Shelley Reid


English 1113, Fall 2003, Short Assignments

Oklahoma State University

Essay Assignments Course Overview

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Reading Analysis Assignments:  10 points each; 100 points max. total

Reading Analysis assignments (RA's) should demonstrate that you read the whole text under consideration, and that you read it carefully and actively.  Although they will not always require complete sentences or formal paragraphs, they should be at least 350 words long, including the Six Sentence Summary but not including any quotations copied from the text.  They should be typed, except for the first two which may be neatly handwritten. Please label each one at the top of the page:  Reading Analysis #1. 

Remember to turn in your RA assignments on time.  Check the syllabus for due-dates, and be sure to ask questions if you don't understand the assignment.  RA assignments will be evaluated based on your thoughtfulness and thoroughness rather than on your grammar or style; each one will be worth 3 points; your lowest score will be dropped.

All Reading Analysis assignments will include a "Six Sentence Summary," except where noted:  writing a summary is a common academic assignment, and it will help you as a reader and writer by letting you slow down and set out the author's ideas. A Six Sentence Summary may contain slightly more or slightly fewer than six sentences, but will usually contain the following basic information:

An opening sentence that gives the full author's name, the full essay title (in quotation marks) and the main argument (not just the topic) of the essay

Middle sentences that identify, in order, 2-3 of the author's main sub-points.  If the author pays particular attention to a specific example or an in-depth point of evidence, you should mention it, too.  Do not judgewhether the points are interesting or right or confusing in a summary; just describe them.

A closing sentence that makes clear (without repeating your first sentence) the author's conclusions, reasoning and/or recommendation to his or her audience:  what does s/he expect his/her readers to think or do, and/or why?

Remember: a summary should be in your words, not quotations from the author.  If the author has coined a short, powerful phrase --  "compassionate conservatism" -- you may quote it.  Otherwise, paraphrase ideas yourself.

Summaries are generally formal writing, "he says" rather than "I say" -- they include no opinions, no first person, no slang.  However, you should try to use your own clear, ordinary language rather than trying to sound overly dramatic or philosophical.

All Reading Analysis assignments will include two Follow-Up Questions, except where noted.  The goal of this class is not to teach you some dry information, but to help you develop your skills as a reader and thinker, as a questioner and researcher, as an information-consumer who doesn't believe everything he or she is told, as a citizen who doesn't just follow the crowd.

You should write real questions that you do not immediately know the answer to.  You may write factual questions about the author's topic (what didn't the author tell you?  what other information is relevant?), interpretive questions about the author's meaning (is something unclear?  does the author imply arguments or present biases that should be investigated?), or challenge-questions that go to the author's credibility (why did the author focus on this?  how will it work in the real world?) 

Avoid Engfishy discussion-style questions that nobody but teachers really care about, such as "Do you sympathize more with Lubrano or his father?" or "How do Freire's ideas connect to your life?"  Ask the questions Rikki or Jerry or Oprah or Simon would ask:  "How much money do bricklayers make?  Who's Goffman?  Would Freire get rid of SAT tests, and if so, how would we ever get into college?  Would Brooke want his kid to go to a school that was all 'underlife' with no discipline or anything?  What else has Lamott written?"

Process Bonus:  You may earn up to one point (10%) on almost any RA assignment by doing one (not all) of the following: 


Pre-read in four sentences:  Before you read, copy out one sentence from the first two paragraphs, and one sentence from the last two paragraphs of the assigned reading, which seem to give the author's main topic or point.  In a third sentence, write something you already know about this general topic area.  In the fourth sentence, write about a question or issue you (might) want to know about in this topic.


Find and copy out brief definitions of three words the author used that were unfamiliar to you; then, for one word, explain why you think the author chose that specific word and not a simpler synonym -- is it just Engfish, or is the author's word really better?


Find the answer, or part of the answer, to one or both of your Follow-Up questions:  be sure to cite your source.  (Note:  bonus points are unlikely to be earned by asking one very simple question and doing a 5-second Google search)

Process Bonus assignments are designed to reward you for taking big tasks one step at a time, and for being an active, responsible, skeptical learner rather than just a bank deposit box. 

The most important parts of any Reading Analysis are your own ideas, analyses, and judgments.

RA#1:  Create a double-entry log to respond to Lubrano's essay OR Freire's essay.  To set up a double-entry log, create two columns by drawing a line down the center of your notebook page, or by setting up a table or columns on your computer (see below).  The left-hand column is the "he said/she said" column: use your own words (or an occasional short quotation) to present the author's most important points and/or details.  You should write down at least 6-8 of these, in any order. 

The right-hand column is the "I say" column:  across from each of the author's points, write 2-4 sentences giving your reactions to -- and, importantly, your reasons for reacting to -- that particular idea.  You may disagree (explain why), note anything the topic reminds you of, explain whether (and how) the point makes sense to you or is confusing, and/or explain why you think the author chose this idea to work with.  You may also comment on elements of tone, style, organization, or idea-development. 

Don't just translate the author's ideas into your words: "by this the author means __."  Instead, show a new thought of yours.  Also, do not simply agree with the author; remember to explain exactly why you have this reaction.  Be sure to leave yourself enough space: your "I say" entries will usually be longer than your "he said" entries.  The best "I say" comments contain very specific thoughts or ideas, presenting a crystal-clear snapshot of what happens in your totally-original brain when you read this article.

Don't forget to write a six-sentence summary and two follow-up questions, too.  Remember your option for process bonus points (see previous page).

Sample Double-Entry Log for Lubrano's article:

He said…

I say…

"I told him, writing's always difficult"

Exactly.  When I'm at home writing an essay, I whine a lot.  I wander into the living room and whine at my husband, or at the cats, at least once an hour.  I'll do anything to procrastinate writing, even clean the bathroom floor.  I worry sometimes that this makes me a fraud:  here's a writing teacher who still thinks writing is hard.  Shouldn't I have a magic wand or a free pass or something?

the part about the blue-collar rule #1

I think Lubrano's left out something here:  a lot of families I know aren't earning money just to get a good life, but they're really focused on money for their kids, to make their lives better.  It's not just money-grubbing selfishness.  Does he really understand his father?

RA #2.  Create a double-entry reading log (at least 8 entries) for either Douglass's speech or Anthony's speech.  Imagine that you are a typical audience member at the time -- probably upper-middle-class, white, male; sympathetic but a little worried about all the changes going on (read the headnote for information).  At the top of your log, write a short sentence to describe your new identity.  Then use the He-Says and I-Say columns to respond to the speech:  what ideas, sentences, or phrases that "they say" spark reactions in your "I say" column?  What might "you" remember about your home, your values, your family, your life, as "you" listen to this speech?

Then write a six-sentence summary, and ask two follow-up questions.  (Remember your option for a Process Bonus)

RA #3.  Turn in a photocopy of either Fisher's speech or Smith's speech with your annotations on it.  These will include not only passages (or parts of passages) that you've underlined to say "hey," but the margin notes -- actual words! -- you write for yourself (at least 3-5 per page).  You should present a range of comments including exclamations, translations, questions, reactions, and/or connections.  You should identify appeals, assertions, and/or logical fallacies.  Attach a typed six-sentence summary.  Also type a two-paragraph "I say" response to one or two elements of the speech, using the new terms (appeals, assumptions) we've been discussing and reading about.  Finish with two follow-up questions. (Process Bonus?)

RA #4.  This RA and all that follow it should be typed.  Choose a speech you haven't written an RA on yet.  Begin with a six-sentence summary of the author's arguments.  Write two well-developed paragraphs in response.  In one, analyze at least two appeals that the author makes (ethos, pathos, logos): is the author successful?  In the second paragraph, analyze the author's assumptions: what does the author think his/her audience values? how do you know?  Both paragraphs will require direct quotations as evidence.  Add two follow-up questions. (Bonus?)

RA #5.  After reading the section in Creating America on analyzing visual texts, you will read an advertisement, and write 3 analysis paragraphs (try to practice strategies for "unity" from WWR).  If possible, choose an ad (from CA or from somewhere else) that you can bring with you to class.  If you use a TV ad, try to catch it on video tape.  You need something that you can observe several times; do not write from memory. 

In your first paragraph, read for the ad's key overall strategies.  What are the arguments of this ad, stated and implied -- what will happen if you use their product?  What do you know about the target audience(s), and what helps you know this?  Is anyone left out?  In your second paragraph, look closely:  what "little details" are also making (or not making) arguments? What connotations or appeals is the ad using -- and how will they help sell the product?  Finally, write a letter to this company explaining what other strategies they should use if they really want to convince you and people like you.  In reading and analyzing, you should pay attention to and note specific examples of the arrangement, language, clothing, attitude, color, tone, size, font, what's not there, etc.  No six-sentence summary required, but do ask your follow-up questions.

RA #6.  Read the essays by Kantrowicz and Rouner, and write a six-sentence summary of the main points of one essay.  Then write a letter to the author of that essay from the point of view of the other author, explaining how and exactly why "you" disagree and/or agree with his/her ideas.  Try to focus on main ideas rather than to pick arguments over trivial thoughts.  You should include 1-2 very short quotations from each author, as in "I have written in my article that [insert quotation here].  This explains why your conclusion, Ms. So-and-so, that says [insert quotation here], won't work."  Your letter should be 2-4 paragraphs long.  (If you wish, you can write from one of the other authors we've read to Kantrowicz or Rouner.)  (Follow-up questions?)

RA #7.  Choose two of the assigned readings for Essay #3 and do a three-part comparative summary & analysis.  Write a paragraph that accurately summarizes (in your own words) the central ideas, examples, and conclusions of both of the texts; this may take somewhat more than six sentences (but not much more!).  Try to integrate your summary, rather than taking one author at a time:  "Both Text A and Text B discuss ___ .  Author A is in favor of __, while Author B thinks ___ ." 

Then write a well-developed paragraph that connects-and-concludes about one particular idea in both texts:  be sure to quote-and-explain as needed, and draw a conclusion about what happens when you see the ideas together.  (How does one author's information help you understand or apply the other author's ideas?)  Lastly, write a paragraph that connects-and-concludes about the style or argument strategy that each author uses, and draw a conclusion:  which author reaches his/her audience or goals better?  (No separate six-sentence summary required, but do ask 2 questions.)

RA #8.  Sentence Expert Paragraph:  Read the assignments from Keys for Writers with some care.  Choose at least three sections to focus on, ones discussing grammatical rules or principles that you think are difficult to remember, complex to operate, hard to spot when proofreading, etc. You can limit your focus to a part of a rule, if you'd like -- one kind of semi-colon use, for example. Take notes on these sections, and create some sample sentences of your own to demonstrate each principle.  You will be asked to teach these three rules to your group (and you will turn in these notes).  (No six-sentence summary required; questions are optional.)

Then write an 8-10 sentence paragraph on any topic of your choosing (anything from Once Upon A Time to basketball to corporate subsidies).  In this paragraph, which you will share with your peers to test their knowledge, you should have at least six incorrect sentences that demonstrate errors related to the rules you chose.  (These sentences should be original, not plagiarisms or lazy paraphrases of sentences in KW.)  Also, include at least one grammatically correct sentence that resembles your incorrect sentences; try to create a sentence that will challenge your readers at least slightly as they try to determine its correctness.  Do not label Incorrect/Correct sentences. 

Type or neatly write your paragraph -- double-space or skip a line to facilitate corrections.  Make 5 legible copies of this sheet to bring with you to class.  Finally, on one copy of your sheet, the one you'll turn in to Dr. Reid, write in all corrections and note down the errors and the section numbers in KW that explain the corrections.

RA #9 & RA #10:  For each RA, respond to one source you've chosen for Essay #4. Write a thorough summary & analysis.  Write a paragraph that accurately summarizes the central ideas, examples, and conclusions of the text.  Then draft a paragraph that evaluates the reliability and relevance of the text.  Write a third paragraph that analyzes an idea from the text that might be useful for Essay #4.  Use short quotations as needed to support your points.  Also provide a complete bibliographic citation, using correct MLA style, for each essay, at the bottom of the analysis.  (No separate summary required; ask 2 questions.)

RA #11.  Peer review analysis:  There are four parts to this analysis, which you will complete mostly during workshop days.


Read the title and opening paragraph(s) of your peer's essay and stop.  Write out what you think the main argument of the essay is, and ask 3-4 questions that you expect this essay to answer. 


Try to make your summary exactly parallel the author's essay -- start with the author's opening argument, then write a sentence for each paragraph's main point.  Try to focus on the author's main argument rather than on what the outside sources say; if you can't find a connection to the author's argument, say so:  "The author then summarizes Wright's position on X" to let the author know s/he needs some work.  When you finish, re-read your summary:  does it run smoothly? repeat anything? get out of order? does every paragraph explicitly make a new argument beyond "what Wright says"?  Make one suggestion to the author at the end of your summary: if s/he had to  reorganize, combine, split, add, or change, delete a paragraph, what would you suggest?


Write one paragraph responding to one successful argument or example in the essay, noting why you think it's effective.  Write a paragraph responding to one less-clear or less-successful proposal (why?).  Be sure to give specific, one-time-only examples:  which paragraphs, which sentences?  What should the author do?


If any of your pre-reading questions were unanswered, note them; then add two other objections or questions that a hostile-but-intelligent reader might use in challenge to this essay, and suggest how the author might be able to respond.

Basic Audience Analysis

This assignment is most helpful if completed before you write the whole essay.  Answer at least three of the following questions or question-sets.  Your analysis should total about 200-250 words of informal but thoughtful prose. 

1.  Required for all Analyses.  Describe your target audience for this essay:  a person, real or hypothetical, or a kind/group of people.  Why might they be interested in reading your essay?  What's one thing might you do as you write to try to reach them?

2.  "What do they want?"  What does the average member of this audience already know or believe about this topic?  What top three questions might they have?  How might you create or find answers?  (Use this question to think about organization:  do your paragraphs directly answer the most important questions you list?)

3.  If you were publishing this piece in a magazine, or making it into a movie, what kind of magazine would it be?  What first image, soundtrack, headline, photo, or illustration might accompany it to get your readers' attention?  What words/ideas could you add to your title or introduction that could accomplish a similar attention-grab?

4.  "What do I have to say?"  Describe your purpose for this essay.  First, you might explain what got you interested in this topic or reading assignment.  What do you most want to share with your reader?  If you boiled it down to one sentence, what would it be?  (Use this question to think about your thesis and conclusion:  be sure to say "up front" what your main idea is!)

5.  Next, imagine your reader (as described above) finishing the essay:  what do you want your writing to have done to this person's thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and/or behaviors?  If your reader were to finish reading and then leap up and go to the phone to "make a difference," whom would you want the reader to call, and what would you want him/her to say?  (Use this question to think about the "so what?" of your conclusion:  what might you say to elicit this desired response?)

Basic Post-Script

This assignment should be completed after you write the essay.  Answer three or four of the following questions or question-sets. Your analysis should total about 200-250 words of informal but thoughtful prose.

1.  What (if anything) was most difficult about writing this essay?  why?  what was easiest?  why?

2.  What didn't you understand about this essay going into it?  Do you understand better now?  What helped you cope with the confusion or solve your problems -- something in class? in a book? a specific comment?

3.  What do you think is the strongest part of this essay? where do you come closest to affecting your reader the way you'd like to?

4.  What changes have you already made in the essay from its earlier draft(s)?  What (if anything) did you learn as you were writing/revising?

5.  Describe any place where you decided not to heed a reader's advice (even Dr. Reid's!) because you had a good reason, or any place you think you "broke the rules" for a reason, or any place that you decided it was more important to focus on what you had to say rather than what they wanted you to say.  Explain how/why you made this decision.

6  Where, if at all, are you still having difficulties?  What other changes or additions might you make if you had an extra week of peace and quiet to work in?  What (if anything) might you do differently on your next essay?

7.  If you have questions for Dr. Reid, or would like extra feedback on a specific part of this essay, or if there is anything else you'd like to note about the essay or how you came to write it, please ask/explain.







Last updated January 2007 Email Shelley Reid