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Looking for some feedback on an essay written by my DD14


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#1 Dicentra

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Posted 27 January 2015 - 05:08 PM

Wondering if any of the writing gurus out there would be willing to give some feedback to dd and to myself on her writing.  I freely admit - I'm a math/science girl and not a humanities girl. :)  DD is 14 and is in Grade 9 this year.  The following is an essay that she wrote for me this past fall as her first writing assignment for the Advanced Academic Writing 1 curriculum from MCT.  She was to write a simple essay, no longer than 3 pages, in which she was to develop an interpretive idea about a work of fiction.  She was to use only one source: the text of the fiction itself.  She was having trouble coming up with an idea so we used one from the parent guide that came with the MCT lit bundle.  I'll attempt to cut and paste her essay but it may lose formatting - PM me if you'd like a properly formatted copy. :)

 

I'm mostly concerned with the quality of her writing.  Her grammar and spelling aren't always perfect but they are usually good.  She has a good basic knowledge of MLA formatting.

 

The following is her final draft that she turned in to me.  I gave her no help other than the original suggestion of her topic.

 

27 October 2014

The Queen of Hearts: A Truly Unpleasant and Detestable Being

 

     During Alice’s adventures in the treasured classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, she meets an extraordinary group of people and creatures alike.  Some of these beings seem to be amiable and warm, while others are taciturn and even violent.  Several are also of greater importance than others and have a larger impact on Alice and her well-being.  One of these characters is the Queen of Hearts.

     The Queen of Hearts is certainly the most unpredictable and violent character Alice comes upon.  The Queen has no thoughts of compassion or mercy, and she enjoys beheading anyone upon impulse.  She never considers the lives of anyone but herself and she is always determined that everything is to go her way.  She is sure that she should always be the best at everything; if she is not the best at something, then the being who is better is quickly disposed of.

     As soon as Alice and the Queen had been acquainted, they began to argue.  When the Queen asked who the playing cards on the ground were, Alice responded very rudely: “How should I know?” said Alice, surprised at her own courage, “It’s no business of MINE” (Carroll 110).  Some while later, Alice managed to save the cards from being beheaded, and thankfully, the Queen never suspected it due to a happy verbal misunderstanding when a soldier said “Their heads are gone, if it please your Majesty!” (Carroll 112).  For indeed their heads were gone after Alice shoved them into a flower pot.

     After this ordeal, the Queen invited Alice to play a game of croquet.  Alice soon discovered that the game was a very difficult one indeed, and the others running about certainly did not help, particularly the Queen:

The players all played at once without waiting for turns, quarrelling all the while, and fighting for the hedgehogs; and in a very short time the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting, “Off with his head!” or “Off with her head!” about once a minute.  (Carroll 115)

     Eventually, Alice wandered off with the Duchess when everyone started arguing over whether or not the Cheshire Cat should be beheaded.

     After several more adventures, Alice arrived back at the court of the King and Queen of Hearts.  She discovered that a criminal trial is taking place. She noticed that the White Rabbit was standing off to one side with a trumpet and a piece of parchment, but she did not know why.

     The Rabbit began to read the accusation, which is thus:

           “The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts,

           All on a summer day:

           The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts,

           And took them quite away!” (Carroll 152)

     The witnesses were then called up, one at a time.  The first witness was the Mad Hatter, who was quickly told to stand down after it was clear that the Queen was making him too nervous to be of any help.  The next witness, who was the Duchess’s cook, was also no help at all.  Finally, Alice was called up as the last witness.  After confirming that she knew nothing of the matter, the Queen began to grow impatient.  When Alice contradicted a statement the Queen made, the two had a quarrel before Alice finally awoke from her dream of Wonderland.

     Alice found the Queen of Hearts to be a truly dreadful person to be around.  The Queen did not consider the feeling or emotions of others around her, and she always felt a strong need to be the best at everything.  This made the croquet game extremely difficult for Alice.  The Queen was impatient and never content with the work others did.  Jobs were always done too quickly or too slowly.  Simple mistakes were punishable by death, which seems quite extreme for things such as rose bushes and croquet games.  One thing that may have also contributed to the hatred between Alice and the Queen was that Alice was the first person to stand up to her.  When the playing cards were sentenced to death, Alice helped them when no one else would.  This shows maturity on Alice’s part and thoughtlessness on the parts of everyone else.  Even so, the Queen of Hearts would be a truly dreadful person to be around, and she upset Alice greatly during Alice’s adventures.

 

Works Cited

Carroll, Lewis.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Unionville: Royal

     Fireworks, 2011.

 

Note:  She did double space the entire essay with the exception of the longer quotes, which she single spaced.  I did lose formatting when I copied and pasted.  Darn. :)



#2 Dicentra

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 01:06 PM

Anyone? :)  It's OK if the feedback is, "Good heavens!  Outsource writing immediately for your dd!  You obviously can't teach writing!" :)  I suspect outsourcing is probably the route we'll take next year.  I was just wondering if there were some problems that were glaringly obvious from the essay that we could work on for the rest of the year until I can pass her writing instruction on to someone much more qualified than I. :) 



#3 HomeschoolingHearts&Minds

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 04:19 PM

I will take a stab at it. 

 

Your daughter makes many assertions regarding the Queen of Hearts character without backing them up with evidence from the story---she hasn't convinced me that the Queen is despicable and has no regard for others on the basis of what she has said here. (Now, I've read this book, so I know that there's plenty of evidence of this to be had).  Her examples do not support her thesis and some of the bits from the book that she recounts seem a bit random.  I would tackle that part of it first before worrying the grammar or stylistic issues.

 

I've not used MCT.  But I would start by having her make a graphic organizer that shows what her claims are (number them out) and then have her locate specific examples of the character's behavior and characterization from the text for each claim.


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#4 HomeschoolingHearts&Minds

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 04:57 PM

I will add---her essay is not at all dissimilar to the first essay MY 14-year-old 9th grader wrote in the fall (although it was a different topic ;) ).  So I had him work on it---he made a "diagram" of his argument, beginning with the claims and then writing supports for those claims.  The rewrite still had lots of room for improvement, but it was miles better and that's what we were going for.  I don't think each and every essay needs to be perfect in the end.  It's a part of the overall journey to maturing as a writer.  Hopefully his writing will continue to improve over the next few years and I'm sure your daughter's will as well. :thumbup1:


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#5 Laura Corin

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 05:34 PM

I was going to mention that there needed to be more accurate back-up to her points too.  The mechanical structure that GCSE students are taught in their essays is assert-prove-expand.  The following is a crude version of the technique:

 

Miss Bingley is only interested in literature as a means to her own end.  This can be seen in her picking up the second volume of a novel just because Darcy is reading the first volume of the same novel, despite her saying "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!" Her attitude to literature is a clue to her mendacious character; by contrast, Elizabeth Bennett is honest when she says that "[she] is not a great reader."


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#6 Dicentra

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Posted 30 January 2015 - 12:11 AM

Thanks for the advice!  She did make an outline before she wrote the essay but it turned into, in essence, the essay but in point form.  I'll see if I can have her do some work with making simpler, shorter outlines.

 

Teaching writing has always eluded me.  I've bought, looked over, implemented, and then sold more writing curricula than I'd like to admit.  I'm hoping that if I can give dd concrete things to work on for the rest of the year, then she'll be in good shape to begin an outsourced language arts course next year.  I'm considering Blue Tent for Honours English 2.  If she's not ready for that, we could start with Honours English 1.

 

Thank you again for the helpful advice, ladies!  I'll sit down with dd tomorrow and see if we can begin with working on building more concise, accurate outlines. :)


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#7 EndOfOrdinary

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Posted 30 January 2015 - 03:18 AM

My mother is working with my son. She is a literacy specialist. I am a science geek and had no clue - feeling your pain hardcore.

The big thing she did was to specifically mark all the places he asserted something with a blue pen. Then she went with a green one and highlighted his explanation/evidence. It really showed him where he was assuming the reader just understood him or knew the literature. Instead of him backing it up in the writing, he was expecting the reader to fill in the dots. The colors made it much more apparent.

For the whole organized point deal, she had him pick three areas to support his thesis. For each area he had to have at least two details to support. The paragraph was laid out: topic sentence, background info from literature (concisely), evidence 1, explain evidence 1, evidence 2 (with a transition clause), explain evidence 2, conclusion. This seemed way too structured to me, but after only two essays, he understood. From then on he started to get a bit more creative. It was like he had to be beaten over the head with the explicit message before it sunk in.

I do not know if that helps. I think that assertions and organization are what plague most kids learning to write regardless of age. It does not make them bad writers. They just have to figure out how to express themselves to others when they have great ideas.
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#8 Dicentra

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Posted 30 January 2015 - 04:05 PM

My mother is working with my son. She is a literacy specialist. I am a science geek and had no clue - feeling your pain hardcore.

The big thing she did was to specifically mark all the places he asserted something with a blue pen. Then she went with a green one and highlighted his explanation/evidence. It really showed him where he was assuming the reader just understood him or knew the literature. Instead of him backing it up in the writing, he was expecting the reader to fill in the dots. The colors made it much more apparent.

For the whole organized point deal, she had him pick three areas to support his thesis. For each area he had to have at least two details to support. The paragraph was laid out: topic sentence, background info from literature (concisely), evidence 1, explain evidence 1, evidence 2 (with a transition clause), explain evidence 2, conclusion. This seemed way too structured to me, but after only two essays, he understood. From then on he started to get a bit more creative. It was like he had to be beaten over the head with the explicit message before it sunk in.

I do not know if that helps. I think that assertions and organization are what plague most kids learning to write regardless of age. It does not make them bad writers. They just have to figure out how to express themselves to others when they have great ideas.

 

Thank you!  This is actually the kind of concrete, "hit-me-over-the-head-with-the-obvious" advice that's helpful to me. :)  Structure and linear, step-by-step processes make me happy. :D



#9 EndOfOrdinary

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Posted 31 January 2015 - 12:55 AM

Thank you!  This is actually the kind of concrete, "hit-me-over-the-head-with-the-obvious" advice that's helpful to me. :)  Structure and linear, step-by-step processes make me happy. :D

 

I hear you!  Dh is much more open and free flowing.  He teaches English, but it was driving us both crazy trying to communicate.  I kept saying, "Wait, tell me exactly what you mean."  He kept reiterating,"Writing is an art. Ds just needs to practice."  "Practice what specifically?" "Writing!"

 

It was very Who's on First.  My mother is an INTJ like I am.  We seem to jive a bit better!

 

If the structure works for her (or for you) there is a teaching technique called the Schaffer Paragraph Model.  You do not need to pay for it, though some sell curriculum for it on the Internet.  Just Google about and you will find the basic layout for a paragraph.  Very concrete.  Very linear.  Really helped me understand and be able to guide my son better.  It is not the end solution, as again, it is very formulaic, but it definitely explains the direction to go for organizing and explaining yourself.


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#10 Dicentra

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Posted 31 January 2015 - 03:27 PM

I hear you!  Dh is much more open and free flowing.  He teaches English, but it was driving us both crazy trying to communicate.  I kept saying, "Wait, tell me exactly what you mean."  He kept reiterating,"Writing is an art. Ds just needs to practice."  "Practice what specifically?" "Writing!"

 

It was very Who's on First.  My mother is an INTJ like I am.  We seem to jive a bit better!

 

If the structure works for her (or for you) there is a teaching technique called the Schaffer Paragraph Model.  You do not need to pay for it, though some sell curriculum for it on the Internet.  Just Google about and you will find the basic layout for a paragraph.  Very concrete.  Very linear.  Really helped me understand and be able to guide my son better.  It is not the end solution, as again, it is very formulaic, but it definitely explains the direction to go for organizing and explaining yourself.

 

I'll check that out - thanks!

 

Funny you should mention being an INTJ...  I teach chemistry and DH is a pharmacist - both science people.  Both of us are INTJs. :)  My DD has taken a MB survey for fun and she came out as an INTJ as well. :D  It's the clueless leading the clueless over here when it comes to anything that requires a "right-brain" sort of thinking. :)  Interestingly, all three of us are musical.  My favourite composer to play is Chopin whose music is not exactly what one would call structured or metered. :)



#11 readinmom

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Posted 02 February 2015 - 07:41 PM

The paper is a good start.  The one thing I would focus on are the quotes.  They are dropped, not fully explained in order to prove the point.  There should be deeper analysis as to why that particular quote reinforces her argument.  

 

Would like to see further drafts!

 

 


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#12 Dicentra

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Posted 03 February 2015 - 03:18 PM

Thanks, readinmom!  I mentioned the idea of her reworking this essay to get practice implementing some of the ideas that were mentioned here.  I got a pained, teenage eyeroll. :D  We'll see if I can convince her to rework this essay or if we'll go with applying the ideas to the next essay.  Either way, I'm very grateful for all the helpful advice.  This place rocks! :)