Posts tagged ‘Essay’

September 5, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – More on DETAILS and A CHECKLIST FOR REVISIONS

by Grace

A follow-up to the topic of THE IMPORTANCE OF DETAILS along with an introduction to A CHECKLIST FOR REVISIONS are covered in this post.  (This is the 18th post about my project to study and learn William Kerrigan’s Writing to the Point (WTTP) Six-Step method of writing an expository essay, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

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.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)


THE IMPORTANCE OF DETAILS AND AN INTRODUCTION TO A CHECKLIST FOR REVISIONS

DETAILS

My previous WTTP post revisited the IMPORTANCE OF DETAILS, giving the background information about a new assignment.  This is worth repeating:

“Three-fourths of all good writing consists of details and plenty of them.”


CHECKLIST FOR REVISIONS

In his book Kerrigan offers an 11-step checklist for revising an essay, a tool that is consistent with his approach of writing instruction that offers direct and precise guidance incorporated into a systematic process.  Here are the first few items from the checklist.

1.  Does the theme make a point?  (Step 1, Chapter 1.)  Does that point follow the ten rules for Sentence X?  (Chapter 2, page 28.)
2.  Do the paragraphs and their sentences keep to the point?  (Steps 2 and 3.  Chapters 2 and 3.)
3.  Do the paragraphs support the point with specific details?  (Step 4, Chapter 4.)
4.  Do the paragraphs support the point with examples?  (Step 4, Chapter 4.)


THE ASSIGNMENT

Write an essay on a subject of your own choice   As you write, be very critical of your use of sufficient detail.  When you have finished your draft, refer to the checklist in Appendix II, focusing on items 3 and 4, details and specific example….

This is the essay I wrote for the assignment:

X  Traveling is an excellent way to spend summer break.
1.  Traveling is enjoyable.
2.  Traveling is educational.
3.  Traveling strengthens relationships.

————————————————————————————————————————–

X  Traveling is an excellent way to spend summer break.

1.  Traveling is enjoyable.  Most people enjoy going to new locations as a way to get a break from their routines.  Although some choose extreme excursions and others prefer tamer travels, the opportunity to give the mind and body a taste of something different is agreeable to almost everyone.  Ascending to the top of Kilimanjaro gives the outdoor enthusiast a thrill not matched by the more familiar climbing that he does on weekends.  On the other hand, a relaxing week at a resort is just the kind of indulgent pleasure that appeals to other types of travelers.

2.  Traveling is educational.  A simple change in environment always teaches a traveler something new.  Perhaps a traveler will learn something as basic as the fact that he does not like a humid climate and too much free time.  Traveling to Paris, he may learn about French street fashion and the appeal of having a café au lait with brioche for breakfast.  A visit to Washington D.C. presents the perfect opportunity to learn more about American history and government.  Travel offers abundant learning opportunities of many different types.

3.  Traveling strengthens relationships.  Anyone who has traveled with family or friends knows that shared experiences in distant locales create unique bonding opportunities.  Whether it’s sharing a breath-taking view of the Grand Canyon or waiting in a long line for lost luggage, traveling companions often get to know and appreciate new aspects of each other’s personality.  That is one reason mother-daughter or father-son trips are highly recommended as a way to strengthen family relationships.

The benefits of summer travel include enjoyment, education, and enhanced personal relationships.


WHAT I LEARNED

A writer should always be thinking about including abundant detail.  With practice this will become an automatic part of the writing process.  Using a checklist in the revision process makes it easier to cover all bases while ensuring that the correct habits are being reinforced.

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

August 30, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – THE IMPORTANCE OF DETAILS

by Grace

Because it is such an important aspect of the Writing to the Point method, THE IMPORTANCE OF DETAILS is revisited as a topic for discussion.  (This is my 17th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

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.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF DETAILS

“Three-fourths of all good writing consists of details and plenty of them.”

The importance of including abundant details is revisited as a topic because Kerrigan saw a strong tendency among developing writers to be excessively abstract and general.  It may be because adding details can be hard work, and in a rush to get the composition done a student often neglects to go the extra length needed to add examples and concrete descriptions.  It is also the case that a writer usually holds in his head a clear understanding of the message and context of his topic, and sometimes forgets that the reader needs more details to achieve a similar understanding.

Being specific and concrete, as well as going into detail and using examples, add clarity and interest to writing.

Some examples:

She sat down.
or
She happily plopped into an overstuffed chair with a look of immense relief on her face.

He took a driving test.
or
Sam nervously clutched the steering wheel as he listened intently to the instructions, his hopes of getting a driver’s license fading with every turn.

He was eating food.
or
Mark was slowly munching on a baby carrot.

THE ASSIGNMENT
My next Kerrigan post will cover the assignment for this section, as well as the introduction of a fabulously helpful checklist for revising first drafts.  Stay tuned!

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

August 23, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT CONCEPTS

by Grace

SUMMARY OF SOME IMPORTANT CONCEPTS from Writing to the Point is presented in this post.  A few of the concepts are listed below.  (This is the 16th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

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.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)

 

A SELECTED LIST OF SOME IMPORTANT WRITING TO THE POINT CONCEPTS

The rules must be followed.

Steps 1, 2,3, and 4 are not rules that someone has decided on, like the rules of a game.  They can’t be changed, as in the case of the elimination some years ago of the center jump in basketball.  No, they arise out the very nature of writing, and are as necessary for writing as heat is for cooking, cloth for clothing, fuel for an engine.

Sentences X-1-2-3 are at the core of a good essay.

No one can write an essay on a topic.  You must write a sentence about a topic, then write the essay strictly on that sentence.  Once that sentence is well written, the essay nearly writes itself, because that sentence dictates what must be said.

Be consistent in tone.

Always keep in mind your purpose of explaining something to somebody.  Make that somebody one real or imagined person.  Fit your tone to that person and try not to vary it.

The overriding goal is to stick to the point.

Do not let your thought be, “I must make this artistic,” “I must make this beautiful,” ” I must make this clever or amusing,” or “I must make this important-sounding,” but “I must make this real, clear, and convincing to a certain reader; and to do that I must follow Steps 1, 2, 3, and 4.”

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

August 16, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – INTRODUCTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS ARE NOT NECESSARY

by Grace

INTRODUCTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS ARE NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY, according to William Kerrigan’s method of Writing to the Point.  (This is my 15th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method of writing an expository essay, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

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.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)


INTRODUCTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS ARE NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY!

Kerrigan takes the unconventional view that essays do not require introductory paragraphs and concluding paragraphs.

… If an introduction is necessary, then of course have one.  But do not have an introduction just for the sake of having an introduction, any more than you would flap your arms up and down three times before putting on your coat — it’s pointless….

Kerrigan’s reasoning about introductions and conclusions:

  • They often take up too much word space, far out of proportion to the body of an essay.
  • An introduction can be distracting, leading the reader to a topic that is not the subject of the essay.  It’s better to get right to the point than to beat around the bush at the beginning.
  • If introductions and conclusions are used, they should be as succinct as possible.

Obviously, this approach is very different from conventional teaching in American schools.  But it still makes sense to learn Kerrigan’s method, for it teaches the value of concise expression and the skills useful in getting to the point quickly.  Learning how to build effective introductory and concluding paragraphs can occur after learning how to organize and develop the body of a well-written essay.

In place of paragraphs, here is the Kerrigan way of starting and ending essays:

Instead of introductory paragraph:  Sentence X
Instead of concluding paragraph:  Short “rounding off” sentence

Short “rounding off” sentence

… can be an echo of Sentence X, or some short sentence in which you manage to drive the point of the them home.


THE ASSIGNMENT

Write short rounding off sentences for three of the essays you’ve already written.

Here are a couple of the sentences I wrote.

Rounding off sentence for the essay from this post:  Colorful foliage, crisp weather, and fun-filled activities all make autumn an exhilarating time of year.
Sentence X was:  Autumn is an exhilarating time of year.

Rounding off sentence for the essay from this post:  For all these reasons, a student must have a regular schedule of study.
Sentence X was:  A student must have a regular schedule of study.

WHAT I LEARNED

Less is more.  Unnecessary verbiage detracts from the point of the essay.  On the other hand, a catchy introductory paragraph should not be written until after the thesis statement (Sentence X) is written.

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

August 8, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – STICK TO THE KERRIGAN RULES

by Grace

IT IS IMPORTANT TO STICK TO THE KERRIGAN RULES.  This is another topic that is discussed before moving past Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point(This is my 14th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

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.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)

PURPOSE GOVERNS EVERYTHING, AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO STICK TO THE KERRIGAN RULES

Purpose can also be called “meaning” or the “point”, as in Kerrigan’s book title, Writing to the Point.

For the type of expository writing addressed by Kerrigan’s method, “the entirety of the essay should be devoted to making the writer’s point”.  But before he can write the essay, the writer must know what his point is.  The X-1-2-3 format helps the writer focus on formulating and expanding upon his point, as well as helping the reader comprehend the essay’s meaning.

Why should the writer stick to the Kerrigan rules?

Why can’t the writer be “creative”? For example, why does he have to put Sentence X at the beginning?

In fact, a writer can be creative and put Sentence X, which is the thesis sentence, in a different location within the essay.  It’s done frequently, with successful results.  However, the writer must think of the purpose. and consider three things.

First, your purpose cannot be just to be different  which is simply eccentricity, or sometimes a mask for laziness.  Second, your need to have Sentence X somewhere else must be very great indeed if it makes you sacrifice the marvelous advantage of letting your readers know at once what your point is.

Third, if you don’t state your point at once, you must still guide your readers toward that point through a mass of material in such a way as to convince them they are moving clearly toward a point, without their ever being wholly puzzled and without their getting the idea along the way that they see your point when actually they are mistaken.  To do that takes great skill.  Do you have that skill? . . . You may develop it; but if you are going to develop it, certainly the beginning of the development will be getting the idea of point deeply and clearly fixed in your mind.  And the best way I know to do that is to get lots of practice in writing essays based on the method in this book.

The Kerrigan method is an instructional approach for developing writers.  I think it’s particularly useful for struggling writers.  If I were a teacher with a few highly skilled writers in my class, it’s unlikely I would have them strictly follow the Kerrigan method.  They are ready to move beyond the strict format of the Kerrigan method.

Breaking the rules is fine, but it takes advanced skill. Usually, that skill is only developed after much practice writing following the rules.

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

August 1, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – REPETITION IS DESIRABLE

by Grace

WHILE REPETITION CAN BE IMPORTANT FOR ENHANCING THE CLARITY OF AN ESSAY, IT MUST BE BALANCED AGAINST THE POSSIBILITY OF PRODUCING A MONOTONOUS PIECE OF WRITING.  A discussion of this topic is included before moving past Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point(This is my 13th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

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.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)


REPETITION IS DESIRABLE.

An objection to keeping the same grammatical subject, a topic covered in my previous post, is that it would be too monotonous.  Some writers like to mix things up, changing the perspective and tone of an essay to keep the reader engaged.  That may work in some types of creative writing, but not for the expository writing addressed by Kerrigan’s WTTP method.

Repetition is desirable.*  It helps keep the writer on track and adds clarity for the reader.  But Kerrigan suggests ways to minimize the monotony.

  • Use pronouns.  Instead of “George Washington” in every sentence, use “he”.
  • Use synonyms, but don’t overuse them.  Instead of “George Washington”, use “our first president”.
  • Change sentence length and form.  Two guidelines for developing writers are recommended:
    • Make every third sentence or so notably longer than the others.  One way to do this is by sentence combining.
    • Be sure every third sentence or so begins with something other than the subject.

A good resource for teaching sentence composing is the series of books by Don and Jenny Killgallon, which works well for afterschooling or homeschooling.


THE ASSIGNMENT

Write an essay on any subject.

  • Try to keep the same grammatical subject throughout.
  • Make one out of every three or four sentences notably longer than the others.
  • Make one out of every three or four sentences begin with something other than the subject.  “Hoping it would rain . . .,”  “To prevent inflation . . .,”  “Sometimes . . .,”  “In the prison . . .,”  “Though the treaty was disregarded . . .,”

Even if the essay turns out a little stiff and clumsy, it’s still excellent practice.


Here is the essay I wrote for this assignment.

X  The end of the school year is hectic.
1. The end of the school year is a time of final exams.
2. The end of the school year is a time of special events.
3. The end of the school year is a time to prepare for the summer.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

X  The end of the school year is hectic for many high school students.

1.  The end of the school year is a time of heavy academic responsibilities.  Final exams often count for a large part of the final grade, so most students must spend considerable time studying for them.  End of year class projects are similarly time-consuming.  Sometimes make-up work, like lab reports, must be completed before the last day of class.  All this must be done with an eye to planning the class schedule for next fall.

2.  The end of the school year is a time of many special events.  For seniors, all the graduation festivities take up time in preparing and in celebrating.  The prom requires numerous shopping excursions for the right attire along with planning for transportation and related details.  A weekend of activities with friends often comes after the prom  When you add in all the other graduations, confirmations, spring concerts, dance recitals, end of season sports events, and myriad other events common this time of year, it becomes clear what a hectic time it can be.

3.  The end of the school year is a time to prepare for the summer.  While some students will be spending the summer enjoying long, lazy days by the pool, most will be busy with various activities that need planning and preparation.  A summer job often requires filling out many forms and interviewing with potential employers.  Getting ready for travel, either with family or to summer camp, usually requires more work than a quick packing of a suitcase.  A flurry of commotion is common as a teen begins a summer of volunteering, babysitting, summer courses, team sports, or other activities that will last until the beginning of the next school year.


WHAT I LEARNED

Focusing on these few simple techniques can help developing writers add cohesion and clarity to an essay while also avoiding a monotonous tone.  As with the other WTTP lessons, practicing these techniques will help establish them as part of a student’s routine writing style.

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

* Do you see what I did there?

July 25, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – CONSISTENT GRAMMATICAL SUBJECTS

by Grace

The importance of keeping consistent grammatical subjects is covered next as part of reviewing and revising the first draft of an essay.  It is one of the topics addressed before moving on from Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point. (This is my 12th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

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.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)


CONSISTENT GRAMMATICAL SUBJECTS

The rule:  As far as possible, keep the same grammatical subject throughout your theme.

First, what is the grammatical subject?

The grammatical subject is the person or thing that does something in a sentence – does something or is something, did something, or was something.

Kerrigan explains further, using an example of an essay about students.

Keep the same grammatical subject.  That means start out talking either about a student or about students — or about you, we, I, or anybody or anything else.   But then in every sentence you can, keep talking about either a student or students, or you — in other words, don’t jump back and forth from one to another.  Of course, you can and should often call a student he, she, he or she, (to avoid sex bias), or students they….


Here are before and after examples of correcting for consistent grammatical subject.

Before revision, without a consistent grammatical subject:

A student who is not wealthy out to find a college with low costs.  In fact, if students sat down and figured all the expenses before they enrolled in college, he or she might avoid serious trouble.  An expensive school is not necessarily a good school.  Actually, what college gives you depends mostly on how seriously you do your work there, whether attending it is expensive or not.  If we loaf through school, no amount of money paid is going to make much out of us.

After revision, with a consistent grammatical subject:

Students who are not wealthy out to find a college with low costs.  In fact, if they sat down and figured all the expenses before enrolling in college, they might avoid serious trouble.  An expensive school is not necessarily a good school.  Actually, what college gives students depends mostly on how they do their work there, whether attending it is expensive or not.  If they loaf through school, no amount of money paid is going to make much out of them.

Keeping the same grammatical subject improves clarity.

Now the reason behind keeping the same grammatical subject is this:  it gives readers one target to keep their sights on and thus makes their job of reading simpler and less likely to be distracting or confusing.

Improves cohesion

“But by far the strongest cohesive force in the paragraph is the recurrence of the same grammatical subject, or its equivalent, from sentence to sentence.”
(Wilma Ebbitt, et al., Writer’s Guide and Index to English, 1978)

WHAT I LEARNED

Developing writers should check for a consistent grammatical subject as part of their first draft revision.

I often find myself making grammatical subject mistakes in my blog, which I only catch sometimes.  However, sometimes I intentionally change the subject, as I’ve done in the last part of this post.

UPDATE:

An assignment is not included for this section, but one could easily be created by using the “before” example above, with the student then asked to make corrections.  Or, a paragraph from an article or book could be selected, then changed so that the grammatical subject is made inconsistent.  The student could then be assigned to make corrections to this paragraph.

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

July 19, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – Revise the paper to add more details

by Grace

The next part in Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point calls for reviewing and revising the first draft of an essay to make it more specific and concrete (This is my 11th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

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.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)

Don’t stop with a first draft.
Most first drafts need review and revision to produce a better final piece.  This Kerrigan assignment calls for a thorough inspection of the previously written essay, with the primary goal of incorporating more concrete details and examples.

THE ASSIGNMENT (page 67)

What?  Who?  For example?  Be specific! … Guided by such suggestions, but not limiting yourself to them, go through every sentence of your paper, changing every term – if you can – to something more specific and adding examples where you can.

This is the the first draft of  the essay I wrote for the previous assignment:

X  A student must have a regular schedule of study..
1.  A student needs a study schedule to maximize academic achievement.
2.  A student needs a study schedule to accommodate his other activities.
3.  A student needs a study schedule to maintain good health.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

X  A student must have a regular schedule of study.

1.  A student needs a study schedule to maximize academic achievement.  Since his first priority is usually his schooling, it is important that a student find ways to improve his academic performance.  One way to do that is to plan and implement a study schedule that will put his school work at the top of his list of things to do.  If getting an A in a chemistry test requires three hours of reviewing notes and practicing problems, then that time must be set aside to take precedence over television, Facebook or daydreaming.  For example, sometimes scheduling 20 minutes a day to review vocabulary words is the only way to get a top grade in Spanish class.

2.  A student needs a study schedule to accommodate his other activities.  While academics are his first priority, a student must also fit in all types of other activities into his routine.  Eating, sleeping, sports, club activities, and simply relaxing are usually all important aspects of a student’s life.  Without a schedule, time is frittered away and a student may end up sleep deprived or being kicked off the track team for missing practices.  All these different activities can be planned so a student will be able to perform competently in school and as well as in other parts of his life.

3.  A student needs a study schedule to maintain good health.  Without a schedule, the elements of a healthy lifestyle will suffer.  If a student neglects to plan ahead for sufficient study time, then he may find himself up late at night cramming for a test when he should be sleeping.  He may find himself eating on the run, which often means fast food and cookies instead of healthier options.  This can lead to poor nutrition, weight gain, or more serious medical conditions.  Making time for adequate studying causes a student to feel well-prepared, while the opposite causes stress.  Sleep deprivation, poor eating habits and high stress can be avoided by a well-planned study schedule.

I already had included many details in the essay.
When I reviewed my first draft, I only found a few instances where I could add more details and examples.  After all, the previous assignment called for the writer to “be specific and concrete, far beyond what you feel necessary.  Go all out in this respect.  Go into detail .  Give examples.”  I had taken those instructions to heart, and included plenty of concrete information in my first attempt.  But here are the few changes (in red) I made to the final paragraph of the essay.

3.  A high school student needs a study schedule to maintain good health.  Without a schedule, the elements of a healthy lifestyle will suffer.  If a student neglects to plan ahead for sufficient study time, then he may find himself up late at night cramming for a his geometry test when he should be sleeping.  He may eat too many meals find himself eating on the run, which often means fast food and cookies instead of fresh vegetables and whole grains healthier options.  This can lead to poor nutrition, weight gain, or more serious medical conditions.  Making time for adequate studying causes a student to feel well-prepared, while the opposite causes stress.  Sleep deprivation, poor eating habits and high stress can be avoided by a well-planned study schedule.

As you can see, I added a few more details, including the change I made to all the X-1-2-3 sentences that made it clear the essay was specifically about high school students.

WHAT I LEARNED
A review and revision of the first draft is important, offering an opportunity to clarify and enhance meaning by adding details.  Of course, a third (or fourth, fifth, or sixth) look often reveals more ways to fix mistakes, cut out extraneous material, and make other improvements to a written piece.

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

February 10, 2012

Step 1 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – SUBJECT & PREDICATE

by Grace

I’m backtracking to cover some basic elements of  Kerrigan’s Writing to the Point Step 1, omitted in my previous posts. (For new readers, this is my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, explained in my initial post in this series.)

Here is Kerrigan’s first step in writing an expository essay:

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

.

The Step 1 sentence is what Kerrigan calls the X-sentence, and it should have a SUBJECT and a PREDICATE.

First, a review of some basic grammar:

The subject is the person or thing that acts or is described in the sentence. The predicate, on the other hand, is that action or description.

At a basic level, the X-sentence will look like this:

Subject———1———1———1—–Predicate
Somebody or something …………… is something
Somebody or something …………… was something
Somebody or something …………… does something
Somebody or something …………… did something

Examples:
Subject———1———1———1—–Predicate

Oxygen ………………………………………. is essential for life.
George Carlin …………………………….. was funny.
Power …………………………………………. corrupts.
Grandma …………………………………….. taught us valuable lessons.

Subject and predicate – both must be parts of the X-sentence.


The X-sentence is the thesis of the essay.

A subject without a predicate is a topic, but not a thesis. For expository writing you need a thesis, not just a topic.  This is an essential point in the Writing to the Point method.  The supporting details for the thesis flow from the X-sentence, creating the structure that makes the essay concise, clear and to the point.

Here are a few more examples of X-sentences:

X  Autumn is an exhilarating time of year.
X  Hosting a teen party can be nerve-wracking.
X  The Penn State scandal is a tragic event. 


Other characteristics of the X-sentence:

    • Short and simple
    • Declarative sentence – a statement, not a question or a command
    • Should make only one statement

All this is basic stuff, right?  Sometimes kids don’t learn (or remember) basic stuff.  I’m sometimes surprised at what kids are not taught in school.


Previous posts in this series:

August 7, 2011

Students plan their summers around their college application essays

by Grace

Students preparing to apply to college are increasingly tailoring their summer plans with the goal of creating a standout personal statement — 250 words or more — for the Common Application in which to describe “a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.” Specialized, exotic and sometimes costly activities, they hope, will polish a skill, cultivate an interest and put them in the spotlight in a crowded field of straight-A students with strong test scores, community service hours and plenty of extracurricular activities.

A dizzying array of summer programs have cropped up to feed the growing anxiety that summer must be used constructively. Students can study health care in Rwanda, veterinary medicine in the Caribbean or cell cloning at Brown University, or learn about Sikkim, India’s only Buddhist state….

Suddenly, the idea of working as a waitress or a lifeguard seems like a quaint relic of an idyllic, pre-Tiger Mom past.

“The reality is that the whole process of getting into school is extremely competitive, and it’s not only what you do during the school year — your grades and extracurriculars,” Mr. Isackson’s mother, Marla Isackson, said. “It’s your whole package, including what you do in the summer.”

Apparently, colleges look for “mastery” and “passion”, while “well rounded” means “no edge”.

For a Standout College Essay, Applicants Fill Their Summers – NYT

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