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Day 22 (11.16/17)
Thesis statements and their relationship to rhetorical development.
Thesis three parts: What, What About It, Why and/or How. Each part becomes a section of the essay's body paragraphs. Each part makes a claim, and defends the claim with evidence and logical argument.

Day 21 (11.12/13)
Final Peer Edit of essay. Due next class.

Day 19-20 (11.5-11.10)
Work on use of integrated quotes and essays. Analytic essay due after Veteran's Day.

Day 18 (11.3/4)
Use of integrated quotes in essays. Lots of practice. First worksheet of the year! (Get a copy in the file cabinet.)

Day 17 (10.29/11.2)

Final discussion of The Things They Carried. Final essay assigned.

What stories do: keep alive self and others, preserve innocence, regain hope, deal with guilt/sorrow/regret, find forgiveness, (re)establish identity, communicate truth, make you feel, explain how you got from there to here.

"And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It's about sunlight."

Day 16 (10.27/28)
Return of analytic paragraphs on "The Dentist." Review of technique available under rhetorical strategies in sidebar.

Searching for common themes between "The Ghost Soldiers" and other stories.

Day 15 (10.22/26)
"The Man I Killed" and "Speaking of Courage". Themes of attempts at communication despite continued failure to get at the truth. Identity: author and characters. Link to an interesting, college level essay dealing with our last two days reading here.

Day 14 (10.20/21)
Discussion of "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong", my favorite story in the book and one you should surely feel in your "stomach." Is this story a tragedy? Is it a story of damnation or liberation? In what sense is it true?

Day 13 (10.16/10.19)
Today we discussed the story and looked at our analytic paragraphs on "How to Tell a True War Story" - a far more challenging interpretation than "On the Rainy River." However, the point of the exercise is that you start to get a sense of how an analytic paragraph flows when you read or hear one.
Read the next group of stories for next class. You may want to note how a simple story like "The Dentist" might be quickly organized and interpreted using an analytic paragraph (hint, hint).
However, despite the intellectual challenge, do not give up on the idea of truth and how it is (or is not) communicated through storytelling.

Day 12 (10.12/13)
Personal Narrative Essays are corrected. Congrats to Esther, Erika T, Sophia, Max, Sarah B, Kaleema,
Phuong N, Carmen, Cameron, Breena, Lydia, Marissa, Katie D, and Emma for scoring at least 190 out of 200. You 14 be sure to bring me my prize. Out of 120 students there were 44 A's, 51 B's, and 20 C's. Five are yet to be turned in. Period 2 had 11 A's, 14 B's, and 5 C's; period 3 went 7, 11, 5; period 4 had 15, 13, and 4; period 5 went 11, 13, and 6.
In general, the strongest aspects of the essays were the use of imagery and the control of narrative voice; you also were able to arrive at a clear conclusion (even if that conclusion was not necessarily fully analyzed). The weakest was the depth of analysis, explanation, and justification for your conclusions. But this is what I expected; indeed, one of the primary objectives of this course is to increase your ability to analyze texts, describe and explain ideas, and justify conclusions. Grammatical issues included, run-on sentences and fragments, dialogue punctuation and mechanics, and semicolon and comma usage. (Guess what we will be spending some time working on...I warned you!)

We also continued on with The Things They Carried. The writing focus for the class was on rhetorical strategies for analytic paragraphs. In our lit circles we wrote an analytic paragraph on "On the Rainy River". There was no reading homework for next class; instead, each student was to compose their own paragraph, similar to the in-class exercise, focused on "How to Tell a True War Story".

Day 11 (10.7/8)
Judging from your daily comment sheets and from my own observations, I have the distinct impression that the literary circles began successfully, both as an academic effort and a social venture. I was impressed - though not necessarily surprised - at how well you all were able to read into the text and identify important ideas. Keep it up. I also think most students really like the book. One might take a moment to ask what about the novel makes it so likable exactly?

Day 10 (10.5/6)
Begin The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. We broke up into literary circles with each member being responsible for different aspects of analysis and expression. There are directors, highlighters, artist/poets, summarizer/analyzers, real-world connectors, and psychologists.

Day 9 (10.1/2)
Essays in. (Titles!)

We listened to "Return to the Global Pool of Money" on This American Life. What did you learn about the current economic crisis? World economics? Human nature? What values emerge from the stories the different people tell? What about Glenn saying, "I just did what I saw everybody else doing"? How have his ideas about the purpose of his life changed? He also says he wants "to keep society from creating that Glenn...shame that I let money take me over...I didn't do anything that I can be proud of." Looking for advice on how to live? There's some. Think about how Glenn's story relates to this last essay...
"We're all waiting on the giant pool of money"? Hmmm.

Day 8 (9.29/30)

Writing work; rubrics. Remember to self-grade essay before turning it in and to include peer edit sheets.

Day 7 (9.25/28)
In class peer editing and continued essay work. Bring a solid, near-final draft for next time. Peer review sheets due at end of next period; final drafts Thursday and Friday.

Day 6 of 84 (9.23/24)
Writing in computer lab. Bring all work to class next time! The more you have done when next we meet, the more beneficial that class will be. Due dates are definite: October 1 and 2.

Day 5 of 84 (9.21/22)
Hopefully the closer examination of the essays combined with the brainstorming activities and our discussion helped you to understand the general format of the assignment while inspiring ideas for your own essay. We can summarize the structure of the essay something like: this happened to me (tell story); this was the significance of that experience (analyze and explain your interpretation of the experience); which led me to this belief/opinion/idea of human behavior, etc. (reach the conclusion and state clearly).

Keep in mind that successful stories use: appropriate voice, exclusively relevant imagery (maybe even symbols), and dialogue; start right in with setting and conflict.
The essay portion should be precise, succinct, and explicit in explanation and analysis as it works toward a robust conclusion.

Formalities: 700 word maximum, double spaced, 12 point easily legible font, 1" margins all the way around, centered title in regular font, right flush page numbered header with your last name

Come ready to write next class and bring all work everyday until due date, tentatively October 1 (A) and October 2 (B).

Link to a similar essay in the Stanford University application package here.

Day 4 of 84 (9.17/18)

Practice and review of imagery's two goals: engage the reader and suggest deeper meaning.
Personal emotion images (what do they suggest?):
    Nick Wong, "a submarine with an open window"
    Margarita Lares-Benitez, "a short person in a large unfamiliar city without a map"
    Esther Verbruggen, "a pencil with a blunt tip"
    Zach Spangler, "high on a rock in the middle of a pristine alpine lake stands a lone majestic cedar"
    Max Arnold, "a single-celled organism; listless, neither numb nor feeling"

Read essays that use both narrative and analytic language to illustrate an idea or belief:
    Malcolm X "My First Conk"
    William F. Buckley, Jr. "Why Don't We Complain?"
    David Sedaris "Suitable for Framing" (link to his reflections in The New Yorker)
Be sure you can answer in a class discussion the questions concerning these essays and our upcoming writing assignment.

Day 3 of 84 (9.15/16)

    Show, instead of telling! Suggest more with imagery!
    I feel safe to say that the general (but not total) lack of imagery in the "Interpretation" poems, and the addition, after re-consideration, of imagery succinctly made the point of imagery's effectiveness at communicating ideas beyond the literal. Keep this in mind whenever you write.
    Further, Saroyan's "Gaston" pushed the use of imagery one step further. The genius of his description is evident in how much we were able to glean about the father, daughter, and their relationship from a few simple details. But the real key was the use of symbolism: peach "heart" as home/family, and Gaston the insect as a symbol of the alienated father striving to make sense and find direction in the midst of what has been lost.
    We didn't have time to discuss much about families (personally or in general), but take a moment to consider the dynamics of your own. Additionally, think again upon how the philosophical worldviews of the mother and the father are suggested through dialogue. The nonconformity of the father clashes directly with cosmopolitan lifestyle of the mother -- and results in a tension that the daughter, for personal protection I might only presume, can only "squash".
    Start brainstorming about (what I am now unofficially calling) "The Fundamental Belief Narrative Essay".

Day 2 of 84 (9.11/14)

Pre-test (bleh!).
    Voice and imagery as triggers for associations and inference...leading to interpretation and meaning.
    The rhetoric of poetry...how Dickinson sets you up for the paradox at the poem's end.
    You guys were great on "sound" v. "syllable" and battled admirably with how that relates to the question of Human and God and the power of the mind suggested by Dickinson's poem.
    Who is the comprehending and creative force?
    What about this image? How might changes in our cultural worldview alter interpretation?

Day 1 of 84 (9.9/10
    Some floating notions concerning the motion of ideas and subatomic particles.
    Pictures of us: panda, remote control, violin, arrow, bone, battery, treble cleft, vermin, sun, orange and black scribble.
    What is communication? How does it happen? Where? When? Does it ever happen accurately?
    (Check out the collage artist Hope Kroll. How does her art seem to answer? What is the "voice" of her reply?)
    Associations and interpretations for Emily Dickinson's "The Brain--is wider than the Sky--".

    Bring your journals next class with poem inserted and discussed. Focus on word choice and associations.

Tim O'Brien
in Vietnam

Ira Glass
host of
This American Life

Malcolm X

William Saroyan