Reviewing Essay Structure
We began class this week with a brief review of the structure and organization of the persuasive essay. Students have been working on organizing their topic sentences (arguments) and paragraphs in the body of their essays for the past two weeks as homework.
One area many students find challenging is paragraph development - keeping paragraph content focused and unified to support the topic sentence. "Paragraph sprawl" occurs when digressions pop up in the form of irrelevant details or a shift in focus. Each paragraph should contain logical, coherent thoughts that build toward supporting the main idea (argument) of that paragraph. And, paragraphs should be arranged within the overall essay so that the order of ideas presents the strongest case to support the thesis.
During class I met individually with those students that had emailed me copies of their drafts for review. I provided my comments and suggestions for both organization and content. I will continue to meet with students briefly each week until drafts are in final form.
The Power of Analogy
The type of argument most students have been using in their essays so far is what is generally known as testimony (expert opinion, facts, statistics, personal experience). Today we discussed the use of comparison - specifically analogy - as another effective tool.
An analogy supports a conclusion by examining the similarities between two examples and can be a very powerful device for constructing strong arguments. Most often, analogies compare abstract or hard to explain concepts to something more familiar and provide the reader with an "aha!" moment.
Using our curfew scenario (from our first class) we discussed which of the following analogies best communicates the definition of curfew that students would wish to convey in their argument:
For our in-class writing exercise, students paired up and were asked to choose from four possible topics:
Their assignment was to collaborate on preparing an outline for a persuasive essay, arguing one side of the topic. They needed to formulate a hook, a clear thesis statement, and 3-4 topic sentences for the body of the essay, one of which needed to use an analogy as a line of argument.