Step 3 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’

by Grace

I have moved on to Step 3 in my study of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point.  In a previous post, I wrote about this project and about completing Steps 1 and 2.  Here are the first three steps of the six-step process.

STEP 1. Write a short, simple declarative sentence that makes one statement. (Chapter 1, page 6)

STEP 2. Write three sentences about the sentence in Step 1—clearly and directly about the whole of that sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 2, page 18.)

STEP 3. Write four or five sentences about each of the three sentences in Step 2—clearly and directly about the whole of the Step 2 sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 3, page 31.)

The Chapter 3 assignment was to write a paper applying Steps 1 through 3.  Using the stipulated format, here is what I wrote.

X  Autumn is an exhilarating time of year.
1. It is a time of colorful foliage.
2. It is a time of crisp weather.
3. It is a time of fun-filled activities.


X  Autumn is an exhilarating time of year.

1.  It is a time of colorful foliage.  Maple trees turn bright red and oak trees become golden.  Ferns become a rusty copper color.  As they fall to the ground, beautifully colored leaves cover paths and roads like a rainbow.  Mountainsides and roadways become brilliant works of art.

2.  It is a time of crisp weather.  It usually starts in late September when people will comment that there’s a touch of fall in the air.  They bring out their sweaters to protect against the slight chill of early fall.  As the season moves on, the first hints of frost appear on some early mornings.  Even on days with full sun, the atmosphere feels different from typical summer days.

3.  It is a time of fun-filled activities.  Many families spend weekends picking apples and pumpkins.  The next few days may find them baking pies and carving jack-o-lanterns.  Preparations for Halloween are as much fun as the actual trick-or-treating.  People enjoy designing and creating costumes while anticipation builds for the big Halloween night when children roam the neighborhoods trying to fill their bags with candy.

Revisions and refinement will be included in the next steps, and Kerrigan tells the student not at this point to worry at all about the quality of these sentences.  But even at this level of development the essay has some qualities important to good writing.

… There are: (1) a thesis sentence that announces its point at once; (2) a topic sentence for each paragraph that is clearly and directly related t0 the thesis sentence; (3) paragraphs that are clearly and directly related to their topic sentences and are well developed; and (4) specific examples.

As I mentioned before, I find the clarity and efficiency of this process very appealing, especially in the context of writing instruction that works for struggling learners.  Additionally, the claim is that this method has the flexibility to be used for more sophisticated writing.  It appears promising, and I expect to learn more as I go along in my project.

7 Comments to “Step 3 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’”

  1. Upon rereading this, I would revise my X sentence to: “Autumn is an exhilarating time of year in the Northeast.”


  2. Thank you for pointing out that WaPo column. I just left a comment over there. I don’t think schools need more free-style writing instruction, although there are obviously some problems in excessively structured programs or teaching.

    I haven’t closely monitored all my kids’ writing instruction, but they seem to have received a mix of the structured and the exploratory types. One of the things I found was that the many different methods might actually be a hindrance to a student developing basic skills in expository writing.

    The Kerrigan method is a little different than some of the traditional methods I’ve seen. It uses more precision in teaching all aspects of the writing process, which I think ultimately lets the writer apply more creativity once the process is mastered.


  3. Haven’t read the WaPo column yet (late to the party!) — but you can always use X-1-2-3 to reverse-engineer your essay.

    At every stage of writing, you can analyze what you’ve written to see whether you have a coherent, tightly focused set of X-1-2-3s.


  4. Meanwhile, a woman I know who teaches at an elite research university bemoans the fact that her students, among the best in the country, have mastered the five-paragraph essay, but can’t develop a complex idea in writing.

    Color me unsympathetic.

    The number of college students in this country who have “mastered” the 5-paragraph essay is pretty small, I suspect.

    The 5-paragraph essay, because it is so short, is actually quite a demanding form.

    I’m trying to remember….who was it who said ‘I didn’t have time to make it shorter?’


  5. The professional writers I know got excited not in class but while compiling personal journals, or composing poems and songs, or sending long letters or e-mails to friends, or working for the school newspaper.

    Not me.


  6. I think I’ve got links up to all of your posts:

    I’m going to add a link in the links section, too.


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