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Not sure what to tell him.

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My son just turned ten. He has never written a five-paragraph essay before (or even read one that was pointed out to him as such). This year he's been doing Imitiation in Writing: Greek Myths. Before that he was doing Writing With Ease. I wanted to see where he was starting from so I told him to give me a five paragraph essay on something he knew about and if he didn't know what a five-paragraph essay was, to Google it, read about it, and then write it. He read the OWL Purdue page on academic writing and then he produced what follows. Clearly it has comma issues and organizational issues but I feel like there's something else missing and I don't know quite how to explain it. I almost want to say to him, "Son, I still don't know what psicrystals ARE." I guess I wanted him to say somewhere that these are animals from a fantastic universe created by such and such for this or that game. Also, he uses a lot of technical terms in here. What do you mean "created by a psionic class", you know? How would you direct a kid to edit this?


Essay on Psicrystals (D&D)


Psicrystals resemble crabs, and have crystals growing out of their backs. They are very small, and they are psionically linked to their owners via a rapport entanglement, or, in other words a small interface in the corner of one's mind that allows them to control psicrystals. They can only be created by a psionic class.


These psicrystals are actually pieces of their owner's psionic powers, meaning that they have the same ability to manifest psionic powers, as their owners do. Although they are essentially pieces of their owner's mind, they usually have a different personality from their owners.


Psicrystals move through a psionic propulsion system, allowing them to fly around, and possibly even stab creatures with their crystals like a bee stinger as an attack. This propulsion system is strange, because although it behaves like a normal flying spell/power, it does not take effort nor psionic power to activate, and therefore is pseudopsionic. When they have not activated the propulsion system, they have 0 STR and 0 DEX.


Their eyes glow with psionic power, and they even can use powers, as long as they are appropriately leveled to within the psicrystal's limitations.


Psicrystals can use Clairsentience (seering), Psychokinesis (energy weapons), Psychometabolism (biological editing), Psychoportation (teleportation), Telepathy (mindreading/mindcontrol), and Metacreativity (object creation) psionics to manifest certain psionic powers.


A psicrystal can speak one language of its owner's choice (so long as it is a language the owner knows). A psicrystal can understand all other languages known by its owner, but cannot speak them.


Psicrystals are created through the use of the Psicrystal Affinity Feat, and are small pieces of their creators mind, although they may not have the same personality. They can manifest psionic powers, and fly and attack with a self-propulsion pseudopsionic manifestation.

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Starting from scratch with limited instructions, I would say he has an amazing start.


Did you specify the length of paragraph or number of sentences each should contain?

Did you specify audience?

Has he learned what is a strong paragraph: beginning, middle, end? And Practiced it?


I would applaud a great first effort and then help him figure out which sentences should go together to make some strong paragraphs.

I would ask him to write an introduction sentence and ending sentence for each paragraph (if needed). An easy way to do this is either with cut/paste on the computer or actually cut/paste them on another piece of paper for him to see what goes together and what does not. Have him print/save his original so he can see the progression.



If he needs another paragraph, I would ask him to give a paragraph explaining the basics, so that it broadens his audience.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would say, "Write your paper as if you're explaining this subject to Grandma. Remember, Grandma doesn't know what any of this is so you'll have to start at the beginning."


Years ago, a boss told me, "Write like your talking to a neighbor over the back fence." Best writing advice I've ever had.



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I agree that this is an excellent first attempt! I also agree that you should write like you are talking over the fence.

I think the problems with this essay might be helped with a clearer intro and thesis statement. If he knows how to write a paragraph, the concept of topic sentences and staying on point can be expanded to explain thesis statements and introductions.


I developed an illustration with my writing students that I still use with my kids. It may seem overly simplistic, but it works. I use the illustration of an umbrella. I draw a big umbrella and write topic sentence or thesis statement (depending on whether we are discussing paragraphs or essays) on the umbrella portion. On the handle I write "conclusion" Then I write points II. III. IV., etc. under the umbrella. I point out that if anything is off-topic, irrelevant, or uninteresting, it is poking out from the side and is going to get "wet" and we want our subject to stay "dry" so the reader can concentrate. A wet reader is uncomfortable and wants to get away from the water (i.e. they lose interest). They need a good conclusion to give them something to "hold on to / remember" when they are done reading.


When my writer has completed his / her first draft, I read it aloud to him / her as if he / she had never heard it before. Then I ask questions: What was it about? Can you tell me one sentence that tells me what it was about? Did you hear anything that didn't seem like a good fit with the topic? How did you feel at the end of it? How could it be changed to be better? Was there any part that was standing out in the rain?


I think the key is to get them to evaluate their own writing based on an understanding of what should / should not be there. After the first go-around, we go back and evaluate the language, the flow, and the punctuation. I have the writer read the paper aloud to me and ask them if it was easy to read based on the punctuation--did it make sense? Were there too many pauses? Not enough? Were the sentences too long and wordy? How about this or that word / phrase, is there a more creative way to say that? Let's think of one...


Maybe this will help you as you guide him further with his essays.

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