly, not a topic of serious heft, but it is one I am confident is little treated, which will help me produce an example for my students–both because it will help me to show them that they can move beyond simple reporting and that they can pursue topics relevant to their interests even when those interests seem to be relatively minor concerns.
With a general topic in mind, I set up my response document. As with the other planning materials I’ve developed during the session, I eschewed the template provided by the University in favor of addressing the prompts directly. I pulled up the most recent planning sheet–that for the Rhetorical Analysis from the third week of the session–and mimicked its formatting in the new document. I then transferred the prompts from the University’s materials into my own, formatting them for ease of reading. This included setting up hanging indentations for the sources the assignment needed summarized.
The document set up, I proceeded to address the prompts provided as I could from my own background knowledge and understanding. Those identifying the topic and my engagement with it were the easiest to address, being closes to me and longest established in my mind. (Too, since I was working as what amounts to an extension of previous work, I felt justified in borrowing from the earlier work I had done–something that I have had students ask after doing. It is a fairly common practice, although anything that is formally published will need to be cited and attested if it is used in another work.) Audience was also addressed fairly easily, as I have been working with a clear idea of whom I am addressing throughout the session.
The matter of the specific angle for me to treat was a more difficult one to address. There are many concerns attendant on roleplaying games, dating back at least to Michael Stackpole’s Pulling Report (I’ve noted addressing roleplaying games in my academic work before, and across a fair span of time, I believe.) While the ire of popular culture towards roleplaying games has largely cooled, it remains present, and those of us who were on the receiving end of that fervor remain wary of it. Too, games which concern themselves with emulations of cultures not necessarily those of their players always run into questions of appreciation versus appropriation–but it seemed that that issue beckoned for attention in the current project. It was therefore to that issue and angle that I attended; I will admit that my engagement with the material biases my angle and approach to it.
Consequently, I asserted a specific issue and angle to treat in my coming commentary essay, working toward what might well serve as a tentative thesis–namely, that the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game is more an issue of appreciation than appropriation, although there are certainly problems to be found in the manner in which it goes about incorporating materials into its narrative milieu. I knew, though, that my own opinion might well change based on research I would do, so I did not advance the idea as a formal thesis quite yet.
Instead, I went then to search the University library for materials regarding my prospective project. I first searched Academic Search Complete, pre-limiting my search to full-text peer-reviewed journal sources from 200 onward and searching for “cultural appropriation” in the hopes of finding a useful definition of the term. The search yielded 534 results, which was unworkable for the scope of the project and the time available to it, but I was fortunate that one of the early results was a philosophical piece–and such pieces often make much of asserting definitions before engaging with them. I pulled that source, taking its citation data and summary into my own document.
I then looked into the other term most germane to my treatment: cultural appreciation. A search of Academic Search Complete for the term with the same restrictions yielded 469 results; no stand-out among the early results was forthcoming, so I narrowed my search to “cultural appreciation definition.” Only 13 results returned, which was a small enough number to survey sources individually. One source was culled from that set of results, cited, and summarized into the document.
The content made ready, I reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, I rendered the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Proposal and Summary. May it, like its predecessors, be of good service!
To continue on from earlier work (here, here, and here), I will go further along the assignment sequence expected of the students in ENGL 112: Composition and develop the assignment students in the class are asked to do for their fourth week: the rhetorical analysis for which they (and I) planned last week. As previously, I hope that my efforts will assist in my students’ efforts–and others’.
For the assignment, students are asked to draft a rhetorical analysis of the advertisement they selected in the previous week, asserting whether or not the ad is likely to be effective at its presumed purpose for its presumed audience. The analysis should take the form of a brief (title page and three to four pages of text) thesis-driven essay, formatted according to APA standards and making minimal if any use of outside information other than the assessed ad–which need only be cited by way of providing its URL. It is a fairly standard assignment, calling for a fairly standard response, and one that should emerge easily from the work done in the previous week’s assignment.
To begin my own work, I opened the advertisement being assessed and my earlier planning sheet. I also set up a document for my response, formatting it on letter-sized sheets with double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type. I then set up my title page and main text, inserting running heads and page numbers as appropriate. (How to do so has been covered during class time; it is also in video tutorials in the University’s online materials.) I hadn’t yet determined a title for the project, so that received attention before I moved further into the work.
Because the current project is an extension of last week’s work, or last week’s work was preparation for the current project, I felt justified in bringing the text over from the planning sheet to the main document wholesale. I had done a fair bit of work on it, and, as I told my students during class time, the more work done on the planning sheet, the less would (in theory) need to be done on the essay itself. I did strip out the headings from the planning sheet, as I do not think them necessary in so short a paper as the exercise calls for; explicit transitions and clear statements of ideas serve to guide readers through the document.
I did notice, though, that I had quite a few paragraphs beginning more similarly than I like to see. Several consecutive paragraphs started with “The ad,” and, while pattern-forming can help to unify a document and to establish argument, the flat beginnings threatened to come off as uninspired and pro forma–and if I am merely going through the motions with something in which I am invested, I cannot hope that readers will engage with it. Consequently, I adjusted my transition into one of the paragraphs, offering some variety in the hope of maintaining readerly interest.
As I made the change, I also noted places where I could connect my prose back more strongly and explicitly to my thesis. The paragraphs treating logos, ethos, and pathos in the advertisement could each stand to have an overt return to the thesis at their ends, so they received such. The third paragraph, describing the advertisement, also looked like it would accept an explicit motion towards the thesis; it received one, as well. (The offers of explicit return to the thesis also helped me make page length; I was a bit short of the full essay in the planning sheet, which is to be expected–and corrected before the full submission.)
Additionally, one or two comments about the desirability of the advertisement’s target audience seemed called for; I made them. Further, given the relatively specialized nature of what was being advertised, I felt it appropriate to offer more context for my discussion as a whole; I expanded my initial paragraph a bit to accommodate that contextualization, which I hope will make clearer what I am talking about.
The content made ready, I deleted my highlighted notes and reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, I rendered the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Rhetorical Analysis November 2018. May it be of good service!