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Opinion essays from a prompt

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Ds is struggling with some essay assignments in our co-op. He's never written many opinion type essays from a prompt, and the class has had several this year. He struggles most when it is a topic he really doesn't have much personal opinion on already, or it's an area/topic unfamiliar to him. 

 

He can come up with a basic "skeleton" of an essay with decent topics to talk about most of the time, but it is difficult for him to fill in the paragraphs with more details, examples, etc. 

 

Anyone else have kids struggling with this? He's not as deep a thinker as my first child, so I didn't have to pull this kind of stuff out of her. She  has opinions on everything! LOL!

 

Thanks for any ideas!! 

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Ds is struggling with some essay assignments in our co-op. He's never written many opinion type essays from a prompt, and the class has had several this year. He struggles most when it is a topic he really doesn't have much personal opinion on already, or it's an area/topic unfamiliar to him. 

 

This is the problem with these sorts of prompts.  Writing is an expression of thought and if the writer has no thoughts then...the writing isn't any good.

 

It is much better to have students write about what they're studying so that they have something to say--that is to integrate writing assignments and corresponding instruction into their literature, history, science, and even math classes rather than have a separate writing class that is divorced from content.

 

I realize that this isn't the sort of comment you were looking for, but unfortunately, I don't think there is a quick fix to the problem.  It's just not something that a technique will fix.

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:iagree:

 

 

I'm like your child. I've just taken to rolling a die - odds, I take Side A and evens, I take Side B. It's easier for me to write these essays as "fiction" or as though a character has ___ opinion than it is for me to formulate one of my own - especially if the topic is unfamiliar or uninteresting to me. 

 

Not much help, either, sorry.

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This is the problem with these sorts of prompts.  Writing is an expression of thought and if the writer has no thoughts then...the writing isn't any good.

 

It is much better to have students write about what they're studying so that they have something to say--that is to integrate writing assignments and corresponding instruction into their literature, history, science, and even math classes rather than have a separate writing class that is divorced from content.

 

I realize that this isn't the sort of comment you were looking for, but unfortunately, I don't think there is a quick fix to the problem.  It's just not something that a technique will fix.

 

These assignments are coming from the literature curriculum. It's Memoria Press' Poetry and Prose. The teacher is mostly relying on the essay options in the curriculum. I'm guessing that MP must really like opinion and argumentative essays. I was thinking it would be more literary analysis than just opinions on topics related to the poems and works. 

 

All in all, I can't complain because our co-op doesn't charge tuition that is paid to the teachers. I have the ability to change assignments because I'm giving the final grade, not the classroom teacher; however, she is having the students read their essays aloud in class. Ds doesn't want me to change the assignments because his will stand out. 

 

I just may be more opinionated next year in our curricula planning meeting! (I have no problem with lots of opinions...LOL!)

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These assignments are coming from the literature curriculum. It's Memoria Press' Poetry and Prose. 

 

Can you give an example of one of the prompts?  If they actually are on topic, what I said above doesn't apply.

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I agree with Kai.  Just bc it is an opinion essay, it doesn't mean that it isn't literary analysis.  For example, what do you believe was the dominant conflict theme in "XXX."  That is literary analysis, but it arguing from your position.

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Can you give an example of one of the prompts?  If they actually are on topic, what I said above doesn't apply.

 

Here's the last one:

 

Marcus Aurelius said, "Out lives are what our thoughts make it." Write a 5 paragraph essay on: Do my thoughts play a role in determining the course of my life? 

 

The quote was not in the piece of literature. This was assigned after reading Shakespeare's Sonnet 29, which has a character who thinks on his beloved and is no longer sullen or depressed. 

 

So it's not a literary analysis essay or an opinion piece on the actual piece of literature, just a topic touched on in the piece. 

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Here's the last one:

 

Marcus Aurelius said, "Out lives are what our thoughts make it." Write a 5 paragraph essay on: Do my thoughts play a role in determining the course of my life? 

 

The quote was not in the piece of literature. This was assigned after reading Shakespeare's Sonnet 29, which has a character who thinks on his beloved and is no longer sullen or depressed. 

 

So it's not a literary analysis essay or an opinion piece on the actual piece of literature, just a topic touched on in the piece. 

 

That clarifies things...my original post stands. 

 

And I have to say that this prompt would be hard for *me* to deal, with and I'm in the middle of getting a master's degree in the humanities where we think about this stuff all the time.

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Yes, I'll just chime in with EKS -- you might suggest to the mom running the class to give the students several prompts to choose from. That's a super-abstract topic, and self-reflective question that wold be difficult for adults to answer, much less write an essay on it.

 

Perhaps they could brainstorm and come up with an outline for that prompt all together in class, with everyone contributing ideas and the teacher putting them up on the whiteboard, which would also model the process of thinking of and structuring an argument.

 

Then she could send them home with a choice of 3-5 prompts that are on topics that are MUCH more concrete, accessible, and age-appropriate to students. Ideas for sources for FREE prompts:

 

501 Writing Prompts -- wide variety, not just persuasive/argumentative essay prompts

100 prompts from Just Write website

Online Math Learning: SAT Test Prep -- scroll about 2/3 down the page to find the past SAT essay prompts

 

Of course, I get that this might not be how the teacher wants to run the class. However, from what I see of gr. 7-12 level writing in my own co-op classes, they really need concrete and specific, relatable prompts. I just think that there is a very big risk of her getting a lot of very short and very vague essays because the kids don't really understand the subject, much less how to write an argument about the subject. ;)

 

As a teacher, I would MUCH rather let students change the assigned subject to something they click with in order to get a solid essay -- rather than to have to read and grade essays where the students were lost or disliked the subject. To me the point is helping students learn how to develop a solid argument and how to write their argument in proper essay format, rather than conform to an essay subject that will stymie actual learning and practice of composition...

 

Good luck! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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Thanks for the encouragement and ideas, everyone!  I saw the teacher after co-op, and she told me ds had a great paper (It almost took blood, sweat, and tears, though!). I told her how much he had struggled with it, so I was glad it had turned out well in the end. She said her own son struggled, too, and the next assignment isn't argumentative in nature, so it will be nice to have a break! 

 

 

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These kinds of writing assignments seem to be common in public school. My son has had difficult assignments in virtual school in middle school,to the point that I told him he wouldn't have those in homeschool high school. 😂

 

In 7th grade, he was to write about an experience that helped shape his identity. At 12,living a fairly easy life, he didn't really have one. We ended up going with writing about his brother's broken leg, since he was there when it happened and went to the hospital with him, plus he helped him get around a lot. We threw in that he now had more awareness for people with disabilities, as we dealt with finding ways to get places in a wheelchair and noticed things like a bathroom door with a latch way up high, out of reach of someone in a wheelchair.

 

In 8th grade, he had to think of a hero and write about an event involving that hero and how it affected him. Ugh. Again, at 13,not that much had happened in his cushy life. :p We ended up going with the fire department as his hero and talked about our garage fire. In reality, the fire department arrived after the fire had smoked itself out overnight, and the whole thing didn't really affect my son that much at age 8,since the garage was separate from the house. So we again had to kind of exaggerate the effect on him. He got a 100 on that essay, but goodness it was awful to come up with a topic.

 

These types of assignments make it difficult to practice what they've learned about writing, since they have so much trouble coming up with what to write about to begin with, and supporting their argument when they barely even have an argument. I suppose writing about something they know or are studying will be easy peasy after that. ;)

 

All that to say... I feel your pain. :)

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