Welcome to Top-Down Writing! On this page you will find lecture transcripts, links to videos, and writing activities to assist you as you build your writing technique. Remember: writing is a PROCESS. Knowing the terms and rules is 1/3 of the process, your ideas are another 1/3, and the time you spend revising and editing is the long, final 1/3 of your effort. Although this process works best with a mentor or teacher to assist and offer feedback, ANY student of ANY age may independently use these lessons and activities to strengthen writing skills.
Lesson video: https://youtu.be/NHmXPs8YEgI
There are lots of terms floating around out there about the creation of characters. It helps to review terms like protagonist, antagonist, stock character, foil character, flat, round, static, and dynamic. All of those terms can be defined (and found in the glossary of Top-Down) and they all refer to the kind of character(s) authors use in any genre of fictional or creative writing. Those are great terms to know, but contemporary English writing is about creating characters outside of those boxes. I would recommend finding a character FIRST, then think about those categories later when you are fleshing out your conflicts and plot.
There are also two key ways for an author to reveal his or her characters: direct and indirect characterization. Those terms are also available to you, and you should understand what those mean, but that really applies more to your interpretation of someone else's writing, rather than the creation of your own pieces.
Many writing manuals list consistency, complexity, and individuality as the three most important facets of character building. I agree with that; however, I think looking at examples and jumping right into your own character building is the best way. The fourteen archetypal characterizations that students most commonly see include the following.
To look at characterization, we will read “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett.
Point of View
Lesson video: https://youtu.be/mk-Y5l-JqiE
It was suggested that you envision a character in the last activity. Hopefully, you have been thinking more about that character and some others you could bring into a story. Of course, every selection needs a plot, but before moving that far, you must decide from which point of view you will be writing.
You should be familiar with the points of view, grammatically speaking: first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient. You can easily define these terms, but what is MOST important is WHY an author chooses a perspective.
If the character is in the present and you want your readers to be tightly connected to this character, you should choose first person. When using this point of view, an additional choice to make is about reliability. If there are no plot twists and this is a ‘truthful’ narrative, then your character is the sort of person who is straightforward and honest, but, if you plan on writing plot twists or your character is meant to be the antagonist, then this character may need to suffer from impaired judgement or somehow appear to lack all of the details.
If it is a piece in which you want to involve the reader, like I am with these lessons, you should incorporate second person; however, this is a difficult viewpoint and if you are writing formally, you need to stay WAY away from second person.
Third person limited is best if the genre you will be writing is mystery, suspense, or horror with a narrator. The limited viewpoint will keep your reader guessing about all of your characters’ motives.
Third person omniscient is best only if your selection is action-packed and/or is lengthy with a complicated plotline. This viewpoint will help your reader to better understand what is going on with all of your characters and pushes your reader’s focus toward the action.
Let’s not forget about the literal point of view either! Is the character you are featuring a narrator, antagonist, protagonist, or will the story be from multiple perspectives? Is this character telling the story in the present action, looking back into the past, or weaving in and out?
Read the third person point of view short story, “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury.
Think about the piece. Who are the characters? How would this story change if a different person were telling it?
Read “The Magic Shop” by HG Wells.
This is an example of a first person point of view short story. Think about the piece. Who are the characters? How would this story change if a different person were telling it? Which character do you prefer and why?
Video lesson: https://youtu.be/6LBcRaz66Pg
No matter the characters, plot, or genre, contemporary writing needs to have a basis in reality. To do this, you should build your setting carefully.
At its most basic, a setting is the time and place in which your plot is positioned; however, settings can be as important as a main character. In addition, the setting dictates atmosphere and mood. Although these are defined in the glossary, let’s take a look at why these are so important.
A setting dictates the parameters of the plot, and, when the conflict is the setting, the time and place figures into the plot as an antagonist. There is also MUCH more to the setting than just a role in the introduction. The setting plays a massive role in making your plot seem believable. Settings, especially in nonfiction and realistic fiction, must be detailed and accurate. It will dictate place names, plot possibility, character development, and word choice throughout the entire piece. You need to have been to that place, heavily researched the location, or, if you are writing fantasy or science fiction, have designed every part of the setting from geography to culture to food to language. These things need to be done before you start writing or you risk losing your reader from the first page.
The atmosphere and mood are reflective of the setting: not just the place and time, but the objects, locations, and weather are details throughout the piece. From the setting comes feelings of peace, fear, joy, sadness, or any other adjective you can name. Background information and foreshadow helps build atmosphere as well, but it is imperative to be certain that your chosen setting reflects the intended atmosphere throughout the selection.
Purpose and Conflict
Accompanying video: https://youtu.be/-xETK_YO92M
Some students may think that the most important step to create a story is plot, but this is not true. Characters and setting are important, but so are purpose and conflict.
Overriding purpose is limited to three categories: entertain, inform, or persuade. All fiction and creative nonfiction genres are forms of entertainment; however, it may be that the author is also striving to write a piece that reveals new information and/or pushes readers to feel a certain way about something. Figuring all of this out, helps an author keep everything on track for readers to pick up on these ideas. Specifically, an author’s purpose should be focused and every writer should be able to state (before writing) to whom the selection should directly appeal (audience); in what exact way the piece will entertain, inform, or persuade; and of what lesson every reader should be aware.
Characters’ conflicts go a long way to make these things apparent. The archetypal conflicts include person versus: self, person, society, nature, technology, and supernatural. These are extremely general categories, and every author should be clear which conflicts characters will face AND how these issues will be a part of characterization.
A day when you get up and everything falls into place perfectly is a great day, but it would be a boring story. Characters are reflective of human nature, even if they are not human, and they have weaknesses and/or people and things that are against them. These weaknesses and struggles are what steer everything. The conflict motivates characters, confrontation of the issue builds the climax, and how the problems are resolved (or NOT resolved) forms the resolution of the story.
Style and Tone
Companion video: https://youtu.be/sNdaiFFVkN0
Two last points before getting into the plot are style and tone. Probably the first question is what are examples of those?
Style refers to many things, but most notably: use of punctuation, usage choices, point of view, length of sentences, paragraph structure, use of dialogue, figurative language, sound device, and diction. It is easiest to stick to common stylistic choices like traditional punctuation and usage; first or third point of view; varying but basic sentence structure in concise paragraphs; simple dialogue; common uses of figurative language with little use of sound device; and clear diction. As you gain confidence in writing, you might find that you have a talent with something like dialogue, colloquial diction variations, sound device use, or popping in and out of point of view, but most writers start out following the rules to gain confidence first.
Wrapped into style is tone. As the definition states, tone is the attitude held by the author, but what does that really mean and how is it rolled into style? Most often, tone dictates diction. As an author writes a piece he or she feels a certain way about the characters and plot. If the writer dislikes a character, that tone comes through in word choice used in direct and indirect characterization. If a setting is blissful and magical in a writer’s mind, the word choice used in descriptions will be positive and charming. In this way, how the author feels about what he or she is writing about is conveyed to the reader. Other ways tone will influence style may be associated with formal or informal language and concrete versus abstract usage choices.
The good news is that you don’t have to think about style or tone. You will fall naturally into a style and will instinctually imbed tone into your writing; however, it is important to be aware that these mostly subconscious decisions shape your writing.
Read the short story by Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants.”
Video summary: https://youtu.be/wYqIhLmqtyo
Plot is, at its most basic, comprised of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. In contemporary writing, authors like to use these elements out of order, leave off falling actions, and/or imply the resolution. Authors use flashback, foreshadowing, and frame story elements to keep readers aware of key points they may need in a plot that does not follow a clear pattern or needs extra information not evident in a straightforward story line.
Another set of terms a writer should know about also deals with order and includes chronological, spatial, emphatic, and stream of consciousness. When it comes to fictional writing, chronological and stream of consciousness are most applicable; however, in creative nonfiction, spatial and emphatic are commonly used. As always, these terms in bold should be words you have defined and understand.
Like tone and style, these elements may not need to be a part of the planning stage. Stories generally unfold in chronological order, but you may need to get feedback to fold in flashbacks or other elements to help tell the sort of story you are building for the character and setting you have already created. What you should have clearly in mind are your climax and resolution.
Your climax is important because it is the point of no return and should be how your character faces his or her conflict. Your story must build toward a climax, and that climax should be satisfying to your readers by fulfilling your purpose for your character. You might choose to stop your story at the climax (depending on the genre), but, even then, you should leave hints about what the resolution MAY be even if you leave it off. Before you begin writing, you should already know how the conflict will climax, and what YOU imagine the resolution to be.
One selection that was written with an eye for using plot points to shock the reader is the short story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson.
Literary Elements Selection Assess: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfAXgkUzBpM6nNnRMrxhxB7WeLC3CJYl_iX-lygIcx08TmJIw/viewform?usp=sf_link
Scenes and Tension
Video tutorial: https://youtu.be/cflU3u1G7o4
You have already begun writing scenes. You have setting and character descriptions plus a climax and resolution scene. You may not intend to use all of those things, but, if you have been writing with a plan that is going smoothly, you should be able to use most of your setting paragraph in your exposition, your character descriptions scattered throughout, and your climax scene as the climax although you may change some things as you write your rising action.
Now it’s time to think about what happens between the opening and climactic scene. Some questions to help you include the following. Where does your character go? Who else does your character meet? What conversations do these characters have? What additional information does your reader need about the setting, characters, or conflict?
As you begin filling in your plot via scenes it is important that your details are sufficient and clear. It also helps to write in a way that builds tension. How does an author build tension? Some things that help are building interest in your characters, hinting at possible outcomes via foreshadow and possibly flash-forward, adding interest through flashbacks, creating confrontations between protagonist and antagonist, writing snappy dialogue, keeping your pacing fast without leaving out important details, and avoiding wordiness.
Pacing your story is the most important component of keeping your reader interested. You do this via the considerations just discussed, all of which contribute to your rate of revelation. This means that in a story that is only a few pages, plot points will need to be revealed quickly with any passage of time that occurs summed up or implied; however, the longer your story is the slower and more detailed your plot pacing will need to be.
Instructional video: https://youtu.be/ZBHoPbsGQKc
Now that you have started building scenes, the question of dialogue should be addressed. No matter what genre you are writing, dialogue is most often a necessary tool. Dialogue is important because it gives your story immediacy and connects the reader to your characters. You may be struggling some with the punctuation right now, but don’t let that stop you. We will address proper punctuation with dialogue in the next unit! Right now, you need to include some dialogue in your piece.
Think back again to stories/novels you have read. Was there dialogue? Can you even think of a single selection you have ever read in which there was NO dialogue?
One reason why dialogue is used so often is because contemporary authors work hard to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’. The easiest way to avoid giving a static rundown of events is to have characters talk to one another about what is going on. Even if your character is facing something alone, you might need to generate internal monologue (thoughts a character thinks ‘out loud’).
Symbol and Theme
While working on the story, two additional points must be specified and kept in mind while writing: symbols and theme(s).
Since humans are visual, we are adept at using an image to represent complex concepts. An example are American corporations: most every well-marketed company has a symbol that helps us recognize the product. Take, Nike, for instance. It’s symbol is a check-like swish, and just that image is recognizable in almost every country in the world. Because Nike is a corporation which makes athletic gear, not only should that image call to mind that sort of product, but also everything that goes along with competing and achieving as represented by their slogan, “Just do it.” That one, simple image has become powerful, and you use and subconsciously interpret symbols all day long. You need to make sure that your readers see some symbols in your work to help them navigate your intentions as those symbols can dictate mood, define characters, shape the setting, provide foreshadowing, and drive your theme.
A theme is of utmost importance as well. If you, as a writer, do not have a theme in mind, then your reader will never be able to figure it out. Themes are, at the most basic level, archetypal. There are about fourteen to twenty archetypal themes that are applicable to every piece of literature ever written, but beneath those archetypes are the specifics of what a character, speaker, or narrator learns from the text, thereby enlightening the reader. Be certain your theme is clear to you and your reader.
Juxtaposition: light vs. darkness, water vs. desert, heaven vs. hell, haven vs. wilderness, fire vs. ice, angels vs. demons
Colors: black (chaos, mystery, death), red (blood, passion), green (envy, fertility), white (purity, honesty, innocence), orange (fire, pride, ambition), blue (truth, peace), violet (water, memory, royalty), gold (sun, wealth, truth), silver (moon, protection)
Numbers: three (Mind, Body, Spirit; Birth, Life, Death), four (elements, seasons), six (devil, evil), seven (deadly sins, colors of the rainbows)
Shapes: oval (woman, passivity), triangle (fire, the number 3), square (earth, stability, number four), rectangle (rational, secure), cross (the Tree of life, axis of the world, struggle), circle (Heaven, intellect, sun, the number two), spiral (water, evolution, never-ending)
Objects: feathers (lightness, speed), shadow (our dark side, evil, devil), masks (concealment), boats/rafts (safe passage), bridge (change, transformation), right/left hand (correctness/deviousness), feet (stability, freedom), skeleton (mortality, secrets), heart (love, emotions), hourglass/clock (the passage of time), candle/lightbulb (guidance, inspiration)
Nature: air (creativity, breath, light, freedom), duality (Yin-Yang, male-female, life-death), earth (passive, feminine), fire (passion, protection, hearth), lake (mystery, depth, unconscious), crescent moon (change, transition), mountain (loftiness, ambition, goals), valley (depression, low-points, evil, unknown), sun (hero, knowledge, fire), water (changeability, feminine, tides), rivers/streams (life force, life cycle, transportation), stars (guidance), wind (life, messenger), ice/snow (coldness, barrenness), clouds/mist/fog (mystery, sacred), rain (life-giver), cave (feminine, sacred/supernatural), lightning (intuition, inspiration), tree (tree of life, tree of knowledge), forest (evil, lost, fear)
Video version: https://youtu.be/FY9Yg1R8Zr8
Time to start putting it all together, and adding the details. Be certain that words are used correctly, descriptions are clear, and the piece moves at a pace that engages the reader. A good piece of literature may have hundreds of changes before it is fully polished. Revising is associated with diction, style, format, and clarity while editing refers to grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and spelling. Taking the time to fully go through every line with a careful eye makes ALL the difference.
Informational Research Essay
Instructional video: https://youtu.be/y1M6mv_W1ZE
In order to write a credible nonfiction essay, research should play an important role. It also helps to understand and be interested in your topic; however, unless you are an expert (meaning that you have a degree and/or a full-time, paid profession) in a field associated with your topic, then you must research the opinions of experts and relevant facts such as statistics and true events.
For this assignment, you will choose a topic with which you are already familiar from a list. Then you will complete research limited to the following: a source that is in print (book or periodical), an educational and pre-approved documentary, and an interview which you must conduct. Any final information may be researched online for a minimum of FOUR sources to include a documentary (while watching it, you should write down at least FIVE FACTS you can use in your essay). Next, you should look at home, in a library, and online for a book or periodical that also helps to explain your topic. You should now write down at last FIVE MORE FACTS you could use. Then, think of someone who is either an expert in an associated field or someone who has first-hand experience with your topic. Write out FIVE to TEN interview questions which you will ask, and which answers could be useful in your essay. Lastly, go online for any additional information fillers you might need, being certain to write down at least FIVE FACTS.
Source Notes for Informational Essay: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeIJsddI2TwhsOyxNuoRXs4ZuVRtqyvFjP6pC3ixvS_plYnmQ/viewform?usp=sf_link
B. Background information
C. Definition of terms
II. Body Paragraph One
A. Topic sentence (2nd most interesting point)
B. Quote from source
III. Body Paragraph Two
A. Topic sentence (3rd most interesting point)
B. Quote from source
IV. Body Paragraph Three
A. Topic sentence (4th most interesting point)
B. Quote from source
V. Body Paragraph Four
A. Topic sentence (MOST interesting point)
B. Quote from source
V. Body Paragraph Five (optional)
A. Topic sentence (any additional interesting points)
B. Quote from source
A. Thesis statement
B. Restatement of key points
Informational Essay Outline: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScs7daEHgZvW5-ccPoTfKo2u8OJqn2egVhI3teZ_VKAwssKfw/viewform?usp=sf_link
Rough Draft and Visual Project
Video lesson: https://youtu.be/qtF9-xcUW7Y
Before completing your first draft, take a break. When you go back to the essay, keep an eye out for properly utilizing your sources (which means using something from EVERY source in the essay. This source use and topic clarity will impact your final grade more than any other aspect. Although your first draft is only required to be 1,000 words and be in any format, your final draft will be 1,500 words in strict MLA format.
The most important components of the rough draft include an (1) introductory paragraph, (2) strong thesis, (3) at least four clear points, (4) use of sources, and (5) a strong conclusion.
Using your source notes and the ideas in your rough draft, you should create a visual component (poster, diorama, or video). It must include: title, hook, 4 key facts with 4 relevant images, and thesis. The information must be interesting, brief, and legible. Neatness is imperative and creativity a bonus!
Lesson video: https://youtu.be/izizZP_X7Ec
By now you have worked with your subject for one to two weeks, and you should be well-informed and feel comfortable writing about it. You have completed all research, finished a first draft, and created an explanatory poster. Now it is time to polish your informative essay and make a works cited page.
This 1,500 word final draft must be in MLA FORMAT (https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_general_format.html)
Be prepared to share your document with a partner in class the day the essay is due. You will thoughtfully provide your partner feedback directly ON his or her essay using the "SUGGESTING" edit options AND check off the following revision checklist (see Google Form link below).
(1) introductory paragraph(s) that include(s) a hook, background information, relevant jargon defined, and a thesis;
(2) four to five body paragraphs with clear topic sentences, a sourced quote, and clear details;
(3) properly annotated information from every source;
(4) use of transitional words and phrases;
(5) clear ideas that are easy to follow;
(6) an obvious use of logic and facts;
(7) a subtle use of emotion geared toward a peer readership;
(8) a conclusion with a solid concluding statement, a review of key ideas, and a recommendation on how/why to learn more.
Go back over your partner's document. Be prepared to thoughtfully provide your partner feedback directly in his or her essay via the edit "suggestion" mode AND to check off the following editing checklist (see Google Form link below).
(1) correct spellings;
(2) proper use of punctuation and capital letters;
(3) active sentence structure with agreeing subject/verbs and antecedents/pronouns;
(4) proper paragraph structure;
(5) Times New Roman font, 12 pt;
(6) last name and page #’s in top, right header;
(7) double-spaced throughout;
(8) properly formatted cover and works cited pages.
GOOGLE FORM LINK for activities 26 and 27: https://forms.gle/nRFpTXK7DG1wrAV96
*Be sure to take any advice you would like from your partner and then DELETE ALL OF HIS OR HER SUGGESTIONS BEFORE TURNING IN THE FINAL DRAFT on Google classroom!
Cause/Effect Versus Problem/Solution
Video overview: https://youtu.be/t1q0rwNts0o
Two types of papers that require thinking and planning (both good practices for college and/or careers) are the cause/effect and problem/solution essays. Both papers are great practice for real world scenarios, but the one that may be of most relevance to you depends upon your topic choice. Remember the informational research essay that you wrote during the last activities? Now it is time to revisit that topic and decide which of these two options would be best suited to your topic. Before making a decision, consider what each paper does.
On one hand, the cause/effect paper suggests that there is either a positive or negative situation and that there is an effect relevant to you and your peers. This paper is simply about making readers aware of a set of circumstances and what may be produced because of it. It is implied that understanding the scenario is the bulk of what is necessary.
On the other hand, the problem/solution paper clearly highlights a problem directly relevant to you and your peers and then offers a doable solution. This essay is more of a ‘call to action'. Both papers are informative AND persuasive in nature.
Review your informational paper and all source notes. Examine your topic from as many angles as possible and decide if some angle of the topic lends itself to a cause/effect or problem/solution essay. Here are two questions that might help clear up your choice. Is there an effect from this scenario that you find interesting, scary, or worth more investigation? OR is this topic more of a serious problem for which you have an interesting and actionable solution?
Once you have shifted your topic focus as necessary and made your essay choice, write down a clear and detailed statement that defines the cause or the problem. Then write down a second statement that fully explains the effect or solution. This is your two part thesis statement.
First, get your double thesis approved and edit as necessary. Second, do any additional research needed to clarify your new double thesis. Third, write a formal outline using the example in class. This will help you set up an essay of this type. Turn in your outline to the assignment entry on Google classroom. Fourth, add any additional sources to your informational works cited page, and turn in this updated version to its assignment entry on Google classroom.
Accompanying video: https://youtu.be/43YZEbRaN-E
A word about peer-editing as opposed to self-editing. For essays, it is often required for students to pair up for peer editing because letting someone else read and comment about your writing can be a HUGE bonus to your revisions.
When we write down our own ideas, we don’t usually catch all of our mistakes. Why? Because we know what concepts we are trying to convey. The best revisions and edits we can do ourselves involve two things: taking at least a 24 hour break from an essay AND reading the paper OUT LOUD when making corrections. These two things force us to distance ourselves from our piece and to literally hear how our words sound outside of our own heads.
A reader who is aware of all of the parameters of the assignment, and who understands your content, but has never read any version of your essay, has enough distance to easily notice basic grammar and spelling errors the writer’s mind simply skipped over, to be able to help with transitions and clarity, and to suggest things that are of the most interest to readers. These ideas can be invaluable to your editing process.
Peer editors can use the same edit and revision checklists and/or the grading rubric, but a set of questions usually works even better. This helps focus the edit to the most important points. And here is where the extra positive side of peer editing comes into play: it helps the editor as much as the writer! The students editing learn important things from reading someone else’s work and applying specific questions. They can learn habits they want to emulate, notice mistakes they can be on the lookout to never make, get ideas for their own writing, train themselves to better find errors, and help expand their own thinking to other ideas and to new ways of looking at and writing about topics.
Through a conscious use of editing practices and questions, students writing and editing grow as writers. A part of that is taking editing seriously, addressing all editing prompts/questions with an eye for detail, and making clear comments for errors AND strengths. That is why, you will be required to answer EVERY part of EVERY question. If nothing needs to be changed, then explain what is so great about it. If there aren't any spelling errors, then talk about the strengths or weaknesses of word choice. Writing CAN ALWAYS be better: more clear, more creative, more logical, more impactful…. When you peer edit, you partner to help someone else AND yourself to be a better writer. You want the other person to be truthful and constructive for you, and so you want to provide the same service.
Power of Persuasion
One of the most common forms of writing is the persuasive or argumentative piece. Persuasion plays a role in all fields, and is a part of our writing from scientific debate to academic disagreements to political discourse to civil disobedience and everything in between. Many times, persuasion even slips in between the words in essays written to entertain or to inform.
Persuasive writing topics may have shifted as civilization grew and technology advanced, but the classical triad principles remain the same: ethos (credibility of the author), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic and fact).
If the writer is discredited or appears to be confused about a topic, then the reader will not believe in him or her. To maintain a believable ethos, writers must use clear facts, concise order, and concrete language.
At the same time, writers of persuasion must use a balance of emotion and fact. This balance differs based on topic, purpose, and audience. For instance, scientific or technological topics rely mostly on logos with little to no pathos, while moral or sociological arguments use more emotion than fact.
As students, you are not an expert on any topic yet, so you must be prepared to find credible sources with clear facts. These sources may be well-sourced documentaries, researched and printed books/periodicals, experts in the field, and/or first-hand accounts. Most of these things can be found online, and should be relied upon rather than general knowledge websites. You are writing about the same topic you have written on all of this course, so by now, you should have a great deal of knowledge and several well-credited sources.
Unfortunately, in today’s world of undocumented websites (blogs that masquerade as educational sites, ‘professionals’ with faked credentials, web addresses that closely mirror documented sites, and a plethora of misdirection and myth passed off as fact), finding hard, real-world sources are still extremely important. This is one reason why, we have been building on sources like a documentary, an interview, and sources from specific databases.
There are also a few formats that lend themselves to writing persuasively. For your assignment, it is a good idea to read over these three options and choose the one that works best for you.
Creative: paragraph order is indeterminate and the POV may be first, second, or third. This sort of essay generally starts with an in-depth scenario (usually cause/effect) that serves to dramatically demonstrate the main point. The scenario is generally followed by a paragraph that includes a thesis statement, another set of paragraphs that include logical arguments, and usually the ending of the scenario or another one as a conclusion. If you are not a descriptive writer, struggle with ethos, or do not have a topic that lends itself to heavy pathos, then do not attempt this version.
Strong ending: paragraph order is semi-determined and the POV is strictly third. This essay may begin with an anecdote or scenario. It should have a thesis in a paragraph that follows the opening discussion. Then at least three reasons are presented to argue for the ideas in the thesis statement. These ideas begin with the weakest and end with the strongest. Pathos and logos are equally distributed throughout the essay and a traditional conclusion closes the argument with a restatement/recap of the thesis and reasoning. This is the simplest form of an argumentative essay.
Refutation: paragraph order is strictly determined and the POV is strictly third. The paragraphs follow the following order: a one or two paragraph introduction with a thesis as the last sentence, an explanation of opposing viewpoints, a series of paragraphs (at least three) that address and refute the opposing arguments, and a conclusion paragraph that restates, reflects, or recommends. Logos plays the leading role in this format.
Your persuasive piece will be about a controversial aspect of the topic which you have already researched and written about. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate your ability to make a concise and intelligent argument that fully demonstrates your ability to use pathos and logos. You will be expected to partner for editing and to give a formal speech.
Persuasive Essay Source Notes: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSetOuHR_0HfFL9DTggLfKlvtxmMRkd_uxElkR4S1f68uX8ALA/viewform?usp=sf_link
I. Introduction (may be several paragraphs)
C. Thesis (Do NOT include your assertions)
II. Body Paragraph ONE
A. Topic sentence with assertion one
B. Evidence (facts FROM A SOURCE with citation)
C. Commentary (how you personally feel)
III. Body Paragraph TWO
A. Topic sentence with assertion two
B. Evidence (facts FROM A SOURCE with citation)
C. Commentary (how you personally feel)
IV. Body Paragraph THREE
A. Topic sentence with assertion three
B. Evidence (facts FROM A SOURCE with citation)
C. Commentary (how you personally feel)
V. Conclusion (End on a strong note. Some ideas are: Restate thesis, Reflect about what you learned, and/or Recommend what your readers should do.)
Lesson video: https://youtu.be/cylFwfyWTls
Another skill that goes along with grammar and writing is speaking. Every profession needs people who can communicate clearly and effectively via a plethora of written forms, but there is also an opportunity for someone to stand out as a professional willing to give presentations, hold training, and host meetings. Many people struggle to stand in front of others, whether it is in person or via an electronic platform, so you can distinguish yourself by learning basic speaking skills and practicing until you feel more comfortable.
Probably no student feels excited about speaking in front of his or her peers; however, unless a student has a current and legitimate note excusing him or her due to some form of anxiety, every student will participate.
In its simplest form, a speech is much like a basic essay: it has an introduction, body, and conclusion. Speeches can be extremely structured with word for word notes. A speech can also be more dynamic while following a clear set of prompts, slides, or video. Speaking engagements can also be creative, taking on dramatic interpretation form, the form of a comedic monologue, or even a story-telling format. Lastly, speeches can be impromptu: meaning following a loose plan, but diverging as the topic unfolds.
It is imperative that a speaker (1) stands up straight, (2) looks up at his or her audience, (3) does not fidget, (4) does not repeatedly say things like ‘ahm’, ‘and’, or ‘ah’, (5) has obviously rehearsed the speech, (6) speaks loudly and clearly enough to be heard in the back of the room, (7) moves only with purpose, (8) understands his or her topic, (9) fluently uses relevant and diverse terminology/vocabulary, and (10) can answer questions from the audience. Do NOT assume impromptu will work for you.
Your comfort with speaking and your topic will dictate which method you choose. It is expected to include an introduction with a hook and thesis, four assertions with source use stated as a part of the speech, and a conclusion with a recommendation. Use classmates, other teachers, and family to practice with and to give you additional tips before making your speech or the video of the speech.
PROPOSED SPEECH GOOGLE FORM LINK https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdXqUudRACBxSCwNh0Haup4WBEtQZjJIC5jo3-CHv2_2bDjHg/viewform?usp=sf_link
Video lesson: https://youtu.be/6RDTHgRX8dE
Many students are frustrated with poetry, especially if it's classic poetry with which students see little relevance or which may contain a bevy of archaic or overblown academic vocabulary. I have always argued that although some poems, it's true, may hold little direct relevance, meaning and immediacy are attainable for every student. Poems are, by their very nature, sound and vision rolled into written art.
To understand poetry, and then to write poetry, I suggest we divide the aspects of poetry into four parts.
Ancient poetry began before there were systematic written languages. These early poems were created to be easily memorized and/or to accompany music. These poems are narrative (tell a story) in nature and were created as a method to pass down mythologies, legends, and entertaining tales, most often of heroism. These are what we today call epics. The shorter, more direct version of these, are known as narrative poems. Eventually, the sentence and paragraph form of writing that we call prose took the place of lengthy poem-style tales and histories.
A directly related type of narrative poem is the ballad. This form has evolved to differ from the lengthy and often verbose epic style to tell a simpler tale that was always accompanied by music which could be hummed and sung by the general population. Today, if we say a song is a ballad, whether rock or hip-hop or blues, we mean the words tell a story. Ballads have always been much shorter than epics and generally rely heavily upon rhyme and meter.
As written language evolved and more of the populace became literate, different styles of poetry have become popular. Standardized forms were generally born as a way to challenge those writers who called themselves poets. The largest two overriding categories are blank verse (any type of poetry written with a set meter or rhythm, but withOUT rhyme) and free verse (where no conventions of rhyme or meter are followed, but where other aspects of poetry dominate).
The following are formats that fall mostly outside of the basic free and blank verse spectrum. These each have lengthy histories and casts of writers who found fame as poets. All of these forms make use of lines and stanzas with punctuations and capitalization choices to enhance meaning. Today, we can sum up those forms in very simple terms.
Haiku: Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five; traditionally evoking images of the natural world with one emotion and no rhyme; might be written in a volume of poems that tells a story together, but must also stand alone
Tanka: Japanese poem consisting of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the other seven, making 31 syllables in all; these relate a picture of an event and accompanying mood
Sonnet: a poem of fourteen lines using any of a number of formal rhyme schemes; in English these typically have about ten syllables per line (iambic pentameter), follow the rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg, and may be broken up into three stanza of four lines each with a closing couplet.
Limerick: humorous poems consisting of five lines; the first, second, and fifth lines must have seven to ten syllables; the third and fourth lines should only have five to seven syllables; the rhyme scheme is aabba
Cinquain: five lines consisting respectively of two, four, six, eight, and two syllables; characterized by particularly vivid imagery used for the purposes of conveying a certain mood or emotion
Sestina: a poem with six stanzas of six lines each, ending in a triplet (39 lines total); every six line stanza has the same six words at the line-ends but in six different sequences; all of those six repeating words appear in the closing three-line stanza
Villanelle: consists of five stanzas with three lines each and a closing stanza of four lines (nineteen lines); the first and third lines of the opening tercet recur alternately as the last line of the other tercets; both of those repeating lines serve as the last two lines of the concluding quatrain; rhyme scheme of aba aba aba aba aba abaa
Acrostic: a poem of any length and any form where the first letter of each line spells out a word, message or acronym
Lyric: expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person; may be rhyming, free, or blank verse, but is most commonly less than twenty lines and written in free verse
Spoken Word: written to be a poetic performance; a contemporary oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play such as intonation and inflection
Although this isn't included in many teacher's poetry breakdowns, I think it is of utmost importance and can help students better understand a poem. Although what makes a poem, well, a poem, is its structure (the use of lines and stanzas, its form, sound devices, and figurative language) the real impetus behind a poem is its function. Epics related histories and mythologies, ballads were fun stories set to music, and all the other forms were about writing as competition and prestige.
However, every one of those poems also served a function: to entertain, educate, commemorate, inform, scandalize, politicize, persuade, or share. Poems are famous because they are excellent examples of form, but also because they serve one or several of those functions perfectly. There is a reason why many poets have been historically exiled or imprisoned. If words, in the form of prose, are swords, then poems are crossbows.
When we get right down to reading poetry, it's about two things: how it sounds and the images it creates in our minds. Sound in a poem most traditionally takes the form of rhyme scheme (the ordered pattern of rhymes at the ends of the lines of a poem or verse), rhythm (the meter or patterns of syllables in lines of poetry that cause some poems to have a sing-song or drum-like quality), and repetition/refrain (repetition refers to the repeated use of ONE word while refrain refers to the use of repeated phrases or lines).
When poems do not have rhyme or rhythm, the poet usually relies more heavily on alliteration (obvious repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words), assonance (repetition of the sound of a vowel or diphthong in words in the same line), consonance (any consonant sound repeated anywhere in words that are in close proximity), and onomatopoeia (words that sound like the common sound of the object being described).
The other half of a poem is how it makes the reader feel via language that is not exact nor meant to be interpreted literally and/or via a direct appeal to the reader's five senses, imagery (author's use of vivid and descriptive language to deepen the reader's understanding of the work). The most common forms of figurative language, aside from imagery, include personification (the attribution of human characteristics to something nonhuman), hyperbole (exaggerated statements used to create strong impressions), understatement (a word or phrase which contains an expression of lesser strength than what would be expected), metaphor (a word or phrase denoting one kind of object is used in place of very different object to suggest a likeness), simile (the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind using the words 'like' or 'as'), paradox (a logically self-contradictory statement or a statement that runs contrary to one's expectation, yet states a truth), and idiom (a phrase understood to mean something different from what individual words of the phrase imply).
The following is a checklist to help you use your own knowledge and the four principles explained above for poetry analysis.
Read and summarize (in simple language) the poem.
Decide what, if any, meanings the title of the poem has.
Identify who or what the speaker is and what tone that speaker is conveying to the reader.
Find and explain key symbols and meanings (every poem has at least one that directly illustrates part of the theme).
Determine the poet's purpose and the intended theme of the poem: these may be the same.
Note and identify three examples of different figurative language uses.
Note and identify three examples of different sound device uses.
Write down what else stands out about the form (type of poem and/or numbers of lines and stanzas) and style (use of punctuation, capitalization, quotations, or anything else unique outside of sound device or figurative language).
Rubrics and Glossary
GlossaryAAbstract- describes what you do in your essay, whether it's a scientific experiment or a literary analysis paper. It should help your reader understand the paper and help people searching for this paper decide whether it suits their purposes prior to reading.Adventure- when the plot of a novel is driven by physical action and is usually accompanied by dangerAllegory- an extended metaphor in a work of literature in which a fictional character, place or event is used to represent a real-world issue (Aesop fables)Antagonist- key character in a story who works against the protagonist (Evil Stepmother, Mr. Macgregor) Antithesis- a literary device putting two contrasting ideas together- may also refer to an ending that serves as the opposite expected by the thesisAssonance- intentional repetition of vowel sounds in a sentence or line of poetryAtmosphere- the feelings that a writer is conveying to readers via literary elements like setting, diction, and foreshadowingAutobiography- portrays the experiences and key events occurring in the life of the person who is the authorAudience- the readers an author wishes to appeal to; a writer should be able to clearly define his or her intended audience ( such as age, region, culture) before writingBBiography- portrays the experiences and key events occurring in the life of a person who is not the authorCClimax- the point of no return in a plotline- the times during which characters directly face the consequence of choice and conflictCharacter archetypes- characters that appear commonly in literature from every genre, era, and culture such as hero/heroine, trickster/seductress, faithful companion/caretaker, outsider/outcast, rugged individualist, shrew/scrooge, innocent/orphan, monster/villain, teacher/mentor, rebel, misfit/misunderstood person, father figure/mother figure, scapegoat/under-dog, and star-crossed loveComplexity- writing that has depth of meaning and plot intricacies that are clear, but multifacetedConflict- the problem in a story that drives the plot: Person versus self, person versus person, person versus society, person versus nature, person versus technology, person versus supernaturalConsonance- intentional repetition of consonant sounds in a sentence or line of poetryConsistency- clear writing that is free of irregularity or contradiction Creative nonfiction- employs creative literary techniques usually associated with fiction or poetry to relate factually accurate narrativesDDetails- using the five senses to bring writing to lifeDialogue- technique in which writers employ two or more characters to be engaged in conversation with one anotherDiction- word choice, particularly in reference to connotationDirect characterization- the description of a character’s traits via adjectives and direct information about a character (Mrs. Smith is a very friendly neighbor.)Drama- writing that is intended to be represented by actors on a stageDynamic character- whether round or flat, this character changes significantly (Cinderella, Nutkin) Dystopia- fictional writing used to explore social and political structures in a near-future realm where all recognizable forms of order have failed and the general populace is ruled by either anarchy or a totalitarian regimeEEpilogue- a concluding section that rounds out the plotline by offering closure to an unfinished plot pointEthos- the quality of a work which produces a high quality impression and resonates with the author’s credibilityExposition- introduces background information, settings, and characters which a reader needs to understand the plotlineFFalling action- wraps up loose ends in a plotline and leads toward possible closureFantasy- speculative fiction set in a fictional universe that generally includes supernatural elements or invented creatures that cannot exist in the real world Fiction- prose that is written using completely or partially imagined characters, plot, and/or settingFigurative language- when a writer uses a word or phrase that does not have its normal everyday, literal meaning (see metaphor, simile, hyperbole, understatement, paradox, personification, idiom, oxymoron)Flat character- there is either not much about the character in the selection either because there aren’t many details or the character is so minor (Prince Charming, Flopsy)Foil character- a character who is friends with a main character, but has such a different personality that he or she makes the differences between them more evident (Little Red Riding Hood to Hunter)GGenre- literature characterized by a specific form, content, and styleGrammar terms- use the Write Source textbook as a glossary and guideHHistorical fiction- writing that must consider critical elements such as character, dialogue, setting, theme, plot, and conflict while maintaining some historic fact and the relevance of all of those pieces to an historic figure, place, and/or event Horror- speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle readers- the central conflict is most often a metaphor for the larger fears of societyHyperbole- an exaggerated description for the sake of emphasis (hungry as a horse)IIdiom- word combinations with a figurative meaning that differs from the literal definition of each word or phrase (“kick the bucket”)Indirect characterization- when information about a character is shown through actions, speech, and appearance (Mrs. Smith baked a pie and took it to greet her new neighbors.)Individuality- qualities that distinguish one character from another within a written piece as well as an author’s unique style and voiceJJuxtaposition- device writers use to portray characters in detail, to create suspense, and to achieve a rhetorical effect by showing the contrast between concepts, places, or charactersKKenning- a stylistic device derived from Norse poetry in which a two-word phrase is used in place of the traditional one word noun (“whales home” for “sea”)LLiterary elements- natural features of verbal and written storytelling that can add meaning to any form of literatureLogos- a literary device that can be defined as a statement, sentence, or argument used to convince or persuade the targeted audience by employing reason or logicMMemoir- a factual collection of memories that an individual writes about public or private, events that took place during the author’s lifeMetaphor- a comparison of two dissimilar objects or concepts which helps illustrate a point or describe an image (he is my rock)Monologue (internal)- technique that shows the flow of thoughts going through a character's headMood- the emotional feelings evoked by the atmosphere in a literary pieceMystery- plot that actively engages readers in trying to piece together the narrative thread with mysterious plot twists- most often characterized by a strong hook, misdirection, suspenseful dialogue, descriptive mood and language, and well-structured chaptersNNarrative hook- opening a story in a way that grabs the reader’s attentionNarrator- the speaker or ‘voice’ from whose viewpoint is used in telling the story, poem, essay, etc...Nonfiction- prose that is written using entirely real life characters, plot, and settingOOnomatopoeia- a word whose pronunciation sound similar to the sound it represents (snap, roar, whine)Oxymoron- a figure of speech in which two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect or to accentuate imagery (“living death”, “jumbo shrimp”)PParadox- a statement which appears to contradict itself in order to draw attention to the image or point (“death shall die”)Pathos- a means of awakening people’s emotions in order to sway their opinion towards that of the author or speakerPersonification- giving human characteristics to inanimate objects or other living creatures that are not susceptible to common human behavior (leaves dancing in the breeze)Plot- the events which comprise a story; generally divided into five key parts: exposition (introduction that grounds the reader in the who, what, when, where and introduces character conflicts), rising action (all events that occur because of conflicts), climax (the point at which a character faces his or her conflicts), falling action (additional facing and ordering of events and conflicts by characters), denouement or resolution (an ending for all conflicts which may be described or suggested) Poetry- rhythmic speech or writing that is most often written using lines and stanzasPoint of view- the perspective from which prose or poetry is written: first person is when the key character relates the events from his or her perspective by using first person pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘we’ (allows the reader to have a more personal connection to the character and for the writer to embed hidden plot points and to distort narrator reliability); second person uses second person pronouns such as ‘you’ and ‘your’ to either have the narrator refer to secondary characters or to address the reader using imperative mood (is used often in dialogue regardless of the overall point of view; the imperative use of you is used regularly in nonfiction, but rarely in fiction because it is difficult to maintain and may infringe upon a reader’s own perspective); third person limited is when the narrator relates the events from another character’s perspective and sometimes alternately through different character’s perspectives by using third person pronouns such as ‘he/she/they’ (keeps readers from being as personally involved with the characters for narration or plot purposes); third person omniscient is a method of writing in which the reader is aware of all key character's thoughts and feelings (this helps develop multiple characters and drives lengthy and/or complex plots)Prologue- narrative prior to the first chapter that often occurs in a different time and place than the rest of the text, but contains important background plotProse- ordinary speech or writing that is written using traditional sentence and paragraph structureProtagonist- key character in a story for whom the reader is expected to be empathetic to (Snow White, Peter Rabbit)Purpose- the reasons an author chooses genre, writes the selection in the style he or she does, and addresses a specific audience; at an archetypal level there are only three reasons: to entertain, to inform, or to persuade; on a personal level there may be a myriad of reasons, but every author should have defined those reasons before writingQQuatrain- a stanza with four lines of poetryQuery- a formal letter sent to editors, agents, publishers, or companies in order to propose writing ideas, to ask for submission guidelines, or to inquire about acceptance policiesRRealism- as a literary element, this term applies to fictional writing that has fictional elements that have a strong base in reality; in such literature everything from the setting and diction to characters and plot directly reflect the time and geography upon which they are based Realistic fiction- setting, plot, and characters resemble real life with continual accuracyRefrain- a phrase, line, or sentence repeated purposely in a work of literature or poetryReliability- in literature this generally applies to the narrator and is based upon the credibility of perspective, events, and, when applicable, sources; choosing to write from the perspective of an unreliable narrator opens the door for a writer to posit and antithesis and/or surprise plot pointsRepetition- a single word or sound repeated throughout a work of literature or a poemResolution- the solution of the conflict driving a plotline- may be directly stated or simply impliedRising action- relevant incidents that create suspense, fill in the details, and build tension in a plotlineRomance (contemporary)- a novel with the primary focus on relationships and romantic love- is generally characterized by long standing plot conventions that include a ‘meet cute’, a misunderstanding, and an optimistic resolutionRound character- there is a lot of information about the character, either because the character is complex and/or a main character (Belle, Little Mermaid)Rhythm- expressed through the use of stressed and unstressed syllables in order to give a poem a sing-song or beat-like qualityRhyme- correspondence of vowel sounds in words or phrases, especially in stressed syllables and at the ends of words (miraculous, fabulous)SScene- a sequence where a character or characters engage in some sort of action and/or dialogue within a specific settingScience fiction- speculative fiction most often associated with imaginative concepts related to science and technology, spaceflight, time travel, and extraterrestrial lifeSetting- the environment in which a story, drama, or scenario is placed; includes background, circumstances, time, place, and atmosphere (might initially be introduced in the exposition, but settings may fluctuate and so setting descriptions should be scattered throughout a piece)Simile- using the word ‘like’ or ‘as’ to compare two dissimilar objects or concepts which helps to illustrate a point or describe an image (hot as lava)Sound device- used by poets to convey and reinforce the meaning or experience of poetry through the skillful use of sound (see alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, refrain, repetition, rhythm, rhyme)Static character- whether round or flat, this character does not change in any significant way throughout the story (Seven Dwarves, Mrs. Cottontail)Style- the author's word choice, sentence structure, figurative language, and sentence arrangement all work together to establish mood, images, and meaning in the textSymbol- an image which signify ideas and qualities imperative to understanding a literary selectionSymbolic archetypes- symbols that appear commonly in literature from every genre, era, and culture such as lightness vs. darkness, civilization vs. wilderness, fire vs. ice, colors, umbers (3, 6, 7, 9, 12), shapes (triangle, square, circle), shadow, masks, bridge, feet, wings, heart, dove, skeleton, clock, air, earth, fire, water, moon, sun, stars, lightning, forest...TTension- keeping the reader in suspense while the protagonist's fate is unknown and/or under threatThematic archetypes- themes that appear commonly in literature from every genre, era, and culture such as struggle with nature, survival of the fittest, coming of age, power of love, loss of innocence, disillusionment with life/self, effects of progress and the power of nature, alienation and tolerance of the atypical, good overcoming evil, revenge, great journey/quest, noble sacrifice, fate versus free will, and battleTheme- a universal idea, lesson, or message explored in a work of literature- the critical belief the author is implying via the speaker, character, plot, and/or conflictThesis- a statement in a nonfiction or fiction work that a writer intends to supportThinking maps- visual and verbal learning tools that in literature that is most often used to help writers to organize thought, plot points, backstory, and character developmentTone- attitude of a writer toward a subject or an audienceUUnderstatement- a description that intentional downplays a situation (saying “it’s just a tiny stain” after your shirt is completely drenched in ketchup)VVignette- a short but powerful scene that focuses on one moment in a plotline