Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Category Archives: The Writing Process

Cooking the Books

Before the end of Monday’s class, you must start the grade abatement process by giving me the score you believe you deserve this quarter. If you haven’t already, you will be required to complete the handwritten portion of the rubric. Any other writing you’ve prepared can be submitted tomorrow or over the ensuing week.

Honesty and accuracy are the most important elements of this process.  Many of you are a 6. Some push into a 7, but the particulars are important: 7 indicates an impeccable work ethic, a strong performance in all aspects of the course, a consistent and reliable approach to metacognition, and so on. Did you keep up with regular reflections on what you learned each week? Did you finish your final essay when you needed to? Have you used every single period in class productively? Did you read everything you were told to in the final series of instructional posts? If not, a 7 is hard to justify.

Getting into the 8 and 9 range is obviously even more difficult, yet that’s where most of you want to be. A reliance on scores of 90+ has been bred into you over a decade of formal schooling. We’ve covered the reasons for this—and the deleterious impact of it—enough this semester, but there is one question worth asking again: How do we reconcile honesty and accuracy in grade abatement with a school culture obsessed with grades?

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Final Salvo, Part 1

The writing that follows looks a bit strange after it’s been reformatted by WordPress; you’ll find it’s difficult to read the footnotes, and some of the miscellaneous presentation is different. I trust you can manage. This is a copy of what was shared with you through Google Drive, and your job this weekend is to read it.

Your job over the next week is to read everything that starts here:

That is last year’s complicated series of posts on the final essay. You obviously have a different kind of assignment, and one divorced from the toxicity of grades; the process is not all that different, however, and there is a massive amount of help to be had in those posts. Lots of it still applies. You might even note that some of the language has, in fact, already been used on you this year.

Your job is to make your way through everything in that series of posts, including the work from your predecessors in AP Language. This is all you need to pull of the writing goal outlined below. You will receive more student models in class. We’ll also go over the final exam and all its attendant stresses next week.

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Classification and Division: Symposium

Update (3/13/13): Here is an outline of what we’ve done and what we’ll be doing. Read it carefully.

Let’s talk about what your job is this week. First, you are going to share your C&D essays with me and the rest of the class, so that we can hold a kind of symposium—leaning, of course, more heavily on the “scholarly discussion” part of the etymology, not the “drinking party” bit.

To pull this together, you need to have a copy of every C&D essay written by your fellow students. The method I am going to give you should work; if it doesn’t, your test is to figure out another method on your own, share it with your peers, and facilitate total, unilateral access to all essays. If you find a more effective method of creating a digital symposium, let me know.

Here is a Google CSV file that you can import into the Contacts section of Google Apps:

Download that file, import it, and then create a contact group with it. When you are ready, you can share your essay with everyone. Be sure to allow your peers to comment on your work, but not to edit.

As you receive access to documents, to organize all the writing into folders so that you can read, review, and comment on as many as possible as quickly as possible. That’s the real goal of the next week or so: Share, comment, and collaborate as a large group. I will guide you through the initial steps of that tomorrow. Be sure your work is shared with everyone, including me, before then.

Oppenheimer ETA: Parallelism with Purpose

Oppenheimer (LIFE Portrait)

On February 21, you took a multiple-choice test on studying the following passage:

The problem of doing justice to the implicit, the imponderable, and the unknown is of course not unique in politics.  It is always with us in science, it is with us in the most trivial of personal affairs, and it is one of the great problems of writing and of all forms of art.  The means by which it is solved is sometimes called style.  It is style which complements affirmation with limitation and with humility; it is style which makes it possible to act effectively, but not absolutely; it is style which, in the domain of foreign policy, enables us to find harmony between the pursuit of ends essential to us, and the regard for the views, the sensibilities, the aspirations of those to whom the problem may appear in another light; it is style which is the deference that action pays to uncertainty; it is above all style through which power defers to reason.

This comes from J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the scientists charged with creating the world’s first atomic bomb.  He was also a student of history and something of a poet; at the moment of the first successful detonation, he was reminded of a line from the Bhagavad-Gita: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”  To Oppenheimer, power wasn’t an abstract concept; watch him here, twenty years after the Trinity test, and notice how deeply his memories seem to move him.

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ETA: Classification and Division

Overview: You will spend the next few weeks practicing emulation through analysis, abbreviated to ETA writing and nicknamed bishop writing. Like the chess piece, you have some restrictions on the direction you move, but only the limits of the board for distance. We are also leaning on the etymology of the noun: Bishop comes from the Greek episkopos, meaning “watcher or overseer,” and you will oversee all elements of the writing process yourself, using the model texts and tools in this post.

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The Midterm

Your midterm will be a two-hour examination on Tuesday, January 22nd. The time and location will be posted in various places around the building.

Part 1: Questions on Rhetoric and Style

Note that you can complete the two parts of this exam in any order you wish. The first section asks you to respond to about an hour’s worth of questions on rhetoric and style on the following text:

You will be given a copy of the formatted Word document; you should also set aside time to read the article in its original, online format, because one or two of the QORAS will deal with those interactive elements. It’s also an excuse to play a video game in the middle of an English class.

As you annotate the text, refer back to this last post on rhetorical analysis. Focus on the DAMAGES-specific commentary in that post. My goal is not to trick you with esoteric terms or oblique analysis; I want to see if you can read, parse, and react to a complicated text. You can do that, by the way. You only need to slough off this idea that rhetoric and style are about dissection. It’s a kind of vivisection, if you want to use that metaphor; the text is alive and breathing, and if you cut into it too deeply or repeatedly, you will kill it. (That is a terrible metaphor. Let’s move on.)

You will be able to use your copy of Anderson’s article on the day of the exam. You will also be able to use any notes you’ve taken in your compendium. It would be a waste of time to copy over a thousand definitions or terms, after all; this is really about your use of time and resources, and you’ll still have to condense that preparation into a session of timed writing.

Part 2: Self-Directed Synthesis Argument

This is the evolution of the original synthesis-building assignment: You will construct a prompt on a subject of your choosing, and then you will write a response to that prompt on the day of the exam. Click here to load the folder with all of the synthesis-related materials:

And click here to load the two most important documents from that Google Drive folder:

You’ll need to use both in concert to develop an effective prompt. Of course, you also have model prompts and a week’s worth of class time; you’ll be able to bounce ideas off of me, your peers, and previous iterations of the AP exam.

More information:

  • You may write the prompt alone or in a group.
  • Your prompt must have six or more sources. One of those sources must be visual (e.g., a graph or political cartoon).
  • Whether you work alone or in a group, you will write an individual timed response on the day of the exam.
  • A copy of the prompt, whether you wrote it alone or with a group, is due on the day of the exam and must be attached to your timed response.
  • You must write your timed response in its entirety on the day of the exam. The suggested time is 45 minutes to write and 15 minutes to edit and revise.
  • You should not write the response ahead of time; you should, however, plan what you will write.

At the start of Q3, on or around January 28th, you must be ready to defend your writing and prompt-building choices and the process of creating both through metacognition and reflection, respectively. This is not part of the midterm, but you should keep it in mind.

One more thing: Watch this video.

Feedback: YVA02 + YVA03

We tackled these questions on rhetoric and style before the winter holidays, and our approach was a bit different: You had the first part of the week to read and respond to the text in class; on 12/20, after you ostensibly completed the questions on rhetoric and style, you were given about 25 minutes to complete two responses. During those 25 minutes, you had to write alone, but you could use any notes you took, including ones prepared by your group ahead of time.

Overall, speed was secondary to preparation. 10-15 minutes is more than enough time to write effective responses to these questions after two days of collaboration with your peers; many of you, however, didn’t focus your efforts during that preparatory time. So let’s just get this out there: When you waste time in class, you perform more poorly on whatever assignment follows.

I took up these responses and scored each holistically out of 100 points. You completed QORAS #4 and QORAS #7; the former asks you to identify and analyze Church’s definition of “real,” and the latter asks you to evaluate the argument as a whole.  (Here is another link to the text, if you’d like to revisit it before reading this post.) Your scores are online only; you’ll need to visit the Portal to check them, after which you should refer to the usual general scoring scale to determine your relative effectiveness.

As with the last set of general commentary, you can earn up to 50% of the deficit in your grade back by writing a thorough reflection on this assignment. This reflection, however, must incorporate application of the commentary in this post to your responses. You must, in other words, explain what you’d fix if you could. Be specific, thoughtful, and honest. Treat the reflection as an explication and as a vehicle for metacognition, not just a rote summary of what I’ve said here, and you will see an increase: A 70 might improve to an 85; an 80, to a 90; a 90, to a 95; and so on. You can only earn up to 50% of the missing points back. Finish this by the time class starts on Friday (1/11), and submit it to me typed and printed.

As for the general commentary that follows: These are approximations of what an exemplary response would contain, so you are applying this understanding to your own work. In other words, this is what an effective response looks like; if you want to earn credit back, however, you need to do more than just repeat what I’ve written here.

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Assignment: Mock Synthesis Prompt (1)

Note: This is just the first part of the assignment. The second part will happen after the break. The caveat, of course, is that waiting until then to prepare all this will give you a bit of a headache; you ought to see what you can cobble together now, because you will need to free up mental space and processing power for what we’ll do on January 2.

Beginning on January 2, you will create an individual synthesis prompt—not an essay response, but the prompt that would generate an essay response. Click below to load the Google Drive folder with all the necessary materials:

You will see sample prompts, a guide to creating your own prompt, a template you can download and edit, and the beginning of a collection of sources. The latter is where you should focus your attention over the break. Note: You should not do any writing yet.

Your job is to find sources that are somehow—directly or indirectly—related to Santa Claus. As you read the guides to this process over the break, keep coming back to your list of sources. Save texts, pictures, and so on; link to websites; share out ideas through Google Groups or over email.

Our focus on Wednesday will be efficacy—the ability to produce a desired effect. That means weighing the sources you’ve gathered against each other in terms of a synthesis-driven conversation. Then we’ll build the prompts together.

Let me know if you have any questions.