BRILLIANT IDEAS ON WRITING A SYNTHESIS ESSAY

The ADVANCED PLACEMENT ENGLISH LANGUAGE & COMPOSITION requires the candidate to write three types of essays. This paper tests the candidate’s reading and writing skills; and as such, examiners and teachers agree that top scores are awarded to those students who can confidently analyse how authors of no-fiction prose use various techniques to convey meaning and create effects. In addition, the students have to write three well organized and insightful essays, each with a different purpose.

These THREE types of essays fall under:

  • Synthesis Essay
  • Argumentative Essay
  • Analytical Essay

WatchSYNTHESIS ESSAY

The main purpose of a synthesis essay is to make insightful connections from several published documents – called sources – related to the issue at hand, each less than a page long. One source will be an image – a photo, a chart, map, cartoon, or other visual presentation also related to the issue.

FIFTEEN minutes are allotted to the reading of the sources.

A Typical Synthesis Essay Question

Directions: The following question is based on the accompanying seven sources.

This question requires you to synthesize a variety of sources into a coherent, well-written essay. When you synthesize sources you refer to them to develop your position and cite them accurately. Your argument should be central; the sources should support this argument. Avoid merely summarizing sources.

Remember to attribute both direct and indirect citations.

After this, you are expected to write an essay that takes a position on the issue and incorporates, or synthesizes at least three of the sources into your discussion. Thus, in order to write a successful synthesis essay, you must gather research on your chosen sources, discover meaningful connections through your chosen sources, and develop a unique and interesting argument or perspective.

A Synthesis Is Not a Summary

A synthesis is an opportunity to create new knowledge out of already existing knowledge, i.e., other sources. You combine, “synthesize,” the information in your sources to develop an argument or a unique perspective on a topic. Your thesis statement becomes a one-sentence claim that presents your perspective and identifies the new knowledge that you will create.

In short, a synthesis essay must do all the following:

  • It accurately reports information from the sources using different phrases and sentences.
  • It is organized in such a way that readers can immediately see where the information from the sources overlap.
  • It makes sense of the sources and helps the reader understand them in greater depth.
  • The writer clearly promotes an idea; understands how to use a variety of sources, including non-print text (pictures, graphs, etc.), using this “synthesis” to support that idea.
  • The writer uses quotes or phrases to extract key information as well as demonstrating understanding in using these quotes or phrases.

The essay must be thesis-driven, so form a thesis based on the prompt:

What you plan to argue + How you plan to argue it = Thesis

pexels-photo.jpgWhat Do I Need to Write One?

Writing a successful synthesis essay will require you to do four things:

  1. Read accurately and objectively;
  2. See relations among different viewpoints;
  3. Define a thesis based on these relations, and
  4. Support the thesis effectively.

You will not discuss all the points in every source; but you should use e some of the sources, and you should use points from each that are appropriate for the thesis of your own essay.

How Do I Write It?

A synthesis essay may be developed in several ways, including the following:

READ CAREFULLY First, skimming through the readings and look for similar issues in each essay. Reflect on those issues, and jot down your ideas. Reread and decide on one topic that will unify your essay. Note each essay’s thesis and main points.

Finally, take notes and write your . . .

THESIS SUPPORTED BY EXAMPLES. Develop a thesis based on common points among the works, and Support the thesis with appropriate examples from each work. This strategy works well with essays that approach a subject from highly diverse viewpoints.

COMPARISON AND CONTRAST. Discuss the similarities and differences in the writers’ viewpoints and draw whatever conclusions are possible from your comparison.

ARGUMENT. If you have a clearly defined opinion about the subject, support that opinion by incorporating the valid viewpoints of the writers of the essays you have selected,. Still, try to analyze weaknesses of any ideas you feel are not valid; identifying conflicting ideas as well as overcoming opposing viewpoints!

In particular, your essay will show whether you can . . .

  • judge the best sources to back up your position.
  • incorporate other writers’ claims or explanations into your own argument.
  • draw on sources in the order that develops your argument in the most logical, persuasive way.

What Steps Should I Take In Writing This Essay?

REMEMBER: Keep in mind that your goal is to support and illustrate your own ideas with the ideas of others to make a point. Similarly, early in your paper, mention the titles and authors of the sources you will be discussing. Quote or paraphrase brief passages from the sources to show how the essay illustrate, agree with, or disagree with each point you make. Whenever you quote or paraphrase, cite the author properly.

INTRODUCTION: It helps your readers make a transition between their own world and the issues you will be writing about; it gives your readers the tools they need to get into your topic and care about what you are saying.

Usually one paragraph contains a one-sentence statement (thesis) that sums up the focus of the essay.

BODY PARAGRAPHS: These are organized by theme, point, similarity, or aspect of the topic.

  • Each paragraph deals with one specific point/idea that relates to the thesis.
  • Each paragraph begins with a topic sentence – letting the reader know what the paragraph is about and includes information from more than one source.
  • Indicates where information comes from with either lead in phrases and verbs of attribution: According to _______ states_______ affirms_______ explains OR with MLA citation (use parenthetical).
  • Shows the similarities or differences between the different sources in ways that make the paper informative.
  • Represents the texts fairly — even if that seems to weaken your paper! Try to avoid relying on one source and just filling in others to meet the required number of sources.
  • Direct quote vs. Paraphrase – When drawing a source to your argument, you have a choice of paraphrasing (summarizing in your own words and making it easier to incorporate someone else’s ideas smoothly into your own words) what the author says, or quoting some of his or her words directly (within quotation marks, of course). Several quotes may make your essay appear to be more of a copy and paste exercise than a synthesis. So, if an author uses a particularly striking phrase or unusual wording that would be difficult to paraphrase accurately, then an occasional direct quote would make your essay more vivid.

Refuting Opposing Viewpoints

There are moments you may want to include a counterargument or refutation pointing out weaknesses in the evidence likely to be used by someone who disagrees with you. Essentially, a counterargument is highly desirable because it weakens your opponent’s position while strengthening yours. It adds potency to an essay that cannot be achieved in any other way.

Please note that there is no rule that tells you where in your essay to put a counterargument. Sometimes it fits best near the end of an essay, just before the conclusion. At other times it should be stated early in the essay. It can also be discussed briefly in each paragraph. Just practise doing it!

CONCLUSION: Your conclusion may cover some of these . . .

  • Remind readers of the most significant themes and how they connect to the overall topic.
  • Go beyond a mere summary — offer the reader insight into the significance of the exploration of the topic.
  • Your conclusion provides a bridge to help your readers transition back to their daily lives. Ultimately, it helps them see why all your analysis and information should matter to them after they put the paper down.

Having a Conversation With Your Sources

Since your aim is synthesis, you need to weave the three sources into your own discussion of the prompt using them to support and develop the position you have chosen to take. The exam writers offer a helpful image of how to do that: they call it having a conversation with your sources. This means responding to each person’s comments, building on them, using them to enrich your own views about the topic as well as trying to understand the author’s position and adding your own ideas to the discussion. This becomes a fruitful conversation!

writing-notes-idea-conference.jpgA Word About Plagiarism

Be certain to properly cite your sources!

Go back over your paper and make certain you have properly cited all sources. You can use verbs of attribution or use parenthetical citations.

Accidental plagiarism most often occurs when writers are synthesizing sources and do not indicate where the synthesis ends and their own comments begin!

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!!

 

HOW TO WRITE AN EXCELLENT ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY

WRITING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY is a skill that anyone in school needs to know, though it can be useful outside of the classroom, as well. High school students must write argumentative essays. They are not difficult to do, as long as one keeps these simple ideas in mind. With today’s Common Core standards, learning to write an essay that intelligently proves your point is an essential part of your education.

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Here are some of the basic elements of an argumentative essay:

What is a Claim? – The thesis of one’s argumentative essay is a debatable claim. An essay is not an argumentative essay if it does not have a debatable claim. A claim is an assertion of something, but it must also be debatable. A debatable claim is a topic that clearly has two sides. Each side can be debated, which is why the claim is debatable. For example, “English should be the official language of the United States” is a debatable claim, and there are two sides to the issue.

What is an Appeal? – The writer of an argumentative essay will make appeals to her/his audience. There are three types of appeals:

  • Appeal to reason. The writer, appealing to his/her reader’s sense of logic, tends to make her argument citing facts, statistics, and in general, tends to rely on the reader using his sense of reason when reading the essay.
  • Appeal to emotion. When using this approach, the writer will appeal to the audience’s emotional side. Are there things about the argument that could make the reader upset or angry, in a way that will make him understand the writer’s argument?
  • Appeal to character. The writer must convince the reader that s/he is reliable and trustworthy. If s/he wants the readers to believe the argument, s/he must make them understand, through the writing, why s/he is credible.

Writers can use one or all of these appeals, and usually the most effective essays will use all three, even if one is used more than the others.

The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following:

A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay. In the introductory paragraph of an argument essay, you should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Your introduction should introduce and set up your point, rather than lay out evidence to support it. Also, while your introduction is a road map for the rest of the essay, you shouldn’t explicitly announce what and how you will be arguing. Next, the author should explain why the topic is important (exigence) or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. If you do not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective essay.

INTRODUCTION IDEAS – which may be mixed and matched – may include:

  • Use a true story – an anecdote.
  • Startling quotation, fact or statistic.
  • Scenario: imaginary story which illustrates the problem.
  • Explain the problem.
  • Describe vividly.
  • Frame story or flashback.

IN SHORT an introduction must have a brief explanation of your topic, some background information, and a thesis statement. In this case, your thesis is a statement of your position on a specific controversial topic.

Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion. Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.

Body paragraphs that include evidential support. Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. Thus, it is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph.

Evidential support. You will need to include well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis.

A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis. You may also want to include a short discussion of more research that should be completed in light of your work.

IN THE CONCULSION, try to make a final point which tells the reader what to think or do through engaging one or more these:

  • If your introduction had used a true story THEN your conclusion must show what will happen if your solution is adopted or people accept your argument.
  • If your introduction had a startling quotation, fact or statistic THEN in your conclusion use a real-life example of how your idea works.
  • If your introduction had scenario: imaginary story which illustrates the problem THEN your conclusion must revise the scenario showing what will happen if the reader adopts your ideas.
  • If your introduction had explained the problem THEN in conclusion tell the reader what they need to think, do, feel or believe.
  • If your introduction had described vividly THEN in conclusion you will need to appeal to the reader’s emotions, character or reason.
  • If your introduction had framed a story or flashback THEN in your conclusion you can finish the frame story.

Who Cares What the Opposing Side Has to Say?

Some points to note include:

  • The writer should care what the opposition says (because the reader certainly will).
  • If the writer simply ignores the other side, his argument will be dismissed.
  • Often, the best way to put together one’s essay is to look at the pros (arguments for the topic) and the cons (arguments against).
  • No matter what the writer’s viewpoint, it’s best for him to understand both sides.
  • Then, as he begins to construct his own argument, he can be sure to argue for his side and against his opposition.
  • As he refutes the other side, his argument naturally grows stronger.

It’s also wise to address the opposition because it shows the credibility of the author. If the writer simply ignores the other side, readers will not take him seriously.

Structure of Argumentative Essays

THE FIVE-PARAGRAPH ESSAY of an argumentative composition follows two of these general formats:

The Pros-Cons Structure

For this type of an argumentative essay, a student must have an INTRODUCTION followed by THREE body paragraphs presenting the pros of the argument, then offer the cons and finally a CONCLUSION in which the author states the desired side.

  • The writer states an initial thesis that contains the point of view for which the author is arguing.
  • The body generally presents both sides of the argument, although each con is refuted in turn in each paragraph.
  • The author may first present the pros of the argument, then offer the cons and refutation later in one paragraph.
  • The author presents the desired conclusion in the final paragraph.

The Pros-Cons and Refutation Structure

This type differs slightly from the above pros-cons structure. It starts with an INTRODUCTION followed by THREE body paragraphs presenting the pros/cons of the argument which are either way refuted in each individual paragraph. Finally the author presents the desired CONCLUSION in the penultimate paragraph.

  • The writer states an initial thesis that contains the point of view for which the author is arguing.
  • The three body paragraphs present both sides of the argument with either each pro or con both being presented and refuted in an individual paragraph.
  • The author presents the desired conclusion in the final paragraph.

The 1-2-1-1 Structure

For a basic argumentative essay, a student should structure the essay so that there are five paragraphs: An INTRODUCTION is followed by TWO support body paragraphs with the fourth paragraph being COUNTER ARGUMENT WITH REBUTTAL and finally a CONCLUSION

  • The first paragraph will be the introduction – Start out with an attention-getter; which must be an interesting fact about the topic or a quote from an authoritative source about the topic. This will be followed by a general overview of the topic, generally spanning three to four sentences. The final sentence of the introduction will be the thesis statement. It is imperative that the writer must provide a stance in this statement along with unelaborated reasons that support this stance.
  • The second and third paragraphs will be the support paragraphs – These are the support body paragraphs. Each of these paragraphs will start with a topic sentence; the topic is taken from the thesis statement. Within the paragraph, the student must have two specific examples that will follow the reason of support for each paragraph. The specific examples must be accompanied by elaboration. Students must display the connection to the thesis and explain the importance of including the examples.
  • The fourth paragraph will be the counter argument with rebuttalIt is an important paragraph. The writer will state the opposing side of the argument in this particular paragraph, followed by an explanation of this opposing side. However, the writer should not stop there. The counter argument must be followed by a rebuttal, or a reason why the counter argument is ineffective or wrong. This will further strengthen the initial position of the writer and give more credibility to the stance that the writer has chosen.
  • Final paragraph will be the conclusion. Finally, the writer must provide a conclusion in the final paragraph. The conclusion will start with a restatement of the thesis statement. This will be followed by an explanation of the significance of the topic and how it affects, or can affect, the reader and/or society. The conclusion will end with a call to action. This call to action will hopefully inspire people to do something that shows support of the original stance of the writer. These tips will ensure efficiency when writing an argumentative essay.

YES, argumentative essays are more difficult to write than, say, personal essays. But being able to argue one’s side in this type of essay is a valuable skill to learn. Students will use this technique all through High School (and possibly on the job, in later life).

Once a student learns how to write this type of essay, future essays are not as difficult.

Practice Questions

Write a well-structured argumentative essay of 400-450 words on one the topics:

  • Classmates are a more important influence than parents on a child’s success in school. Write an argumentative essay that supports your point of view.
  • Destroy what is old, Bring in the new.” In a rapidly changing world, what do you think of this opinion? Support your opinion with reasons and examples.
  • ‘Environmental issues will be the most important issues of the decade.” Do you agree? Write a well-structured essay in which you agree, disagree or partly agree with this statement. Support your opinion with reasons and examples.

quote-chalk-think-words.jpgGood luck in your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.

HOW TO WRITE AN EXCELLENT DISCURSIVE ESSAY @ HighSchool

pexels-photo-279415.jpegA DISCURSIVE ESSAY is a piece of formal writing that discusses a problem, a controversy, or a particular issue.

There are two basic kinds of discursive essays:

  • Persuasive essays in which you can argue strongly either in favour of or against a given discussion.
  • Argumentative essays.

Writing a discursive essay forces you to review all aspects and viewpoints of a particular topic, allowing you to think deeper and more critical.

TYPES OF DISCURSIVE ESSAYS

There are three main types of discursive essays of FIVE paragraphs each (400-450 words):

1. FOR AND AGAINST ESSAYS present both sides of an issue, discussing points in favour of a particular topic as well as those against, or the advantages and disadvantages of a particular question. Each point should be supported by justifications, examples, and/or reasons. The writer’s own opinion should be presented only in the final paragraph.

How to structure it: It has a generic introduction where you state the topic (without stating your opinion). In the next two paragraphs you present arguments for and justifications, examples or reasons. In the fourth paragraph you present arguments against and justifications, examples or reasons. Thus, in the conclusion you need to balance your consideration or opinion.

2. OPINION ESSAYS present the writer’s personal opinion concerning the topic, clearly stated and supported by reasons and/or examples. The opposing viewpoint and reason should be included in a separate paragraph before the closing one, together with an argument that shows it is an unconvincing viewpoint. The writer’s opinion should be included in the introduction, and summarized/restated in the conclusion.

How to structure it: It has a generic introduction in which you state the topic and your opinion followed by two paragraphs with viewpoints and reasons/ examples. So paragraph 4 will have the opposing viewpoint and reason/example. In your conclusion, you will have to summarise/restate your main opinion.

NB: For both FOR AND AGAINST ESSAYS and OPINION ESSAYS, remember to indicate, in a single paragraph, that there is another side to this argument, with some idea of the points likely to be made for the view(s) which are opposite to your own.

3. SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS ESSAYS, in which the problem(s) associated with a particular issue or situation are analysed and possible solutions are put forward, together with any expected results/consequences. The writer’s opinion may be mentioned, directly or indirectly, in the introduction and/or conclusion.

How to structure it: In the general introduction you state the problem and its cause(s)/effect(s). The other FOUR paragraphs look at suggestions and results. This will lead to the conclusion where you summarise your opinion.

Besides the three types above, many scholars are now engaged with the . . . .

ALTERNATE DISCURSIVE ESSAY – Here make sure you alternate from one argument to the other in an alternate manner, ie: you have an introduction then if you have written the second paragraph in support of the topic, then your third paragraph should be something against the topic and not in support of it. However, the fourth paragraph could be similar to paragraph two, supporting the topic as before.

To write the conclusion you need to sum up the key points, which you will have mentioned in the body paragraphs and based on the essay type, you can state your final position on the topic/statement, which can be either for or against, or even can be neither of the two. Also, remember that your conclusion is not just a repetition of the arguments you have mentioned in the body paragraphs, but a summary of the main findings.

This combination of alternate for and against paragraphs will make your essay look distinct, better and thoroughly researched and will result in a lasting impact on the reader’s mind.

ELEMENTS OF A DISCURSIVE ESSAY

Some of the distinguishing elements of a discursive essay are:

  • Its objectivity. It is important that the writer present the problem in an unbiased manner, discussing all points of argument thoroughly and carefully.
  • An introductory paragraph in which you clearly state the topic to be discussed or the issue’s relevance and context to other current issues
  • A main body – three body paragraphs – in which points are clearly stated in separate paragraphs and exemplified or justified;
  • Present each point in a separate paragraph. A well-developed paragraph contains a clear topic sentence, which summaries the contents of the paragraph, as well as a clear justification, explanation or example in support of the point presented.
  • It is written in a third-person perspective and avoid using first-person phrases such as “in my opinion,” “I believe,” and “I fully support.”
  • A closing paragraph summarising the main points of the essay, in which you stale/restate your opinion, and/or give a balanced consideration of the topic.

FORMAL STYLE

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Discursive essays are written in formal style. This means you should . . .

  • Write in passive voice, impersonal constructions, eg: (It is argued that . . .; It Is a common belief that . . . ). Thus, the writer remains neutral and detached from the topic (objective).
  • Points are listed sequentially with the most important points first.
  • Use a range of advanced vocabulary (verbs, adjectives, abstract nouns, etc)
  • Use sequencing (e.g. First/ly, Second/ly, etc) and linking words/phrases (e.g. however, although, furthermore, however, nonetheless)
  • Use complex sentences with a variety of links, dependent clauses, etc (e.g. Although it is widely accepted that . . . .)
  • Make references to other sources (e.g. Experts have proved that . . . )
  • Make generalisations (e.g. ln most developed countries, education . . . )
  • Inversion, especially in conditionals, (e.g. Were this true, we would . . . ; Never has this been more obvious . . . )
  • Use quotations, either word-for-word or in paraphrase, being careful to identify the source (e.g. As Winston Churchill said,”. . . )
  • Use RACPpERSEE! (There is a topic coming on this, in the Argumentative essay. Once you have mastered this acronym, you will see yourself excelling)

You should NOT use . . .

    • short forms (e.g. I’m, It’s) except when these are part of a quotation
    • colloquial expressions, phrasal verbs, idioms, (e.g. lots of, put up with, be over the moon about…)
    • very emotional language (e.g. I absolutely detest people who…)
    • express personal opinions too strongly (e.g. I know…); instead, use milder expressions (e.g. It seems to me that…)
    • simplistic vocabulary (e.g. Experts say they think this is bad….)
    • over-generalisation (e.g. All politicians are…)
    • refer blindly to statistics without accurate reference to their source (e.g. “A recent study showed…” – which study?)
    • a series of short sentences (e.g. Many people think so. They are wrong.)
    • personal examples (e.g. In my school…)
    • simple linking words (e.g. and, but, so) except for variety

So how do I take off?

Introducing A Discursive Essay

The opening of an essay is important. It should capture the reader’s attention in some way or another. It should avoid being bland or dull. It should invite the reader to read on and create a sense of interest. If the beginning is flat, it will not inspire your audience.

Methods of Opening a Discursive Essay

The following methods are suggestions from BBC’s Bitesize. It is up to you to decide which style suits your writing best.

  1. Provocativeeg. – “It is difficult to see how anyone can approve of fox hunting.”
  2. Balancedeg. – “Fox hunting is a subject about which people hold strongly contrasting views.”
  3. Quotation eg. – “Oscar Wilde once described fox hunting as ‘The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.’.”
  4. Illustrationeg. – “On a glorious autumn morning a terrified, exhausted animal is savaged to death by a pack of baying dogs while a group of expensively dressed humans encourage the dogs in their bloody work.”
  5. Anecdoteeg. – “I have always detested fox hunting since I was almost physically sick while watching a television film of the kill at the end of a hunt.”

Linking Ideas In A Discursive Essay

Any well-written piece of discursive writing will flow as one continuous piece despite being made up of three or four different arguments. One of the techniques which can help you to achieve this effectively is the use of linking words. These words are usually used at the beginning of a new paragraph but can also be used to link ideas within a paragraph.

  • Same line of thought – eg: and, firstly, secondly etc., next, furthermore, likewise, in addition, similarly, also, moreover.
  • Conclusion/summary eg: – thus, therefore, consequently, accordingly, in retrospect, hence, in conclusion, in brief, as a result.
  • Definite statement eg: – without question, without doubt, unquestionably, absolutely.
  • Contrasting idea – eg: – yet, on the other hand, nevertheless, however, although, conversely, otherwise, on the contrary.
  • Further examples – eg: because, for instance, since, for example, so that, despite the fact that, accordingly, although, if, though, unless.

Discursive Essay Topics

Try one of these essays and then send it to me for marking. Write in about 400-450 words in length.

  1. “When people succeed, it is because of hard work. Luck has nothing to do with success.” Discuss.
  2. One should never judge a person by external appearances. Discuss.
  3. “Animals should be treated with the same respect as humans.” Do you agree with this view?
  4. “The generation gap is one which cannot be bridged.” Discuss.
  5. Do you believe that equality for women means that women should also do such things as military service?
  6. “One language spoken worldwide would lead to better international relations.” Discuss.
  7. Genetic engineering poses a number of worrying problems, both moral and practical. Discuss some of these problems and suggest what could be done to overcome them.
  8. “Celebrities should be allowed to keep their private lives private, without the invasion of the media.” Discuss.
  9. “Fear and ignorance are the root causes of racial hatred.” Discuss this state-ment and offer some possible solutions to the problem of racial prejudice.
  10. What are the advantages and disadvantages of our ever-increasing use of computer technology?

Good luck in your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.

ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES ON IMPROVING READING COMPREHENSION

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Sadly enough, MOST HIGH SCHOOLS no longer have students taking reading tests. However, when students are identified as not meeting adequate yearly progress in their reading, it is certain that there is a deficit in their reading foundational skills. Often-times, when students struggle in reading, educators mistakenly concentrate all of their efforts on improving comprehension. But in many cases, it is a lack of foundational reading skills— phonemic awareness and phonics, which lead to poor decoding skills—which result in students’ poor understanding.

In this post, I am exploring how High School teachers and students can approach Reading And Directed Writing in the classroom as well as essential strategies on how to tackle exam questions with aplomb and flair, that is, answering the questions precisely and accurately.

However, . . .

At High School, reading comprehension is essential.

READING COMPREHENSION is the ability to understand, remember, and communicate meaning from what has been read.

READING STRATEGIES are crucial for any reader. Once students have adequate decoding and vocabulary skills to allow for fluent reading, their understanding can be improved by instructing students to develop a routine for reading which includes specific strategies that can be employed throughout the reading process (before, during, and after) that increase their awareness and understanding of a text.

These strategies include the following:

BEFORE READING 

Preview the text on how the writer’s background and purpose influence what they write. In a way reading a text critically requires you to ask questions about the writer’s authority and agenda. You may need to put yourself in the author’s shoes and recognize how those shoes fit a certain way of thinking.

DURING READING

Monitor their own reading, generate questions about the text; and identify and organize ideas based on a text’s structure.

Engaging and Connecting with the Text – Once students have addressed unfamiliar words through previewing, they can really engage with the text as they read it by visualizing, focusing on the content, generating questions, and identifying and organizing text structure to improve understanding of the material.

The following are effective strategies that help students engage with a text:

Annotating Text – Marking important text or taking notes about information that is important will help students remember the essentials of a reading passage.

Using Questioning Strategies – Questioning strategies help the reader to clarify and comprehend what he/she is reading. Direct students to develop these as they read and to use cue words, such as who, what, where, when, and why, to guide them in order to make effective questions.

Identifying and Organizing Text Structure – The way an author organizes information in a passage can help the reader increase their understanding of the text.

AFTER READING 

Answer high-level questions and summarize the text.

Having students review and summarize material after reading gives you a simple way to ensure that they understood what they read. Retelling challenges them to retain what they read. Summarization allows them to discriminate between main ideas and minor details.

Rereading is the most effective strategy to increase one’s knowledge of the text. Students should be encouraged to do this especially when they encounter a difficult and challenging piece of text.

As most answers come directly from the passage or text being read, students should always be able to support their answer choices with specific quotations from the text. They must not answer the questions by memory alone nor rely on their own knowledge or opinion of the subject but must answer with particular reference to the text read.

17 Ideas On Teaching Students’ Reading Comprehension

Comprehension strategies are conscious plans — sets of steps that good readers use to make sense of a text. The ideas suggested here help students become purposeful, active readers who are in control of their own reading comprehension: C.R. Adler has identified strategies to teach text comprehension which include:

  1. Activating – This is “priming the cognitive pump” in order to recall relevant prior knowledge and experiences from long-term memory in order to extract and construct meaning from text.
  2. Monitoring Comprehension – Students who are good at monitoring their comprehension know when they understand what they read and when they do not. They have strategies to “fix” problems in their understanding as the problems arise. Research shows that instruction, even in the early grades, can help students become better at monitoring their comprehension. Comprehension monitoring instruction teaches students to:
    1. Be aware of what they do understand
    2. Identify what they do not understand
    3. Use appropriate strategies to resolve problems in comprehension
  3. Establish The Main Idea: Check the first and last sentences of every paragraph, or the first and last paragraphs in the passage. As you read, continually ask yourself what the main idea of the paragraph is, how that idea is explained or illustrated, and how that paragraph connects with the rest of the passage.
  4. Metacognition – It can be defined as “thinking about thinking.” Good readers use metacognitive strategies to think about and have control over their reading. Before reading, they might clarify their purpose for reading and preview the text. During reading, they might monitor their understanding, adjusting their reading speed to fit the difficulty of the text and “fixing” any comprehension problems they have. After reading, they check their understanding of what they read.
  5. Inferring – Bringing together what is spoken (written) in the text, what is unspoken (unwritten) in the text, and what is already known by the reader in order to extract and construct meaning from the text.
  6. Specific Details – Use line references when they are given. Make sure you are circling/underlining efficiently as you read so you can locate information quickly. Circle key words in the question and then scan the passage to find them or their synonyms.
  7. Tone/Attitude – How is the author emotionally engaged with the subject? Know the following words: aloof, ambivalent, apathetic, callous, candid, caustic, cautionary, condescending, contemplative, contemptuous, cynical, derisive, detached, didactic, disparaging, dispassionate, erudite, flippant, forthright, grudging, incredulous, indignant, indifferent, ironic, jaded, judicious, laudatory, malicious, naïve, nostalgic, patronizing, pedantic, pompous, pragmatic, prosaic, resigned, reverent, sardonic, satirical, skeptical, trite, vindictive, whimsical.
  8. Vocabulary In Context – Many of the words have multiple possible meanings, so you must always look back to the passage to decide how the author is using the word in context. Substitute each answer choice for the word in the sentence and see if it makes sense, even the tense choice. For unfamiliar words, look for clues nearby in the passage.
  9. Backward and Forward Monitoring – Students may use several comprehension monitoring strategies:
  • Identify where the difficulty occurs, eg: “I don’t understand the second paragraph on page 76.”
  • Identify what the difficulty is, eg: “I don’t get what the author means when she says . . . “
  • Restate the difficult sentence or passage in their own words
  • Look back through the text
  • Look forward in the text for information that might help them to resolve the difficulty
  1. Graphic and Semantic Organizers – Graphic organizers illustrate concepts and relationships between concepts in a text or using diagrams. Graphic organizers are known by different names, such as maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames, or clusters.

These are also seen as visualizing, organizing and constructing a mental image or graphic organizer for the purpose of extracting and constructing meaning from the text. Graphic organizers (venn-diagrams, storyboard/chain of events, story map or cause/effect) can:

  • Help students focus on text structure “differences between fiction and nonfiction” as they read
  • Provide students with tools they can use to examine and show relationships in a text
  • Help students write well-organized summaries of a text
  1. Answering Questions – Questions can be effective because they:
  • Give students a purpose for reading
  • Focus students’ attention on what they are to learn
  • Help students to think actively as they read
  • Encourage students to monitor their comprehension
  • Help students to review content and relate what they have learned to what they already know

The Question-Answer Relationship strategy (QAR) encourages students to learn how to answer questions better. Students are asked to indicate whether the information they used to answer questions about the text was textually explicit information (information that was directly stated in the text), textually implicit information (information that was implied in the text), or information entirely from the student’s own background knowledge.

There are four different types of questions:

  • “Right There” – Questions found right in the text that ask students to find the one right answer located in one place as a word or a sentence in the passage. Example: Who is Frog’s friend? Answer: Toad
  • “Think and Search” – Questions based on the recall of facts that can be found directly in the text. Answers are typically found in more than one place, thus requiring students to “think” and “search” through the passage to find the answer. Example: Why was Frog sad? Answer: His friend was leaving.
  • “Author and You” Questions require students to use what they already know, with what they have learned from reading the text. Student’s must understand the text and relate it to their prior knowledge before answering the question. Example: How do think Frog felt when he found Toad? Answer: I think that Frog felt happy because he had not seen Toad in a long time. I feel happy when I get to see my friend who lives far away.
  • “On Your Own” Questions are answered based on a students prior knowledge and experiences. Reading the text may not be helpful to them when answering this type of question. Example: How would you feel if your best friend moved away? Answer: I would feel very sad if my best friend moved away because I would miss her.

12. Generating Questions – By generating questions, students become aware of whether they can answer the questions and if they understand what they are reading. Students learn to ask themselves questions that require them to combine information from different segments of text. For example, students can be taught to ask main idea questions that relate to important information in a text.

13. Monitoring and Clarifying – Thinking about how and what one is reading, both during and after the act of reading, for purposes of determining if one is comprehending the text combined with the ability to clarify and fix up any mix-ups.

14. Recognizing Story Structure – In story structure instruction, students learn to identify the categories of content (characters, setting, events, problem, resolution). Often, students learn to recognize story structure through the use of story maps. Instruction in story structure improves students’ comprehension.

15. Summarizing – Summarizing requires students to determine what is important in what they are reading and to put it into their own words. Instruction in summarizing helps students:

    • Identify or generate main ideas
    • Connect the main or central ideas
    • Eliminate unnecessary information
    • Remember what they read

16. Searching and Selecting – Searching a variety of sources in order to select appropriate information to answer questions, define words and terms, clarify misunderstandings, solve problems, or gather information.

17. Identifying Techniques – How does the author structure his/her argument? Is the passage meant to teach, persuade, or describe? Is the argument objective or subjective? What is the author’s thesis? What type of evidence is used? Does the author quote his sources, or simply cite their names or titles? Are the ideas concrete or abstract? Does the author give specific details or rely on generalizations?

pexels-photo-261895.jpegEffective Comprehension Instruction

Research shows that explicit teaching techniques are particularly effective for comprehension strategy instruction. In explicit instruction, teachers tell readers why and when they should use strategies, what strategies to use, and how to apply them. The steps of explicit instruction typically include direct explanation, teacher modeling (“thinking aloud”), guided practice, and application.

  • Direct explanation – The teacher explains to students why the strategy helps comprehension and when to apply the strategy.
  • Modeling – The teacher models, or demonstrates, how to apply the strategy, usually by “thinking aloud” while reading the text that the students are using.
  • Guided practice – The teacher guides and assists students as they learn how and when to apply the strategy.
  • Application – The teacher helps students practice the strategy until they can apply it independently.

Work To Understand Your Own Strategies And To Improve Them

  • Ask yourself questions about how you read: Do you read too quickly or slowly? Do you tend to lose your focus? Can you scan for key information or ideas?
  • Consider the characteristics of effective reading above, in relation to those practices and strategies you already employ, to get a sense of your current reading strategies and how they might be improved.

Just as having more than one conversation with another person leads to closer understanding; conducting a number of readings lead to a richer and more meaningful relationship with, and understanding of a text.

This, essentially, requires a lot of practice.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

BRILLIANT IDEAS ON APPROACHING A DESCRIPTIVE COMPOSITION

The moon with its wisps of white light hung suspended in the frosty air over the still, quiet countryside. He could see in all directions, from the majestic outcrop of mountains to the vast ocean on the other.

The reader can certainly SEE the moon and the countryside.

  • DESCRIPTIVE WRITING focuses on observation, is static, and paints pictures with words. Someone or something can be described.
  • DESCRIPTIVE WRITING is about using words that give your readers the details they need to visualize what you are saying and become a part of your writing.

In a descriptive composition, the writer describes something to allow the reader to experience the topic being described as vividly as possible. Thus,

SHOW, DON’T TELL!

HS Teacher and StudentWORD POWER – Descriptive writing is writing with flair.  It means using words so that they paint a picture for the reader, but doing so in ways that often surprise the reader. Those words and expressions are chosen carefully to achieve the desired effect.

Here are some of the tools available to you when dealing with descriptive writing:

USE YOUR FIVE SENSES

Images of sight, sound, hearing, taste and touch can be used to make the description vivid. So to bring your writing to life and truly immerse your readers in the story, be sure to engage all of their senses. The key to unlocking the five senses is the question behind it. The question of why you are seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or feeling something will help a lot.

TASK: Imagine you are walking outside. A spring storm is coming. Describe for your classmates what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.

SIMILES

These are comparisons using the words “like” or “as” (simile)

Instead of saying:

    • “The bread is hard,” SAY “The bread is as hard as a rock.”
    • The surface of the moon is like crumpled sandpaper

METAPHORS

These are comparisons minus cue words

  • My tears were a river.                     I died with embarrassment
  • Her heart was on fire.                     He hit the wall of exhaustion

ADJECTIVES

These are words which describe or modify nouns.

  • The tall, thin man entered the spooky room with measured steps.  Inside the room deep shadows crouched in wait for him.

ADVERBS

These are words which describe or modify verbs.

  • The jets dived steeply out of the sky, tumbling rapidly as they maneuvered gracefully past each other.

PERSONIFICATION OR HYPERBOLE

They add interest to inanimate objects.

  •  Instead of saying:
    • My heart started beating fast. SAY: My heart leaped out of my chest.

INTERESTING VERBS

It is worthwhile taking the time to think about the verb for the situation you are trying to bring to life.  Often, a carefully chosen verb can transform a so-so passage into something quite different.

  • He ran.                                   He jogged.
  • He fled.                                   He sprinted away/ He stormed off.

CHARACTER, PLACE AND ACTION

The best descriptions have a focus. They aren’t just lists of everything in the scene thrown together. Try concentrating on character – bring it to life!

SHOW, DON’T TELL:

This would be telling your readers:

  • He walked over to the stage and they gave him the award. 

This, instead, is showing your readers:

  • His feet felt like they were walking on air, as he glided towards the stage. An award like this was a dream he could never have imagined coming true.

Your readers will feel like a movie is showing inside their heads, because you gave them all the details they needed to truly “see” it.

Here are four tips that will help you add vivid descriptions to your writing:

  • Use your five senses.
  • Use figurative language.
  • Have fun with words.
  • Show, don’t tell.

pexels-photo.jpgTASK: Identify all the descriptive words and techniques used. Then, comment on the effectiveness of using such words in your descriptive composition writing.

Look at this . . .

  • When I think of the home town of my youth, all that I seem to remember is dust- the brown, crumbly dust of late summer- arid, sterile dust that gets into the eyes and makes them water, gets into the throat and between the toes of bare brown feet. I don’t know why I should remember only the dust… And so, when I think of that time and that place, I remember only the dry September of the dirt roads and grassless yards of the shanty-town where I lived.

What about this one?

  • The waves roar like a lion, as they hit the crumbling cliffs very powerfully. The white spray is thrown against the shore, and the vicious waves gnaw on the jagged pebbles. The wind cries loudly, weeping and moaning in the rain. The roof of the fragile, isolated beach hut is hit by the gales; its frost-bitten structure decaying in the briny tempest. At the edge of the jagged pebbles, where there are reeds and grasses you can see the remains of a snow fall which is like cotton wool. Colourless clouds carefully caress the horizon and a few brave seagulls fight against the fierce currents. Surely nothing can survive for long.

What’s wrong with the following?

  • The lighthouse goes up into the sky. I can see its spotlight and I can hear it moving around. I can also hear the waves. They are moving back and forth on the shore. Sometimes the waves splash over me. I look again at the lighthouse in the distance.

Why is this better?

  • The lighthouse soars up into the cold night air.  The low grown of its rotating spotlight struggles like the moan of a wounded animal.  Reluctantly, the waves retreat, sucked back into the darkness, then angrily return, pounding the foot of the mighty stone structure.  The spray showers over me and my mouth fills with the cold taste of the sea.  The lighthouse stands stern, a forbidding guardian of the shore.

So how did you fair? For you to get it right and become excellent, you need to practice. Take time to write and see yourself improving.

Good luck in your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

 

COMMON IDIOMS IN USE 8

English@HighSchool would never be complete without idioms, proverbs, and expressions which are an important part of everyday English. They come up all the time in both written and spoken English. Because idioms and proverbs don’t always make sense literally, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the meaning and usage of each idiom. That may seem like a lot of work, but learning idioms is fun, especially when you compare English idioms and try to decipher their meanings.

An idiom is a common expression understood figuratively, as the literal definition makes no sense.

Can Of Worms

Some idioms are given below together with their meanings.

  1. To make clean breast of is to confess without reservation.
  2. To keep one’s temper is to be in good mood.
  3. To catch a tartar is to catch a dangerous person.
  4. To drive home is to emphasise a point.
  5. To have an axe to grind is to have a private end to serve.
  6. To cry wolf is to give false alarm.
  7. To end in smoke is to ruin oneself.
  8. To be above board is to be honest, legitimate and open in any business dealings.
  9. To pick holes is to find some reason to quarrel.
  10. To leave someone in the lurch is to leave someone in difficulties.
  11. To play second fiddle is to support the role and view of another person.
  12. To beg the question is to take for granted.
  13. A black sheep is an odd or disreputable member person.
  14. To smell a rat is to suspect foul dealings.
  15. To hit the nail right on the head is to do the right thing.
  16. To have the gift of the gab is to speak with eloquence and fluency.
  17. A bone of contention is something that causes a quarrel.
  18. Once in a blue moon, means very seldom indeed.
  19. To keep the pot boiling is to keep the brisk momentum of something.
  20. To eat the humble pie is to apologize humbly.

How did you find these idioms? Please leave a comment below.

Good luck in all your efforts.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.

AMAZING DO-ABLE NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS & OTHERS IN 2020

Happy New Year to you and your families. Can you imagine that we are not even two weeks old into 2020, yet we seem tired and exhausted of it already? Why?

MONEY SAVING PLANS

My sincere apologies on digressing – I am not a money matters expert but sitting down with my Mrs on New Year’s day, we just started talking about money saving challenges available so . . .

If saving money is high on your list of New Year’s Resolutions, there is a simple way to ensure you have a nice nest egg at the end of 2020, without it, feeling too punishing.

Is your financial situation undisciplined, unrestricted, and impulsive?

THE 365 DAY CHALLENGE 

Apartment Therapy has unveiled a foolproof money-saving approach – the 365 Day Challenge, which could net you almost £1,500 ($2 023) over the course of the year by putting aside a small sum of money each day.

Every Sunday, you put aside £1, on Monday it’s £2 and so on until Saturday when you put away £7 before starting again at one the following week. This amounts to £28 ($38) per week, and £1 456 ($1 976) a year.

Because it’s a case of saving just a few pounds, the plan should not feel like too much of a burden day-to-day.

52 WEEK CHALLENGE

Anyone who’s searched for a way to save more money has probably heard of the 52 Week Challenge. It’s a way to slowly build up your savings throughout the year—you start by putting aside $1 on week one, $2 on week 2, and so on until you reach week 52, putting aside $52 that week. In total, if you follow the 52 Week Challenge, you’ll save $1,378 (£1 000) by the end of the year. Easy enough, right?

OTHER WAYS TO SAVE MONEY

Just saving loose change has persuaded many people that they are able to save.  And when they become convinced that they can save, they find other ways to build an emergency fund or save for other goals.

Establish your budget. Are you looking for an easy way to begin? On the first day of a new month, get a receipt for everything you purchase. Stack the receipts into categories like restaurants, groceries, and personal care. At the end of the month you will be able to clearly see where your money is going.

Budget with cash and envelopes. If you have trouble with overspending, try the envelope budget system where you use a set amount of cash for most spending. And once the cash is gone, it’s gone.

Don’t just save money, SAVE. There’s a difference between saving money and saving money for your future. So don’t just spend less, put the money you save into a savings account to plan for other expenses or emergencies that can leave you financially better off.

Save automatically. Setting up automatic savings is the easiest and most effective way to save, and it puts extra cash out of sight and out of mind. This means saving automatically.  As millions of savers have learned, what you don’t see you won’t miss.

Choose something to save for. One of the best ways to save money is to set a goal: choose between a short-term and long term goals! Start by thinking of what you might want to save for—anything from buying a lap top to a vacation—then figure out how long it might take you to save for it.

Aim for short-term savings goals. Make a goal such as setting aside $20 (£15) a week or month, rather than a longer term savings goal. People save more successfully when they keep short-term goals in sight.

Save your loose change. An easy way to start to save is to collect your loose change. By being aware of the loose change around you and making a conscious effort to save it and gather it in one place, you will soon reap the rewards of your new saving habit.

Use the 24 hour rule. This rule helps to avoid purchasing expensive or unnecessary items on impulse. Think over each non-essential purchase for at least 24 hours. This is particularly easy to do while shopping online, because you can add items to your cart or wish list and come back to them a day later.

Treat yourself, but use it as an opportunity to save. Match the cost of your non-essential indulgences in savings. So, for example, if you splurge on a smoothie while out running errands, put the same amount into your savings account. And think of it this way, if you can’t afford to save the matching amount, you can’t afford the treat either.

Watch your savings grow. Check your progress every month. Not only will this help you stick to your personal savings plan but it also helps you identify and fix problems quickly. These simple ways to save money may even inspire you to save more and hit your goals faster.

Everyone has the ability to save. At America Saves, they say “Start Small, Think Big.” You can start with only $10 a week or month. Over time, your deposits will add up. Even small amounts of savings can help you in the future.

WHERE CAN YOU SAVE YOUR MONEY?

Keep a Cash Jar: Some people feel more productive, savings-wise, if they use cash. If that’s you, and you’d prefer to physically put a dollar (or however many you’re supposed to put aside depending on which day of the week it is) aside every day, try keeping a money jar in a place you’ll remember to drop cash into every day, like on top of your dresser—you’ll see it when you’re getting ready, so you won’t forget. At the end of the week (or month, if you prefer), just deposit the cash into your savings account.

Use a Money App: If you’d rather keep things digital then a money app like Qapital or Acorns will be of great help. These banks are a new way to bank that makes it easy to save and invest money for stuff that matters.

Qapital, for example, lets you set up automatic transfers in the same dollar amount every day, every week, or every month, and has the traditional 52 Week Challenge transfer rule. Always make your homework before committing yourself.

If you don’t mind remembering to put aside money everyday, you can simply transfer the dollar amount for that day into your account with your preferred app—think of it like a digital cash jar, no deposits required. Or, if you’d rather set it and forget it, you can simply set up a recurring automatic weekly transfer of $28, and let your money basically save itself. Minimal effort required, and at the end of the year, your savings account will be nearly $1,500 richer.

Enough of money matters, dear folks . . .

Lastly, whilst doing some chores, one of these chain whatsApp messages popped up. It read:

Welcome to 2020, The Year of Nothing – IF you do NOTHING.

This month’s most popular text trending on phones, whatsApp, Facebook inboxes is all about ‘Happy New Year or Wish you a prosperous 2020’. Now, thank you, but that is the most useless yet popular message all around the world.  It is not about wishes, it is about action!

Pastors will be busy dishing out all types of ‘messages of hope to their respective congregants, The Year of Breakthrough, The Year of Prosperity, The Year of Victory and whatever as their God tells them, but listen, 2020 is a Year of Nothing –  IF you do NOTHING! All the sweet sound messages will not mean anything until you do something yourself.

My message to you friends and folks is: PPP – Pray, Plan and then Pursue. God will only bless what you work on according to His will. Do not be religious but be realistic! Take action and do not keep repeating the same things year in and year out, yet you expect different results. Otherwise 2020 will be like 2017, 2016, 2015 or whatever or even worse. 2020 is just a number, it is not enough to just wish each other a happy one. It will not bring happiness unless you find something that will make you happy.

God has never rewarded idleness. Look at all successful people around you, they all had to do something, they never just waited and hoped. Set up your goals and then prepare, then take up appropriate action.

Do not fear failure. When you try and fail, be happy because you have just learnt one way of not doing things.

Listen to constructive criticism but do not underrate yourself. You are not useless.

Everyone who is normal in the world can do something. It is not about your government always, it is not about God always, it is not about your friends and relatives, it is about YOU. The old say as a man thinks, so he is.

Remember God told Abraham, ‘Look North, South, East and West. As far as your eyes can see, I will give you and your children that land forever!’ Here God was giving Abraham an open cheque. He says you can do anything as long as you believe. Only you, can limit yourself.

So folks, I pray for all of you that God opens your eyes so that you will see limitlessly in 2020.

I am not wishing you a happy 2020, I am praying for you, instead.

Walk in love, believe and be diligent in all you do. Start today, set your goals and move! WALK THE TALK!

Another chain message I came across read like . . .

2020 INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Do not be casual in anything you do. Put your best in everything you do. God does not bless mediocrity, average or break-even.
  2. Serve God like never before without looking at what people say. Look continuously to God who is the rewarder of your service.
  3. Sacrifice. The quickest way to turn from captivity is sacrifice. Sacrifice provokes God to act.
  4. Balance devotion and duty. Grace does not take away responsibility. Balance devotion and duty.
  5. Stay spiritually and visionary focused.

Again, I repeat: Welcome to 2020, The Year of Nothing, IF you do NOTHING.

Good luck in all your endeavours in 2020.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL