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Shakespeare 423

College Writing II

Intensive Writing Lab

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Kolb essay exercise

After reading Rachel Kolb’s response to David Brooks, please answer the following questions in detail:

1. Describe the strength and weaknesses of Kolb’s argument.

2. How does her piece use logos? Give examples and explain why.

3. Describe Kolb’s intended audience.

4. Why is Kolb’s analysis and argument persuasive? Give examples.

5. Describe the organization of the piece. How does it move from beginning to end? How does it develop its argument?

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Essay 1 Freewriting Exercise


  1. What is the argument and why is it being made today?
  2. Who is the audience? Who cares? Why?
  3. Who does the piece not speak to? Why?
  4. What bias do you find in the piece? How does it influence the argument?
  5. How does the piece work? How does it build its argument? How does it construct a beginning, middle, and end?
  6. What is the intended result of the piece? What action ideally will follow?
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Essay 2 Peer Response

Here is the Peer Response worksheet we will use for Essay 2.


For our second peer response exercise we will focus on the particular demands of the assignment. Please read the paper carefully, noting wherever you find errors, strengths, questions, etc. Then, on a separate piece of paper, write specific responses to each of the following prompts. You will be graded on your participation and contribution to your writing partner, so please be generous with feedback and work hard at giving specific suggestions.

  1. Evaluate the thesis. Is it specific, debatable, original – in what way? How might it be strengthened? Are there any categories or terms that might be broken down into more discrete parts? Can you imagine an opposing view?
  2. Describe the organization. Does it progress smoothly from beginning to end? Does the conclusion simply repeat the intro, or does it offer a larger view and suggest further applications of the argument? Does each paragraph clearly have a topic and purpose, and do the paragraphs follow a logical order. Describe how they do, or how they might do so in a more satisfying way.
  3. Reflect on uses of evidence. How well does the paper incorporate the research? Are quotations used to support the author’s argument? Do quotes appear as simply dropped in the paragraph, or are they surrounded by the author’s context and argument?
  4. How well does the paper connect to larger conversations? Can you find the purpose of the paper, and is it convincing?
  5. Does the title introduce the argument well? Is it specific or is it generic? How might it serve its purpose better?
  6. What additional feedback can you offer your writer? What aspects did you especially like and want more of? How does it alter your thinking or make you reconsider what you previously understood?
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Essay 1 drafting process

As you prepare your initial observations for draft form, I offer some questions to help you shape your response and dig deeper into your chosen piece.

  • What is the subject of your piece; is there more than one? Why?
  • What does a reader need to know in order to follow and evaluate the piece?
  • Note how the writer makes use of pathos, logos, and ethos. Why does the writer rely on one more than another?
  • Who is the audience for the piece (be specific); who is not? Why?
  • What is the hoped for outcome of the piece? What has to happen in order for the outcome to be achieved?
  • How does your piece make use of its medium? If the argument was made in a different outcome, would the argument need to change, subtly or otherwise?
  • Describe the structure of the argument: how does it progress, and why?
  • What evidence does the piece rely on; what evidence is lacking? What further evidence could the piece use?
  • What reasons does the author use? Are there others? Do the reasons satisfy?
  • What is the opposing argument to the piece? What reasons and evidence does the counter-argument rely on?
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Essay 3 Assignment Sheet

Essay 3: Narrative

Due 8/14 via Blackboard

For our second paper each of you will write a Narrative essay. Using your textbook’s guide (pages 126-33), select a suitable event you will discuss and describe in 3-4 pages. The more specific your event is, the more you attend to the narrative’s shape and its purpose, the more you will get out of this assignment.

Read carefully the essays in Chapter 5. I strongly recommend you analyze how each author organizes the narrative, chooses details, understands audience, and articulates the essay’s purpose. Any decent narrative essay answers one fundamental question: what happened? The mark of a successful narrative essay, however, lies in its organization.

We will discuss in class how the Narrative essays work and how they create a compelling story by providing the who, what, when, how, and why. We will consider how the narrator either is or is not part of the story; we will watch how authors create tension and characters to devise a plot. We will find the purpose to the essays and how the audience is ideally different after reading the narrative.

Once again, your topic is your choice. If you are having trouble finding an event, use the textbook’s advice (126-27) and make ample use of free-writing. Wander through your history and memories; seek moments that have stuck with you and ask why they have done so. There is almost always a good story in those moments, and they often have a useful purpose.

Be sure to explore the “Templates for Describing” on pages 128-29. Most academic and non-fiction writing relies on preexisting templates: readers expect these and they provide students with a guide to presenting their thoughts. As with learning a sport or musical instrument, beginners learn basic moves to build a foundation. Once you become competent, you then adapt these forms to suit your own skills and personality. The same is true of writing, and I encourage each of you to make use of these templates, at least in the beginning of the writing process.

What a successful paper will accomplish:

The goal of this Unit is to produce a three- to four-page paper, using a 12-point font, double-spacing, and one-inch margins, with minimal errors. The first page will have your name, “Essay 3,” your title, and then your paper – nothing else. Please number your pages. The paper must be uploaded to our Blackboard site by the beginning of class on the 14th.

A successful essay will:

  • describe in detail what happened in a particular event or sequence
  • construct a plot with conflict, tension, and characters
  • offer an original viewpoint of the event and organize the paper to reinforce that dominant impression
  • make the essay’s purpose or reason clear to the audience
  • make excellent use of details to describe the setting, participants, time, and feelings
  • demonstrate careful revision by attention to grammar, spelling, syntax, and organization

This assignment will help you practice gathering and incorporating observations into a coherent narrative. Specifically, the paper will help you:

  • learn free-writing to discover your topic and thoughts on a subject
  • practice the writing process, from initial brainstorming to final revisions
  • identify a proper organization for your event
  • construct a claim for your subject and support it with details and analysis
  • identify the purpose to why recalling an event matters and how the audience should think differently after reading about this experience
  • refine grammar, mechanics, and style

Evaluation Rubric:

I will use the following categories and points to determine your grade for Unit 1:

Narrative exercise 15
2 page draft 20
Peer review 20
2 “For Writing” exercises from 2 different essays 20
Final Draft 60
Participation 10
Conference 20

I will use the following rubric to assess your final draft (each category is worth 10 points):

  • Main Point: Does the essay articulate a reason or payoff to considering the narrative? Does its scope match the size of the paper?
  • Organization: Does the paper have a clear beginning, middle, and end, and does it progress appropriately? Does it help its reader by making clear the point of each paragraph and how each supports the larger argument? Does each paragraph transition smoothly to the next?
  • Details: Does the paper use relevant and vivid descriptive and figurative language? Can the reader visualize the event beyond superficial generalities? Does the paper use relevant descriptions?
  • Plot: How well does the paper create tension and conflict? How effectively does the paper describe characters?
  • Style: Is the essay without grammatical or stylistic error? Is there proper use of punctuation? Is the syntax solid or does the reader get confused with cumbersome sentences?
  • Title: How effective is the title in opening the discussion and introducing the argument? Is it original, insightful, controversial, or witty? Does it accurately represent the contents of the essay?
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Reverse Engineering Exercise

One of the best ways to understand how something works is to take it apart. This is what I want each of you to do with two of the essays we have read for Unit 2 (pages 363-411). Well-wrought essays have a specific shape and organization that support their meaning. They have a clear beginning, middle, and end, and they logically progress from one paragraph to the next. The reader has no trouble understanding the purpose of each paragraph and how it relates to the larger structure.

For this assignment, I ask that you pick two essays and break it down into its individual pieces. Many of us in high school were asked to create outlines before writing the actual essay; here, I am asking you to pull the outline out of the already-written piece. This will offer us an opportunity to see more precisely how an essay works and why it is successful.

To begin: pick your essays and reread them to make sure you understand them well. Take notes on what the purpose of the essay is, how it works, what kinds of evidence it uses, and why it matters to larger conversations (in other words, how does it connect to subjects or discussions beyond the essay’s immediate subject).

Then count the number of paragraphs. This will be the minimum amount of entries you will have in your outline. If the essay had only four paragraphs, you would type the following:


After each Roman numeral, you will write the main point of the paragraph. Be specific and details. Do not simply write “introduce topic” for the first paragraph. Describe what it introduces and how it does so. If you wish to break down the paragraph into subsections, you may do so. Remember, however, that the goal in this exercise is to get an arial view or x-ray of the basic structure of the essay. To that end, do not dive too deep into details.

This may be difficult for many of you, and it is a tough exercise if you do not regularly consider the purpose of your own paragraphs and how they work. This takes practice, but it is crucial to developing your writing skills and thriving at the university level. It will also strengthen your critical reading skills.

We will work in class with examples from other sections of your textbook.

This is due Friday, via Blackboard. It should be typed with your name on top.

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essay 1 workshop

Please write thoughtful, detailed, and honest responses to the following questions on your Essay 1 draft. The more sincere work you do here, the easier revising your draft over the next two days will be.

1. What is the main point of your essay? Is it an interesting point? Why?  How might you revise your essay’s main point?

2. Evaluate your organization. Why does it have the shape that it does? How do you move from beginning to end and offer your audience a sense or progress and movement? Are the paragraphs in the proper order; how might they be revised?

3. How well do you make use of details in your essay? Do you go into depth, or do you rely on superficial or obvious characteristics? Are there different vantage points you can use? Where can you add more detail or strengthen the detail you already have?

4. Does the essay connect to broader issues or larger conversations? How? What do you want your audience to think differently about after reading your essay? Have you met your goal?

5. What will you need to do to make sure your essay is without stylistic or grammatical errors?

6. How well does your title introduce your topic? Is your title bland, obvious, simple, or flat? Or is your title daring, argumentative, creative, or alluring? How might you revise your title to excite or challenge your reader?


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Essay 1 Presentation

For your presentation on your essay subject, we will use a new format called PechaKucha. It is a presentation that relies on using images, 15 images in 5 minutes, to present to class your Essay 1 subject and your approach to it. The fun and challenge to this format is that it requires you to offer short, focused comments with the help of an image that lasts only 20 seconds. The trick is to pick the right images and to rehearse before you present. Your presentation can be as imaginative as you wish so long as it centers on your Essay subject and the work you did with it.

The Steps: 

1. Download the powerpoint template. If you do not have powerpoint on your machine, or don’t have access to the campus computer labs, you can use the free Google Docs site to open and edit the template. I have preset the template to advance automatically every 20 seconds. All you need to do is paste images in each slide.

2. Find images. You’ll likely have your own images of your place, object, or person. But you’ll want to find photos that are less literal and more expansive to help you discuss your subject. The easiest place to find images is via Flickr. Be sure to search for images that are licensed for Creative Commons – a helpful site to find these is http://compfight.com. (The top photos usually require money; the lower images are free to use.) Use broad and creative search terms. The more imaginative you are at this step, the more engaging your presentation will become. And as you search for and play with images, this process may help you refine the thinking you’ve already done on your Essay 1 draft. Important: images may not be used more than once.

3. Find a suitable order. After you gather your 15 slides (and maybe a few more as potential substitutes), consider your organization. Just like your essay, your presentation needs to have a beginning, middle, and end; it needs to project an overall point. Therefore, set your slides carefully and try to attend to your audience’s needs. What does someone not familiar with your subject need to know first? How will you prioritize your points and images? Where do you want to take your audience?

4. Practice. Your slides will only contain pictures – no text at all – so you’ll need to provide the context and meaning for each slide. This is not easy and requires practice. You’ll want to have a firm sense of purpose for each slide: what does it represent; how does it relate to your subject; what meaning are we to take away from it? This all needs to be done in 20 seconds, so there’s no room for digression or babble. You want each slide to have a focused, fun response, and you’ll only be able to accomplish this if you practice.

5. Present. The presentation is due the same day as the essay (7.19). Please either save your presentation on our Blackboard site; from here you will later find your grade. There will be no excuses accepted for missing or malfunctioning presentations; there are no make-up days for this work. Please be sure to test your presentation and have a back-up copy either on a flash drive or stored safely online.

* I will use the following rubric to grade your presentations. Please review it carefully before working on your presentation.


Use the following links for more information and examples. Remember, however, these are more polished than our class requires. What I ask is that students use the format to discuss their Essay 1 topic and to demonstrate how they described the subject. Stay focused on the essay’s purpose.

Examples from PechaKucha.org: http://www.pechakucha.org/watch

Paul Baron’s “Guide to Better Presentation Skills” – http://www.aqworks.com/en/blog/2007/07/03/pecha-kucha-nights-guide-to-better-presentations-skills/

For this assignment I have borrowed liberally from Michael Ullyot’s teaching blog: http://ullyot.ucalgaryblogs.ca/2012/12/15/the-pechakucha/

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Description Feedback

On a separate piece of paper, write your responses to the following questions for each author in your group. Try to be as thorough and specific as you can. Generous responses will not only help your partners, but they will inevitably help your own draft.

1. What abstract subject(s) are being described with concrete details? Do the details match the subject? What details are missing, would you like to hear more about?

2. Which senses does the description utilize? What other senses might the author use?

3. Is the description subjective or objective, or both? How so?

4. What vantage point does the description offer? What other vantage points might the author use?

5. What is the point of view of the description? What dominant impression does the point of view add up to?

6. How does the description proceed? Are there alternative ways to proceed you can think of that might be more helpful and have more impact?

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Description Exercise

First, read pages 59-70 in The Norton Sampler. Then, pick a place or a person or an object that is of interest to you. Take care to choose a subject worthy of attention and interest, something that you can describe and analyze for three to four pages (for guidance, see pages 63-64). You may begin to write on one subject and discover after some time that the subject does not fit your needs. That is okay. But spending some time thinking carefully about your topic will save you frustration later.

For our first assignment, you will be asked to type a one-page description of your subject. To get there, I recommend the following steps:

  • Use paper rather than a machine for the initial exploratory writing
  • Sit in your spot or quietly reflect on your topic for a few moments before writing
  • Set a timer for 20 minutes and allow yourself to write non-stop on your subject; write down whatever comes to mind and do not stop until the buzzer
  • After you have warmed up, now try to fire off as many questions as you can muster Try strange, inverted, unlikely questions. Ask basic, seemingly silly questions and genuinely try to answer them
  • Shift vantage points
  • After you have accumulated some raw material, take some time to let it settle
  • Reread your material and circle or underline worthwhile bits
  • Construct a list of reoccurring themes, or connections, or opposites, or problems; try to build from this list a sense of purpose to your writing
  • Type into a computer your initial draft, keeping in mind your sense of purpose and your organization.
  • Print it out and revise
  • Repeat as necessary

Please bring to our next class 2 copies of your one page draft. The draft should have only your name at the top, a short title, and then your paragraphs. The paper should use 1-inch margins with a 12 point font, and it should have no wasted space. Late assignments will not be accepted.

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