Intimidated by the Research Essay?
Worried about notecards and outlines?
Want a sane approach?
In eleventh grade I had to write a term paper about The Scarlet Letter, and not only did I need to do
background research on Hawthorne and the American Puritans, but I also had to learn the strict discipline of keeping carefully-coded note cards and remember those pesky Roman numerals to
keep a proper outline. Oh, and did I mention that we hadn't even discussed the novel in class? This was an independent project.
Even though I was a good writer in high school, I hate to think what a chore it would have been to my teacher to read the
resulting essay. So when I started teaching young writers how to write this kind of essay decades ago, I decide to approach the task in a way that would save their sanity and mine, and actually
teach them the mechanics of a research essay without overly complicating it with unfamiliar material.
The result was The Report: A Simple Start. I used this tutorial years later when I developed a unit on the research essay for Veritas Scholars Academy, and hundreds of students have used it in the last seven years. It is now available for free for all who are interested in pursuing a less-painful version of a classic academic essay. It is appropriate for students from about seventh grade on up - anyone who is not yet comfortable with the process of writing a research essay.
Please consider enrolling in evaluations for your work with this assignment or others.
"Great writing begins - and ends - with the sentence."
-from the Great Courses description
Brooks Landon of the University of Iowa created a video course for The Great Courses entitled Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft. Professor Landon and I corresponded about the lessons and he gave me permission to use his material to create a small workbook based on the course, and I am using those for WRIT 101 students at Grove City College this year.
The link above will show you the contents of the video course (I encourage you to wait for a sale!), and the cover to the right is the book form of the course, available on Amazon. When I watched I had to replay early lessons several times to really follow the deep rhetorical analysis, but the magic of the course is in the sentence play Landon invites. My local high school class got a lot out of the exercises several years ago, and I want to share them with you.
You can sample one exercise in the September issue of the WRASSE Line (subscribe at www.writingassessment.com ), enroll in the "Building Great Sentences" course I am offering, or simply request the exercises (with handling fee, via the course link) if you have purchased Professor Landon's book or the video course.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Writing Assessment Services online, I am offering a $20-off coupon good through August for everyone who signs up for the WRASSE Line mailing list. Check the form at the bottom of the page at WritingAssessment.com .
Thirty-four years ago this month I was a 20yo Creative Writing graduate of Florida State University attending a summer crash course to prepare me to teach freshman composition during my graduate career. Two years later, with a fresh M.A. in General Literature Studies, I began teaching all levels of writing full time at Auburn University, and after that I married and taught a bit here and there in community colleges over the years when my children were born. Then twenty years ago this summer I began Writing Assessment Services and have worked with students from grade 5 through college and graduate school and into professional life. But most of my clients have been secondary students the last twenty years.
This fall, though, I have been asked back into the college classroom. I will be a Guest Lecturer for the Grove City College course WRIT 101: Foundations of Academic Discourse. The contract has yet to be finalized, but I passed the background check. :-) This is a very focused course for freshman writers, emphasizing critical thinking and writing for their own disparate disciplines. If you're interested in the fascinating texts we'll be using, the first written by David Hogsette, the Director of the Writing Program, please follow the links below. I'm really looking forward to this return to my teaching roots.
Never fear - I will still be available for private clients through Writing Assessment Services as long as my work load seems manageable. You might want to sign up soon. As I have expanded my work into publishing my own fiction (see RosetteBook.com ), I have also ventured into editing and related author services through Moraine's Edge Books.
Can you tell my youngest child has graduated from high school? :-)
In this Salon piece, "Death to High School English," Kim Brooks, who teaches composition, shares her greatest encouragement in teaching:
[when a student says that] thanks to me, and the hours she herself has put in, she feels as though, in some small way, her writing has improved, or that she knows what she needs to do to improve, or that she can at least envision a future in which she is a better, more confident and more forceful writer of prose, and I tell her that no matter what, no matter how hard it is, she has to keep plowing ahead, because slow but steady progress as a reward for hard work is one of the few things we can count on in this life - if we're lucky, that is - and then I tell myself the same.
For twenty years online I have been basking in such comments, and sometimes watching as my students go on to write for an Ivy league student newspaper, or go to seminary with the promise of writing really good sermons, or even become English teachers themselves. Those are the stars, whose success I may have only a small part in. But for the ones who have a harder time, if I can help them remedy a pesky but debilitating grammar problem, or learn how to structure their writing, or just give them the satisfaction of saying what they mean to say so that others can receive it - those give the greatest satisfaction.
Making a difference, improving someone's writing - that makes this work rewarding. Let me show you how I can help . . .
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Writing Assessment Services online, I am preparing some great offers for the summer and for the coming school year. Watch this space!
I learned in January of a fascinating website, Words with JAM, the ezine for writers and publishers, that features a monthly "Cornerstones Mini Masterclass." A writer submits the first page of a manuscript and Ayisha Malik, Managing
Editor of Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, completes an in-depth critique of that page for
Take a look at the February 2016 post, a critique of Rosette: A Novel of Pioneer Michigan. I thought my students would enjoy seeing me put my own writing under close scrutiny. :-) I added a comment on the site inviting readers to learn more at RosetteBook.com .
Although Rosette was not chosen for publication by Kindle Press,
despite an excellent campaign in December and January, it is now available for purchase!
Click the picture to the left to go to the Rosette website to learn more about the novel, or go directly to Amazon to order a copy for your Kindle. An illustrated paperback version will be available soon. Join the Readers List at the Rosette website to be notified of the best possible deals when it is available.
(Cover painting and design by Betsy Marsch)
Making Your Point: The Persuasive Essay
Monday Mornings January 18 - February 8, 9:00 a.m. Eastern
After a number of fruitful meetings in Fall 2015 doing Writing Workshop for Great Books Essays, now available as a self-study on WizIQ, and then some low-key free online writing workshops on sentence and paragraph imitation, we have taken a break for the holidays. But now it's time to get back to a long-promised workshop series in thesis development.
Making Your Point: The Persuasive Essay (click that link, or find it later on the Online Meetings page of this site) is a free four-week workshop that will take students through brief lessons examining the nature of the essay and of persuasion, with some tools I have devised to help craft a successful thesis. And did you know that an essay with a strong thesis almost writes itself? Come join us and see how it works!
We will spend the first half hour of each meeting doing some fun and easygoing writing workshop activities, and the second half hour talking about whatever you like--my courses, your writing work for me or for other teachers, or whatever occurs to you. If you cannot attend the series, the recorded lessons SHOULD be available on WizIQ, and I will repackage the instructional materials for later availability.
If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments below, and I will be glad to help.