Farewell, Fall 2016!

A couple things to prep for Spring 2017:

  1. Purchase your copy of Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, by Lauren Redniss (I have the paperback version).
  2. Consider, in passing, the following questions:
  • What makes a particular event or person historically significant?
  • Which historical events and people were most important to you, your family, and your community growing up? Why? How did you learn about them?
  • What are some ongoing debates about controversial historical figures? Why are these debates significant?
  • What kinds of strategies do we use for commemorating history?

I can’t wait to have these conversations with you in January!


Reverse Outlining and Transitions

Here are the steps from the 11:00 and 1:00 workshops yesterday:

REVERSE OUTLINING is the practice of constructing your outline after writing your paper; it lets you see what’s going on from a bird’s eye view.

  1. Number your paragraphs (do you have a lot? Only one? Noticing these details will teach you what to revise)
  2. On the top of a new sheet of paper, write down your paper’s main claim (for Paper Three, this is the outcome you’re looking for; if it’s hard to locate, you need to include a sentence or two in your introduction that makes this claim very clear).
  3. Now construct your outline, writing a full sentence for each paragraph that expresses the idea of the paragraph. This sentence should be identifiable (meaning it already exists in the paragraph; if it doesn’t, add it!) and related to the paper’s main claim. All the other material in this paragraph should be related to the paragraph’s main idea. If you notice unrelated material, this is a great time to highlight it and think about moving it elsewhere.
  4. Finally, make sure your paragraphs are in the correct order by identifying the relationship between each pair–what’s the connection or transition. We used this great handout from the University of Texas to help us answer these questions. If you can’t find a clear relationship, the paragraphs may belong elsewhere.

Happy revising!

On Open Letters

When reading an example of a good open letter, here are some questions to ask:

  1. Who is the author’s audience? Why is he or she addressing that audience specifically?
  2. What is the context of the author’s letter? Why is he/she writing it at this particular moment?
  3. What does the author want the audience to do by the end of the letter?
  4. What assumptions does the author make about his/her audience?
  5. What argumentative strategies does the author use to persuade this specific audience?

For practice, check out some of the sample letters below:

President Obama’s Open Letter to America’s Law Enforcement Community, July 18, 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963

And (for a sillier example) “An Open Letter to Bands who invite audiences to sing portions of their songs at live shows.” 

How to Write a Kick-Ass Conclusion

This week, whether we’re talking about organization, argumentation, or letter writing in your section, it all comes back to the conclusion–what is the final idea you’re leaving your audience with?

Here are some tips for composing the most powerful conclusion you can:

  1. Re-read your paper; what have you argued for most effectively? What’s the major takeaway of your paper? That main argument should pop back up here.
  2. As with your other paragraphs, think about the ACTION you’re performing in this paper. Move away from “reminding” or “recapping” in favor of “calling to action,” “contextualizing,” “describing,” or “anticipating the future.” For more ideas about how to approach your conclusion, see the University of Texas Writing Center’s excellent handout.
  3. While you’re working on step two, remind yourself of your audience analysis work–which action will your audience respond to most strongly?