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What types of writing?

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What types of writing do students really need to know before college? Does that vary from school to school?

I focused a lot on literary analysis with my dd and some research writing. She didn't do any literary analysis in college that wasn't also research based. She had to write quite a few response papers, but I don't even really know what those are. She learned there at her school. It seems research has been the most needed  skill for her.  

Does that hold true everywhere? 

I ask because I've just decided to hire a writing tutor for my son. I wanted outside accountability for some grades, and I kind of feel I've taken him as far as I can. Dd was able to attend a writing class with a retired English teacher that took her further than I could as well. The tutor has asked me to write out my goals, so I'm here asking these questions to help me develop those goals.

Thank you in advance! 

 

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I think this depends on a student's major. If a student isn't going into a humanities field, then lit analysis papers won't be the norm at all. They might have to do one or two in an English 101 type course, but they also might take a humanities course or two that doesn't require that specific format. Obviously, if a student were going into a STEM field, then writing lab reports would be important, you know? Some of this is major-specific.

To get into a selective college, kids have to be able to write about themselves - personal narratives - for most admissions essays. Yet that seems to be rarely taught in schools explicitly from what I can see.

We do "response papers" but not polished. I assign them as freewrites. I mean, a response paper is just your personal reflections and opinions of what you're seeing or reading about. You bring in your background information that you know. You talk about what the meaning is, the viewpoint, etc. You do some analysis, but of the "here's what I'm thinking" type. I've never heard of this being a major assignment in a class (though, I suppose, if a professor assigned enough of them, they could collectively be a major grade, if that makes sense) but I could be out of step or totally wrong. I mean, they're basically read/watch this thing and then give your (intelligent, trying to think deeper) thoughts about it. No need for a thesis or anything so formal.

I think thesis based writing is the most flexible format kids can learn in general. I mean, we all roll our eyes at the 5-paragraph essay, but if you teach it as a loose, adaptable pattern and not as a rigid box to fit into, then so much writing kids do that isn't just off the cuff fits uses it. Research papers typically follow a thesis format as well, they're just longer and you need the additional research skills.

I also think short answer questions are really important to be able to answer for students. The paragraph long writing where you answer a layer and complex question can often stymie kids who have only ever done longer writing.

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I’ll be interested to read others’ responses. Both of my college students are nursing majors. In GE classes, they’ve done a lot of literature reviews, response papers, and textual analysis. In nursing classes, it is mostly research papers (not many nursing classes require much writing, though; tests are mainly multiple-choice following the NCLEX format).

My DD3 (age 14) is doing CLRC’s Great Books class this year. She’s writing a TON! They write five well-developed paragraph-length comprehension questions and one 1-2 page response paper weekly. In addition, they write three fully-developed thesis-driven essays per semester. I figure she’ll be very well-prepared for any/all college writing after a few years of GBs!

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6 hours ago, mom31257 said:

What types of writing do students really need to know before college? Does that vary from school to school?...


Rather than depending on the college, it may vary depending on the degree field:
- STEM = formal lab reports and documented research papers
- Social Science = researched argumentative writing
- English or Humanities = literary analysis essays

Types of writing our DSs encountered in the community college and 4-year Liberal Arts College:
- note-taking from lectures
- reader responses, and a literary analysis essay (Writing 101)
- research paper with citations (Writing 102)
- researched/supported argumentative essays (Sociology and Anthropology courses)
- formal lab reports (Natural Science courses)
- writing needed for preparing to give an oral presentation + creation of a supporting slideshow (Communications course, but numerous other courses in a variety of subject areas required)
- personal essays or short essay responses to specific questions (for scholarships: initial application and renewal applications)
- resume writing for applying for jobs (for working while in college, but also for including along with scholarship renewal applications)
 

6 hours ago, mom31257 said:

... She didn't do any literary analysis in college that wasn't also research based. She had to write quite a few response papers, but I don't even really know what those are...


A response paper is an essay (could be 1 paragraph, 3-5 paragraphs, or multi-page in length) that is your supported-with-examples answer to a prompt question, or "your thoughts about" what you see going on in a work of literature, or your conclusion/opinion about the reading in the History or Sociology or other Social Science area. Think of it as a "lite" version of a student's response to an SAT/ACT essay prompt, or as what a student might write in response to one of those thinking / discussion questions in a literature guide, or as a "lite" argumentative essay.

Tullia has 2 great threads on response papers:
"If you are frustrated with discussing history and literature with a high school student..." -- initial thread
"More about response papers and their content" -- her follow-up thread

re: literary analysis essays
While a student may not ever write a literary analysis essay in college, I personally find it to be a helpful assignment in high school for learning how to "look deeper" into something, form an opinion / contention / claim /  "big idea", and build a supported argument for your opinion / claim.

Persuasive essays and argumentative essays do this, too, and they are also very useful types of writing to practice. Why I esp. like literary (or cinematic) analysis essays is that they force the student to find their support only within the body of the work of literature or from within the film. That means they learn to look deeper at the work. And they also learn to not drag in unrelated things as support for their claim, which weakens their argument. ?
 

6 hours ago, mom31257 said:

...It seems research has been the most needed  skill for her... Does that hold true everywhere? ...


It's certainly a very important skill to have.

In my opinion, whether it's a research paper, persuasive essay, literary analysis essay or a reader response, it is also equally important to have the skill of "well-thought-out" and well-supported writing. So, understanding how to write a structured paper, and include all the parts needed, such as:
- "intro info"
- thesis statement (topic, claim, direction)
- a body that builds an argument of support for the thesis
- points of the argument with supporting facts, examples, details, etc.
- commentary that shows how/why each supporting fact/example supports that specific point of the argument
- commentary that shows how/why each point supports the claim of the thesis
- conclusion (that is not *just* a restatement of what came before)
 

6 hours ago, mom31257 said:

...I ask because I've just decided to hire a writing tutor for my son. I wanted outside accountability for some grades, and I kind of feel I've taken him as far as I can. Dd was able to attend a writing class with a retired English teacher that took her further than I could as well. The tutor has asked me to write out my goals, so I'm here asking these questions to help me develop those goals.


One goal might be to cover the wide variety of types of writing assignments your DS might need for high school, college, AND real life:

high school / college writing:
- note-taking from lectures
- science lab reports
- oral presentation with a power point /slideshow component
- research paper with citations
- reader response papers
- timed essay from prompt 
- various types of essays: literary analysis, persuasive, argumentative, descriptive, narrative, definition, compare/contrast, cause/effect

- personal essay (college/scholarship applications)

real life writing:
- resume and cover letter writing
- types of letters (letter of inquiry; letter of application; letter of information; letter of complaint; letter of thanks/recognition; letter of recommendation; letter to the editor)
- business writing (the memo;
 problem-solution report; summary report (specific type of narrative / description of events); an evaluation; committee report)
- process paper ("how to" or demonstration paper; the process or steps needed to do something)
- newsletter or blog article
____________________

If not already doing so, I would definitely have complete paragraphs (having all the sentences needed) as a goal:
- transition (to smooth moving from previous paragraph or point)
- topic sentence (the point that will be covered in this paragraph)
- sentence(s) of explanation (if needed)
- sentence(s) of support for the point of this paragraph
- commentary, explaining how/why the support actually does support the point of the paragraph
- if part of a multi-paragraph piece of writing, commentary explaining how/why the point supports the thesis claim

____________________

For my co-op classes, I find it helpful to give them a specific checklist (detailed explanation of each stage of the writing process, and what I expect to be included in the paper) for each assignment. So some sort of rubric or checklist might be a goal.

Also with my co-op classes, I've found that my overall class goal has become more focused over time as I have taught more classes. Helping students "learn to think" has become my overall goal:
- think of what their opinion / claim / big idea is about the material
- think through building a logical supported argument,
- t
hink through their commentary (explain how/why the support really supports)

Another thought: I have moved towards more short (1-3 paragraph) weekly assignments to practice complete paragraphs (contain all that is needed) and practice for building arguments of different types. And I have students do fewer multi-page assignments, as longer assignments take so much time (weeks to get through the whole writing process of brainstorming, organizing, rough draft writing, revising, proof-editing), and really are just an expanded version of the shorter assignments.
____________________

For more possible ideas about goals that are important to you for writing, you might look at some of the linked threads in the pinned thread "High School Motherlode #2". At the top of post #5, under the sub-heading of "High School Subjects / Courses", the first topic is "Writing / English", and there are a dozen+ threads of discussions on writing. Something there might be of help as you consider what goals you want to accomplish with the tutor.

What a great opportunity to have your DS work with a tutor! BEST wishes for this new adventure. Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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Literary analysis papers are only required for literature classes in college.  Most students will never need to write them.  What college-bound high school students really need is to learn how to read an academic source, identify its main points and arguments, be able to summarize them coherently, and be able to respond with their own thoughts.  Once students are able to do that, this skill should be expanded to more than one source resulting in a synthesis paper.  A synthesis can have many forms, but it is the most common type of paper assigned in college.

The only thing literary analysis is good for is to teach a student how to support a thesis with evidence--though it is certainly not the only way to teach this.  The reason that it is used so much for this purpose is because the majority of English teachers were English majors, and the literary essay is all they know.  But another reason it can actually be good is that a literary work is its own self-contained world, so the focus can be on the argument because all of the supporting evidence is in the text.

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You've gotten great suggestions above - but the primary thing I would say is to make sure your kids know about APA formatting in addition to MLA formatting for papers. All my kids' writing assignments in high school (whether for oursourced classes, or for my classes) were MLA formatted. Right out of the gates, freshman year, DD had three writing-heavy classes and they ALL used APA formatting. Even the English class. She had pre-formatted blanks set up, was familiar with how to format her works-cited pages, etc with MLA, but APA is quite different. It was really frustrating for her because she had to research all of that formatting stuff whereas her classmates appeared to already know how to do it.

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On 11/8/2018 at 2:42 PM, EKS said:

Literary analysis papers are only required for literature classes in college.  Most students will never need to write them.  What college-bound high school students really need is to learn how to read an academic source, identify its main points and arguments, be able to summarize them coherently, and be able to respond with their own thoughts.  Once students are able to do that, this skill should be expanded to more than one source resulting in a synthesis paper.  A synthesis can have many forms, but it is the most common type of paper assigned in college.

The only thing literary analysis is good for is to teach a student how to support a thesis with evidence--though it is certainly not the only way to teach this.  The reason that it is used so much for this purpose is because the majority of English teachers were English majors, and the literary essay is all they know.  But another reason it can actually be good is that a literary work is its own self-contained world, so the focus can be on the argument because all of the supporting evidence is in the text.

 

What are some good academic sources that you have used for them to summarize and respond to?

 

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1 hour ago, Kendall said:

What are some good academic sources that you have used for them to summarize and respond to?

At the high school level I think it's fine to use essays of the sort that you might find in the New Yorker or the Atlantic.  

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On 11/8/2018 at 11:52 PM, easypeasy said:

You've gotten great suggestions above - but the primary thing I would say is to make sure your kids know about APA formatting in addition to MLA formatting for papers. All my kids' writing assignments in high school (whether for oursourced classes, or for my classes) were MLA formatted. Right out of the gates, freshman year, DD had three writing-heavy classes and they ALL used APA formatting. Even the English class. She had pre-formatted blanks set up, was familiar with how to format her works-cited pages, etc with MLA, but APA is quite different. It was really frustrating for her because she had to research all of that formatting stuff whereas her classmates appeared to already know how to do it.

Another style to add to that list is Chicago/Turabian, which is standard for history courses.

I've been working with students this semester on footnotes and many of them truly have no clue how to do them properly. It's frustrating for them and me. 

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On 11/8/2018 at 2:42 PM, EKS said:

Literary analysis papers are only required for literature classes in college.  Most students will never need to write them.  What college-bound high school students really need is to learn how to read an academic source, identify its main points and arguments, be able to summarize them coherently, and be able to respond with their own thoughts.  Once students are able to do that, this skill should be expanded to more than one source resulting in a synthesis paper.  A synthesis can have many forms, but it is the most common type of paper assigned in college.

The only thing literary analysis is good for is to teach a student how to support a thesis with evidence--though it is certainly not the only way to teach this.  The reason that it is used so much for this purpose is because the majority of English teachers were English majors, and the literary essay is all they know.  But another reason it can actually be good is that a literary work is its own self-contained world, so the focus can be on the argument because all of the supporting evidence is in the text.

 

I showed this (bold mine) to my 21 year old son who is a junior psychology major. I've pasted his response below because it adds to the conversation in this thread.from someone who is currently in the "trenches". The honors program he refers to is  a great books, history, philosophy type honors program.

This thread was really timely for me! 

Kendall

He said:

The bold part is sometimes accurate in my experience. It depends on the type of college paper, which greatly depends on the type of class, which obviously depends on the major. In psychology, absolutely yes. I'm currently working on two papers that qualify as synthesis papers and one that combines a synthesis and an explanation of the results of our own study. In my honors classes, there was a mixture of literary analysis and synthesis, sometimes in the same paper. I think that students should come to college with the fundamental skills to do both synthesis and literary analysis. Summary is a fundamental skill. Don't expect a high school student to summarize an article that they won't have enough background knowledge to understand until graduate school. Do teach them to summarize papers, essays, or books that they can understand, even if the material is right at the edge of their ability to understand. If they are skilled at summary, synthesis will not be hard to figure out. Argumentation is a fundamental skill. I think that literary analysis is an accessible way to teach argumentation. There are other ways to teach argumentation--analyzing a current issue, for example--and it may be helpful to teach using those methods as well. Almost every paper I have written at the college level has required both summary and argumentation.

 

Another key point is that high school is not merely for college preparation. It is entirely possible for students to obtain a bachelor's degree without reading a single work of literature. They may completely avoid literary analysis. This is sad. We need to read literature and critically evaluate it in order to access our full humanity. If they will not read literature and learn to critically evaluate it in college, they must do it before college. The lack of humanities in college coursework does not excuse the high school from teaching the humanities. Rather, it emphasizes the responsibility of high school to prepare their students not merely for college but for life. And not merely for life, but for a life of humanity.

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2 minutes ago, Kendall said:

Almost every paper I have written at the college level has required both summary and argumentation.

Yes--when I said "respond with their own thoughts," that most commonly means making some sort of argument.  But not always--some instructors are big on having students write about their reactions or feelings about things.  

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11 minutes ago, Kendall said:

I think that students should come to college with the fundamental skills to do both synthesis and literary analysis. 

...

We need to read literature and critically evaluate it in order to access our full humanity. If they will not read literature and learn to critically evaluate it in college, they must do it before college. The lack of humanities in college coursework does not excuse the high school from teaching the humanities. Rather, it emphasizes the responsibility of high school to prepare their students not merely for college but for life. And not merely for life, but for a life of humanity.

I disagree that literary analysis is a fundamental skill, though I would agree that analysis is.  On the other hand, I absolutely agree that reading literature is absolutely critical for cultural literacy and, as your son points out, for developing as a human being.

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34 minutes ago, EKS said:

I disagree that literary analysis is a fundamental skill, though I would agree that analysis is.  On the other hand, I absolutely agree that reading literature is absolutely critical for cultural literacy and, as your son points out, for developing as a human being.

 

I think he meant that the things he underlined-argument and summary-were fundamental skills needed to be able to do, among other things, literary analysis. 

 

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24 minutes ago, Kendall said:

I think he meant that the things he underlined-argument and summary-were fundamental skills needed to be able to do, among other things, literary analysis. 

That makes sense--thanks for clarifying.

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My kids often write literary analysis papers that also require research. (My Dd just wrote one on the Grimms brothers and Christian allusions and had to do both.)

In terms of writing in general, they rotate writing assignments through subjects: literature, history, theology, and science. Most of their essays require some sort of research component but are not what I think of as research papers like when I was in high school.

In terms of formatting, I have only ever taught my kids MLA, but they often just use Word to format according to whatever option is selected in their courses and only have to look up the odd format requirement. Chicago takes me back. That is the only formatting style I ever used when I was a student. I don't think any of my kids have had to turn in anything in Chicago style. APA, yes.

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Research papers...in french ?

literary analysis essays too, but these seem almost like a response one. I personally seem to have managed to get through college and grad school not knowing how to write these. I mean without them turning into research papers. Like writing more about what the author wrote without quoting someone else is impossible for me, so that would be something the teaching of which I’d outsource...

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On 11/8/2018 at 2:42 PM, EKS said:

Literary analysis papers are only required for literature classes in college.  Most students will never need to write them.  What college-bound high school students really need is to learn how to read an academic source, identify its main points and arguments, be able to summarize them coherently, and be able to respond with their own thoughts.  

I agree with this. Many student never take a literature course in college and even the gen ed lit courses require only a very minimal level of lit analysis. Most courses require students to read information and deal with it in some way, whether it is to summarize, discuss, or include it as a component in their research. Being able to do that is VERY important. The most common writing in most field is a researched argument. Again, this requires reading sources and bringing that information together along with bringing in their own voice to make an argument. This also requires skills like writing introductions, formulating a thesis, organization, etc. These are the skills students need. Literature analysis is only necessary if they plan to be a literature major or if they are attending a program that focuses on literature for all.

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I'd expose your student to a variety of types of essays and papers--argumentative, persuasive, research, compare and contrast, response, synthesis etc... Format isn't the most difficult thing--their classes will generally explain the type of paper they want. What's harder is teaching a student how to think critically and then be able to express themselves in writing. Can the student write a thesis statement and then clearly and logically support it? Use a variety of formats to help them hone this skill. I will say that of all the types of papers my kids have had to write, literary analysis was not even on the list for one, and the other only had to write one paper of that type (so far, anyway!) 

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This has been a really helpful thread for me. I appreciate all the ideas. I was just thinking about the skill of summarizing. I've been teaching paraphrasing to a group of science students and I think we finally have that down-pat, but does anyone have some good ideas about how to teach summarizing?

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7 hours ago, wagingpeace said:

This has been a really helpful thread for me. I appreciate all the ideas. I was just thinking about the skill of summarizing. I've been teaching paraphrasing to a group of science students and I think we finally have that down-pat, but does anyone have some good ideas about how to teach summarizing?

When was the last time you needed to summarize in an academic context?  If it's been a while (as it probably has been for most people), I'd recommend reading a text that is as challenging (and foreign--so be sure to read outside your areas of expertise) to you as whatever it is you will have your child summarize is to him or her.  Then try summarizing it.  Make the summary different lengths--one sentence, 100 words, 200 words.  It would be best to do this a few times, so that you have a chance to learn a bit which techniques help and which don't.

I'm serious about the above, btw.  I have found that I have been able to teach best when I have actually struggled as an adult with what I'm intending to teach.  When I was teaching my dyslexic son to read, my recent struggle had been learning to read Japanese at all as well as learning to read music fluently.  With math, it was learning it ahead of my son(s) well enough to actually teach it (so, Singapore style elementary math through, eventually, calculus).  And with writing, it was taking several writing intensive graduate courses where I had to do all of the things that I wanted my son(s) to do but at a challenging level and pace.

As far as resources go, there are several freshman composition books that teach summary writing.  I really like the way They Say/I Say explains the whys as well as the hows of summarization, and I think it is a great place to start (though I think that 90% of their "templates" are awful).  The section on summary writing in A Sequence for Academic Writing is well done as is the one in The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing.

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So after all this great conversation about what writing a kid needs,  if you want to buy an on line class what would you recommend!??   My sophomore son is taking an English class at HSLDA - it is good for him at this point.  But I would like him to do more writing in the 2nd half of high school than he is currently doing.  Or is the way to go a private tutor and just hand them this thread?!  And of course cost is a factor too.  sigh.

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Oldest is a junior in college seeking a Communication/Public Relations/Event Management degree.  She said her biggest regret was not taking tech writing.  She took the standard English 1301 and English 1302 (liturature) at our local community college and is now, as a junior, taking tech writing 1 and tech writing 2.  Youngest is currently taking English 1301.  Both said that class is mostly centered on how to cite your work and various formats (MLA, APA).  Youngest has decided to take Tech Writing as an approved alternate to 1302. 

Edited by HollyDay

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