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A Student Guide to. Writing ON DEMAND. Strategies for High-Scoring Essays. Anne Ruggles Gere Leila Christenbury Kelly Sassi. HEINEMANN Portsmouth, NH

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A Student Guide to Writing ON DEMAND Strategies for High-Scoring Essays Anne Ruggles Gere Leila Christenbury Kelly Sassi HEINEMANN Portsmouth, NH Heinemann A division of Reed Elsevier Inc. 361 Hanover
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A Student Guide to Writing ON DEMAND Strategies for High-Scoring Essays Anne Ruggles Gere Leila Christenbury Kelly Sassi HEINEMANN Portsmouth, NH Heinemann A division of Reed Elsevier Inc. 361 Hanover Street Portsmouth, NH Offices and agents throughout the world 2006 by Anne Ruggles Gere, Leila Christenbury, and Kelly Sassi All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. The author and publisher wish to thank those who have generously given permission to reprint borrowed material: Excerpt from The House on Mango Street. Copyright 1984 by Sandra Cisneros. Published by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., and in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf in Reprinted by permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York. All rights reserved. Prompt from the Illinois State Board of Education. Copyright 2005, Illinois State Board of Education, reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. Prompts from the Delaware Department of Education, reprinted by permission of the Delaware Department of Education. Rubric for the ACT Writing Test, reprinted by permission of ACT, Inc. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data [t/k] Editor: James Strickland Production editor: Sonja S. Chapman Cover design: Catherine Hawkes, Cat & Mouse Compositor: Tom Allen/Pear Graphic Design Manufacturing: Louise Richardson Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper VP For all our students, present and future, who face high-stakes writing tests. Contents Acknowledgments ix Part One: Getting Ready for the Timed Writing Test Chapter 1 Facing Your Fears 1 Chapter 2 Facing the Test 8 Chapter 3 Using Literature to Write 16 Chapter 4 The Power of the Sentence 32 Chapter 5 Using What You Can Already Do 46 Part Two: Writing for the Test Chapter 6 Analyzing Prompts 58 Chapter 7 What to Expect When You re Expected to Write 77 Chapter 8 Specific Tests and Expectations: ACT, SAT, AP, and State Tests 96 Chapter 9 Writing Beyond the Test 116 Appendix A Web Sources for AP, SAT, and ACT 125 Appendix B Chapter Five Possible Responses for Comparison 126 Appendix C Chapter Six Possible Responses for Comparison 128 Appendix D Chapter Seven Possible Responses for Comparison 132 Appendix E State Writing Test URLs 133 Acknowledgments Many people helped shape this book, and we are grateful to all of them. Teachers with whom we have worked helped us understand the challenges of writing tests more fully and convinced us that a student guide would be helpful. Students who shared their work with us and talked with us about their experiences with high-stakes writing tests taught us a great deal. Our editors Jim Strickland and Sonja Chapman provided a wonderful mixture of critique and support. Thanks to everyone. vii 6 Analyzing Prompts Well, I read it, then read it again, then again cause there was one essay where I did horrible cause I read the question wrong and then I ended up answering something else that I wasn t supposed to. SID I get into this zone where I m really focused on the prompt, and I tune out all the noise and the other students and the pressure. If you reread the prompt and really think about the poems, your body relaxes. Also, I try to block out everything except the prompt. I don t think about what people are doing on the weekend or the prom or anything. Make the prompt your world for twenty minutes or so. MAYA If timed essays are like track races, then prompts are like event namesthe 100-yard dash, the 440 relay, the long jump. Unlike the track star who approaches the starting line with a strategy in mind for the race in which he or she is competing, when you sit down at the start of a timed writing test, you don t even know the prompt. You have to show up at the starting line prepared to perform a variety of writing tasks the expository essay, the persuasive essay, the compare and contrast, and so on. To help you prepare, let us give you a quick definition of a prompt before we go any further. A prompt is something said or suggested to incite to action, or to help the memory. In this chapter, we ll give you the strategies to contend confidently with the challenges presented by prompts. Our back story starts in 1866 when Alexander Bain, a Scottish rhetorician, wrote English Composition and Rhetoric, which described what we know today as the four modesexposition, description, narration, and argument (a handy acronym for remembering them is EDNA). You may have been asked to write one or more of these types of essays in your English class. Exposition: written to inform the audience Description: written to describe something Narration: written to tell a story Argumentation: written to persuade the audience to the position promoted 58 Why is it useful to know these terms? Well, many writing-on-demand prompts refer to the modes, and you will be more comfortable responding to those prompts if you Chapter 6MAnalyzing Prompts 59 know what conventions the mode calls for. To help you analyze or take apart prompts, we ll use our secret weapon: the Prompt Analysis Questionsor, as To help you analyze, or we like to call them, the PAQs. take apart prompts, we ll use our secret weapon: the Prompt Five PAQs Analysis Questions The PAQs help you become a close reader of prompts, which will help you avoid or, as we like to call the rookie mistake that Sid mentions at the beginning of this chapter. Of course, them, the PAQs. prompts vary radically in the types and amount of information they provide about the kind of writing expected, so it may not be possible to answer every question for each prompt or assignment. However, learning to ask and answer a series of questions about the claim/topic, audience, purpose/mode, strategies, and role helps you figure out what is required and generate ideas for meeting that requirement. With that in mind, we offer the PAQs below to help you unlock the secrets of any prompt. Each of the five questions can be amplified by additional questions. These questions recur throughout this chapter and the rest of the book because we have found them particularly useful for understanding prompts and assignments. PAQs 1. What is the central claim/topic called for? Do I have choices to make with regard to this claim/topic? Will I need to focus the claim/topic in order to write a good essay? What arguments can I make for this claim? What do I know about this topic? 2. Who is the intended audience? If named specifically, what do I know about this particular audience? If the audience is implied or not identified, what can I infer about it or them? In either event, how might the expectations of this audience affect my choices as a writer? 3. What is the purpose/mode for the writing task? Is the purpose stated or must it be inferred? What is this writing supposed to accomplish (besides fulfilling the demands of the prompt/assignment)? What does the goal of this writing suggest about the mode (narration, exposition, description, argument) or combination of modes that I should consider in responding? 4. What strategies will be most effective? What does the purpose/mode suggest about possible strategies? Of the strategies I am comfortable usinglike examples, definitions, analysis, classification, cause/effect, compare/contrastwhich will be most effective here? Are there any strategiessuch as number of examples or type of supportthat are specified as required? 5. What is my role as a writer in achieving the purpose? Have I been assigned a specific role like applicant or representative? If I have not been assigned a specific role, what does the prompt or assignment tell me about the level of expertise I should demonstrate, the stance I should assume, or the approach I should take? 60 Chapter 6MAnalyzing Prompts You might have some questions about some of the terms in our questions. If so, you may find these definitions useful: Claim: Often confused with topic, claim is what an argument rests on. Some prompts specify a particular topic on which the claim needs to be based. Here is an example of the difference between topic and claim: Topic: The role of experience in learning. Claim: One can learn in many ways, but the most effective is through direct experience. Purpose and Mode. The purpose designated by the promptto explain, to describe, to argue, and so onwill usually dictate the mode of writing to be used. The modes frequently blur into one another because it s very difficult to write an explanation without some description or argue without explanation. Rhetorical strategies: Techniques for writing well and/or organizing your ideas so that the reader can understand your point. Some examples are compare/contrast, cause/effect, example, definition, and so on. Stance: The different positions writers take in relation to their audience and topic. In the following pages we will show how you can use prompt analysis to engage a wide variety of prompts and assignments. Now, let s look at some actual prompts. Here, for example, is a prompt that students may find challenging because of the number of questions it poses: You are completing a job application. As part of the application process, your potential employer requires a writing sample explaining the expression experience is the best teacher and telling how it applies to you or someone you know. Write what you will present to your potential employer. Thinking about the following will help you focus and plan your writing. What might the expression experience is the best teacher mean? What are some experiences you have had (or someone you know has had) that taught you an important lesson? What did you learn and why was it valuable? The following chart shows how you can understand and begin to generate ideas for responding to this prompt. Note that the categories in each column correspond to the five PAQs. Prompt Claim/Topic (Question 1) Audience (Question 2) Purpose/Mode (Question 3) Strategies (Question 4) Role (Question 5) 1 Experience is the best teacher Potential employer Exposition Examples, Cause and effect Applicant Chapter 6MAnalyzing Prompts 61 Your Turn Use the chart below to do a similar analysis of other prompts. Read the three prompts that follow. These are similar to the actual prompts from the SAT. Can you determine topic, audience, etc.? To what extent does a chart like this help you address and respond to the prompt or prompts? When you are finished, check your responses with ours in Appendix C at the end of the book Prompt 1: Gradually, almost painfully, I began to understand that what I called wilderness was an absurdity, nothing more than a figment of the European imagination. Unless all human beings can learn to imagine themselves as intimately and inextricably related to every aspect of the world they inhabit, with the extraordinary responsibilities such a relationship entailsunless they can learn what indigenous people of the Americas knew and often still knowthe earth simply will not survive. Adapted from Louis Owens, The American Indian Wilderness Assignment: How is the way we conceptualize wilderness related to the survival of the earth? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations. Prompt 2: Silence, in its way, is fundamental to life, the emotional equivalent of carbon. Ensnared in webs of sound, those of us living in the industrialized West today must pick our way through a discordant, infinite-channeled auditory landscape. Adapted from Mark Slouka, Listening for Silence Assignment: Do people need silence in their lives? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations. Prompt 3: Sociologists and linguists probably will tell you that a person s developing language skills are more influenced by peers. But I do think that the language spoken in the family, especially in immigrant families which are more insular, plays a large role in shaping the language of the child. Adapted from Amy Tan, Mother Tongue Assignment: What do you think is the stronger influence on a person s language developmentpeers or family? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations. Prompt Claim/Topic (Question 1) Audience (Question 2) Purpose/Mode (Question 3) Strategies (Question 4) Role (Question 5) 62 Chapter 6MAnalyzing Prompts Your Turn continued What did you notice about these prompts? Do they have something in common? How has doing this exercise helped you understand what to expect when you sit down to write the SAT essay? Now let s move from answering these questions to actually planning an essay. Here is a process you might follow to get there for prompt 2 on page 61: My position on prompt 2: People do not need silence in their livessound is essential to our quality of life. Main Subpoints Examples Types of Examples (Reading, Studies, Experience, or Observations) From the beginning of life, the sound of other human voices helps us learn Music has many functions that make life better Babies learn to recognize their mother s voices from the time they are in the womb. Infants who are not talked to do not develop language skills as quickly as those who are. My baby brother smiles when I talk with him. When I talk with my lab partner about our experiment, I understand the science concepts better. Soft music helps relax me when I am upset. Children exposed to music develop different parts of their brain. Working out to music helps people develop rhythm and get a better workout. Studies Reading Observations Experience Experience Reading Observations Sounds in the environment help us structure our day and know what to do A rooster crowing tells us the sun has risen. Sounds of tree frogs or crickets at night tell us the day is winding down and soon it is time to go to sleep. Bells at school tell us when to get to class. Observation Observation Experience Chapter 6MAnalyzing Prompts 63 We want to direct your attention to the last column of the preceding chart, where we have identified the type of support used. Notice that we have used a variety of supportreading, studies, experience, or observations. You probably won t include such a column in your own prewriting, but we want you to be aware that these are the types of examples asked for in the SAT prompts, and it would be wise to use a variety of them. We hope our modeling showed you how to understand the expectations of the prompt, as well as a way to get started in answering the prompt. We believe that prompt analysis can help you write better. That is, everything you learn in the analysis of a prompt or any assignment should lead to a better understanding of the writing requirements and build confidence in being able to meet those requirements. But what happens when there is very little to analyze? Here s an expository prompt for a tenth-grade writing assessment that doesn t give many explicit cues: Tell your classmates about a responsibility you have been given. Understandably, you might feel lost when you see a prompt like this. Very little explicit information is given, and you might not feel motivated to share information about a responsibility. This is a situation ripe for a good case of writer s block, but working through the PAQs may help you to see some footholds in what originally seemed a blank, smooth wall. Your Turn Now try analyzing this prompt: Tell your classmates about a responsibility you have been given. PAQs 1. What is the central claim/topic called for? Do I have choices to make with regard to this claim/topic? Will I need to focus the claim/topic in order to write a good essay? What arguments can I make for this claim? What do I know about this topic? 2. Who is the intended audience? If named specifically, what do I know about this particular audience? If the audience is implied or not identified, what can I infer about it or them? In either event, how might the expectations of this audience affect my choices as a writer? 64 Chapter 6MAnalyzing Prompts Your Turn continued 3. What is the purpose/mode for the writing task? Is the purpose stated or must it be inferred? What is this writing supposed to accomplish (besides fulfilling the demands of the prompt/assignment)? What does the goal of this writing suggest about the mode (narration, exposition, description, argument) or combination of modes that I should consider in responding? 4. What strategies will be most effective? What does the purpose/mode suggest about possible strategies? Of the strategies I am comfortable usinglike examples, definitions, analysis, classification, cause/effect, compare/contrastwhich will be most effective here? Are there any strategiessuch as number of examples or type of supportthat are specified as required? 5. What is my role as a writer in achieving the purpose? Have I been assigned a specific role like applicant or representative? If I have not been assigned a specific role, what does the prompt or assignment tell me about the level of expertise I should demonstrate, the stance I should assume, or the approach I should take? If you would like to see how we dealt with these questions, see our notes in Appendix C at the end of the book. Chapter 6MAnalyzing Prompts 65 Your Turn Now we are going to ask you to construct two different variations on the prompt and brainstorm ways to develop each. We will model two possibilities, and then you can do two in the space below. Prompt: Tell your classmates about a responsibility you have been given. Your topic: Some examples: Complain to your classmates about an annoying responsibility your father gave you. driving younger sister to ice-skating practice at 5 A.M. each day sweeping out the garage every Saturday morning waking up your older brother for his college class Reveal an uplifting responsibility your Scout leader gave you. organizing the annual canned food drive choosing the location for the annual banquet assisting with the meetings of younger Scouts Your topic: Some examples: At this point, you should have many ideas about how to approach a prompt that provides little information. The PAQs can help you analyze and amplify the prompt and, as the activity above illustrates, move you in the direction of generating material for your essay. Select one of the four variations in the table above and take twenty minutes to write a response to it. 66 Chapter 6MAnalyzing Prompts Your Turn continued Persuasive Prompts You may have noticed that all of the SAT prompts earlier in this chapter fall into the mode of argumentation. Argumentation (persuasion) and exposition are the most common modes of writing asked for in timed writing tests. In this section, we ll explore the conventions of persuasion. Here is a sample persuasive prompt: Recent funding cuts have been made to the school district. To cope with the problem, your school board has plans to eliminate all sports and music programs. Some members of the community have questioned the board s controversial proposal. Write a letter to the editor arguing your point of view on the proposal. Be sure to support your position with reasons, examples, facts, and/or other evidence. Readers should feel convinced to take your position seriously. Close examination of the language of this prompt reveals several key terms. Words like controversial, support, and convinced all suggest the need to make an argument, to persuade readers. You are left with the choice of whether to support or oppose the proposal,
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