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Critique please: Response-To Kill a Mockingbird

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My daughter is 15 and in 9th grade. She lacks self-motivation and a strong work ethic. She has the brains & ability to excel in school, but it's like pulling teeth to get her to do her best. Please help me critique this paper that she wrote. TKAM is my favorite book, so I need some objective feedback here. I know there are some grammatical errors, as well as some punctuation issues. Additionally, I feel that there are some problems with content. She had one week to work on this paper, but she threw it together the last two days before it was due. It seems rushed to me. Help me to give her some feedback. Thanks!

 

To Kill A Mockingbird

 

     Have you ever read a book that moved you? Or perhaps a book that made the characters feel so real that you felt all the emotions that the characters themselves felt? To Kill A Mockingbird was an instant classic. I believe it became that because both the story and characters were so deep. This book shows you the innocence of childhood, the injustice caused by racism, and the great respect and hard work one man was capable of having.

     To Kill A Mockingbird displays the amount of injustice and racism back in the 1930’s. It focuses on the trial of a man named Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman known as Mayella Ewell. Atticus Finch is a lawyer assigned to defend Tom. This all takes place in Maycomb Alabama. The people of Maycomb are very prejudice and are all for Mayella’s story without thinking twice. Atticus is a very respectable and determined man, and is willing to do everything to help Tom; despite the fact he pretty much knows Tom has no chance of winning the case against Mayella. The reason why is very sad, but very true for most cases like this, it’s all because of Tom’s skin color.

     When the trial starts, both Mayella and her father, Bob, tell everyone it was Tom who took advantage of her. Bob tells the people that he came home to see Tom with Mayella, and Mayella agrees and goes on to say how Tom beat and raped her. Keep in mind, no physical evidence, or evidence of any kind pointed to Tom being the one who beat her.

     When Atticus questions Tom, Tom says he did not harm Mayella in anyway. He does say that Mayella had invited him into her home, saying that she had some work for him to do. He says that Mayella tried to seduce him and kissed him. He then ran because he was afraid. Back then, it was looked greatly down upon for a white woman to tempt a black man. Bob, who walked in on this, then beat Mayella and told everyone Tom was the one who had beaten her. Atticus continued to give evidence supporting Tom’s story, which everyone knew was true, in hopes of letting an innocent man go free.

     It’s sad to say, but Tom was found guilty of a crime he did not commit. Everyone knew Tom was no rapist or woman-beater, but in their minds he was the lesser person because of his skin color. Even though this is not a true story, it was something that happened all the time. People lost their freedom because they didn’t have the “right†skin color. The injustice that Tom had, many people still have today. Racism is still very much alive, which breaks my heart. I inspire to be an Atticus Finch in a world filled with Ewells. Everyone is perfect, no matter their race. All men are created equal, which is something we should never forget. 

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What was the exact assignment? This is basically a retelling of the story, but it contains no actual analysis.

The tone is too colloquial for an essay. Contractions like "it's" and phrases like "pretty much" , "it's sad to say" do not have a place in academic writing. The questions at the beginning are how "interesting writing" is taught in school and make me cringe; those should be replaced by statements.

There are several cliche phrases that are trite and should be replaced by more specific pointed statements.

 

 


To Kill A Mockingbird

 

     Have you ever read a book that moved you? Or perhaps a book that made the characters feel so real that you felt all the emotions that the characters themselves felt? To Kill A Mockingbird was an instant classic. I believe it became that because both the story and characters were so deep. This book shows you the innocence of childhood, the injustice caused by racism, and the great respect and hard work one man was capable of having.

     To Kill A Mockingbird displays the amount of injustice and racism back in the 1930’s. It focuses on the trial of a man named Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman known as Mayella Ewell. Atticus Finch is a lawyer assigned to defend Tom. This all takes place in Maycomb Alabama. The people of Maycomb are very prejudice and are all for Mayella’s story without thinking twice. Atticus is a very respectable and determined man, and is willing to do everything to help Tom; despite the fact he pretty much knows Tom has no chance of winning the case against Mayella. The reason why is very sad, but very true for most cases like this, it’s all because of Tom’s skin color.

     When the trial starts, both Mayella and her father, Bob, tell everyone it was Tom who took advantage of her. Bob tells the people that he came home to see Tom with Mayella, and Mayella agrees and goes on to say how Tom beat and raped her. Keep in mind, no physical evidence, or evidence of any kind pointed to Tom being the one who beat her.

     When Atticus questions Tom, Tom says he did not harm Mayella in anyway. He does say that Mayella had invited him into her home, saying that she had some work for him to do. He says that Mayella tried to seduce him and kissed him. He then ran because he was afraid. Back then, it was looked greatly down upon for a white woman to tempt a black man. )(awkward grammar. Bad use of passive voice) Bob, who walked in on this, then beat Mayella and told everyone Tom was the one who had beaten her. Atticus continued to give evidence supporting Tom’s story, which everyone knew was true, in hopes of letting an innocent man go free.

     It’s sad to say, but Tom was found guilty of a crime he did not commit. Everyone knew Tom was no rapist or woman-beater, but in their minds he was the lesser person because of his skin color. Even though this is not a true story, it was something that happened all the time.Cliche. People lost their freedom because they didn’t have the “right†skin color. The injustice that Tom had, many people still have today. Racism is still very much alive, which breaks my heart. I inspire (I assume she means "aspire"?) to be an Atticus Finch in a world filled with Ewells. Cliche Everyone is perfect, no matter their race. All men are created equal, which is something we should never forget. More cliche

 

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Thank you. I agree with your critique. The assignment was to respond to the novel, and she did not truly do that. Also, I appreciate your specific corrections. I had a vague idea of what the issues with this paper are, but I was having trouble coming up with concrete feedback. Thank you again.

 

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Thank you. I agree with your critique. The assignment was to respond to the novel, and she did not truly do that. Also, I appreciate your specific corrections. I had a vague idea of what the issues with this paper are, but I was having trouble coming up with concrete feedback. Thank you again.

 

Does she understand what "a response" specifically means? It seems a very vague assignment to me, and I could imagine a student not having a clear idea of what that entails (I myself would not know what to make of it without further instruction). It might help to give more specific writing assignments. Also, does she have sample essays to help her clarify this?

 

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Does she understand what "a response" specifically means? It seems a very vague assignment to me, and I could imagine a student not having a clear idea of what that entails (I myself would not know what to make of it without further instruction). It might help to give more specific writing assignments. Also, does she have sample essays to help her clarify this?

 

 

I gave her more specific instructions, but I probably should have talked with her as she wrote the paper. I did just give her the assignment and then leave her on her own.  Also, I like the idea of sample essays. I was just thinking about that before you posted. Do you know where we could find those? I'm sure there are some good online sources.

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No suggestions- but If it makes you feel any better I am having similar struggles at this time with my newly turned 9th grader. Trying to overwrite some of the "cutesy" habits she grew in PS that got her funny remarks and praise of "how witty" from teachers, but honestly did nothing to help grow her writing, is a struggle in and of itself. I am almost to the point of starting copy work again and am reevaluating our writing choices for this coming year. I'm trying to walk the fine line of having a decent bar, but not being too harsh. My starting place is editing drafts for her from the get go- she has to see the errors and start changing her thinking process for a bit before I can expect an on the fly essay of the appropriate level I think.

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I have to rid myself of the "cutesy" habits as well. I attended public school and then taught public school for seven years. Now I'm struggling with ​how â€‹to teach writing.

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It is basically a retelling. When I have my daughter do a response of a book, I usually send her to sparknotes to look at the essay questions. It gives her a starting point. I really don't see a thesis to this paper. And she needs to defend any points with quotes from the book.

 

Learning to write is hard. 

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I have to rid myself of the "cutesy" habits as well. I attended public school and then taught public school for seven years. Now I'm struggling with ​how ​to teach writing.

You are not alone! The irony is this was the last subject I was worried about for high school! Turns out it's the most complicated at the moment because I can't find a direct solution as I did for math.

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It reads a bit like a middle-school level book report - where a summary and personal opinion of the book are often part of the assignment.

 

Have you covered the components of the essay? The closest thing I can find to a thesis statement is, "This book shows you the innocence of childhood, the injustice caused by racism, and the great respect and hard work one man was capable of having."  -- But, the content of the paper does not follow this outline at all.

 

I'm still not clear on the assignment -- was it literally just to "respond to the novel?" That is way to vague for someone just beginning literary analysis. I would start with giving very clear assignments and reading example essays that show very clearly what you do and do not want. Go through each type of literary analysis and assign an essay of each type very specifically. "Do a character analysis". "Do a theme analysis." "Do a setting analysis" etc.

Edited by JanetC
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