Drafting an essay
Strategies for writing essays
The woman wearing a winter coat and hat rides a Citi bike. Several Citi bikes are parked in the background.
In this chapter you will learn to
✵ structure an essay effectively
✵ organize supporting details
✵ write effective introductions, conclusions, and titles
Writing Quick Start
The photograph here shows a person using a bike-sharing program. A number of such programs have sprouted up across the country and even on some college campuses.
Working alone or with a classmate, compose a sentence that states your opinion of this type of initiative and how likely a bike-sharing program would be to succeed in your area or on your campus. Then brainstorm evidence to support your opinion. Number your best evidence 1, your second-best evidence 2, and so on. Finally, write a paragraph that begins with the sentence you wrote and includes your evidence.
The paragraph you just wrote could be part of an essay on how cities and towns are trying to become more environmentally sustainable. To write an essay, you would need to do the following:
✵ Do additional prewriting and research to learn more about this topic.
✵ Write a thesis statement and develop supporting paragraphs.
✵ Write an effective introduction and conclusion.
✵ Choose a good title.
This chapter will guide you through the process of developing an essay as part of the writing process shown in Graphic Organizer 7.1.
GRAPHIC ORGANIZER 7.1 An Overview of the Writing Process
"The items from the left side of the chart are numbered here for clarity. In the chart, they are connected to each other by two-way arrows. Items bulleted here are in the chart on the right and are attached to the associated numbered items by lines. 1. Prewriting to Find and Focus Ideas (Bullet) See Chapter 4. 2. Developing and Supporting Your Thesis (Bullet) See Chapter 5. 3. Writing Effective Paragraphs (Bullet) See Chapter 6. 4. Drafting your Essay (Bullet) Organize your supporting details. (Bullet) Write a strong introduction, conclusion, and title. 5. Revising your Essay (Bullet) See Chapter 8. 6. Editing and Proofreading Your Essay (Bullet) See Chapter 9. "
Organize Your Essay Effectively
Think of an essay as a complete piece of writing, with a title, an introduction and thesis statement, several body paragraphs supporting the thesis, and a conclusion. (See Graphic Organizer 7.2.)
For more on developing a thesis and selecting evidence to support it, see Chapter 5.
GRAPHIC ORGANIZER 7.2 The Structure of an Essay: Parts and Functions
Note: There is no set number of paragraphs that an essay should contain. The number depends on your narrowed topic, purpose, and audience.
"The items numbered here are listed vertically on the left in the graphic organizer. Each component is explained, and additional details are provided for each component. 1. Title (Bullet) May announce your subject (Bullet) Sparks readers’ interest 2. Introduction: Paragraph 1 (or can comprise two or more paragraphs) (Bullet) Identifies your narrowed topic (Bullet) Presents your thesis (Bullet) Interests your readers (Bullet) Provides background 3. Body: Paragraph 2, Paragraph 3, Paragraph 4, Paragraph 5 (or more) (Bullet) Supports and explains your thesis 4. Conclusion: Paragraph 6 (Bullet) Reemphasizes your thesis (does not merely restate it) (Bullet) Draws your essay to a close Note: There is no set number of paragraphs that an essay should contain. The number depends on your narrowed topic, purpose, and audience."
The body of your essay contains the paragraphs that support your thesis. Before you begin writing these paragraphs, decide on the method of organization you will use. Three common ways to organize ideas are most-to-least (or least-to-most) order, chronological order, and spatial order. To decide which to use, consider your topic and how it can be most logically and most compellingly presented.
Use Most-to-Least (or Least-to-Most) Order
When you choose this method of organizing an essay, you arrange your supporting details moving gradually from most to least (or least to most) important, familiar, or interesting. If you need to entice readers or expect they will read only the beginning of your essay, you might include your strongest evidence first. If readers are interested in the topic and likely to read on, you might hold your most memorable evidence for last. You can visualize these two options as follows:
"The items numbered here are listed vertically on the left in the process chart. Each component is explained, and additional details are provided for each component. Most-to-least order: 1. Introduction (Bullet) Thesis 2. Body (Bullet) Most important supporting evidence (Bullet) Less important supporting evidence (Bullet) Least important supporting evidence 3. Conclusion (Bullet) Final Paragraph Least-to-most order: 1. Introduction (Bullet) Thesis 2. Body (Bullet) Least Important Supporting Evidence (Bullet) More Important Supporting Evidence (Bullet) Most Important Supporting Evidence 3. Conclusion (Bullet) Final Paragraph "
A student, Darnell Henderson, devised this thesis statement: “In a time when children are constantly plugged into the virtual world, working in school gardens can help them develop social-emotional skills, learn by doing, and make positive connections to the natural world.” He identified three benefits that support this thesis:
✵ Gardening fosters face-to-face interpersonal skills.
✵ Time outside positively affects children’s well-being.
✵ Gardens provide applications to many school subjects.
Henderson then decided to arrange the supporting evidence from most to least important.
Most to Least Important
✵ Paragraph 2: Working together builds interpersonal communication skills.
✵ Paragraph 3: Students learn by doing in a variety of school subjects.
✵ Paragraph 4: Working outdoors has positive benefits.
The revised draft of Darnell Henderson’s essay appears later in this chapter.
WORKING WITH MOST-TO-LEAST AND LEAST-TO-MOST ORDER
For each of the following narrowed topics, identify several qualities or characteristics that you could use to organize details in most-to-least or least-to-most order. For each, would you choose most-to-least or least-to-most order? Why?
1. Three Web sites where you shop
2. Three friends
3. Three members of a sports team
4. Three fast-food restaurants
5. Three television shows
Use Chronological Order
When you arrange your supporting details in chronological (or time) order, you put them in the order in which they happened, beginning the body of your essay with the first event and progressing through the others as they occurred. Chronological order is commonly used in narrative essays (essays that tell a story or recount events) and process analyses (essays that explain how something works or is done).
"The items from the left side of the graphic organizer are numbered here for clarity. Items bulleted here are on the right and are attached to the numbered items by lines. 1. Introduction (Bullet) Thesis 2. Body (Bullet) First Event (Bullet) Second Event… (Bullet) Last Event 3. Conclusion (Bullet) Final Paragraph "
Suppose that Henderson, in writing about the benefits of school gardens, decides to explain his thesis by discussing student participation in a school garden from planting through harvest. In this case, he might organize the events chronologically (in the order in which they occur), demonstrating student involvement at each stage.
WORKING WITH CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
Alone or with a classmate, identify at least one thesis statement from those listed below that could be supported with paragraphs organized in chronological order. Explain how you would use chronological order to support this thesis.
1. European mealtimes differ from those expected by many American visitors, much to the visitors’ surprise and discomfort.
2. Despite the many pitfalls that await those who shop at auctions, people can find bargains if they prepare in advance.
3. My first day of kindergarten was the most traumatic [or exhilarating] experience of my childhood, one that permanently shaped my view of education.
4. Learning how to drive a car increases a teenager’s freedom and responsibility.
Use Spatial Order
When you use spatial order, you organize details about your subject by location. Spatial organization is commonly used in descriptive essays (essays that portray people, places, and things) as well as in classification and division essays (essays that explain categories or parts). Consider, for example, how you might use spatial order to support the thesis that movie theaters are designed to shut out the outside world and create a separate reality within. You could begin by describing the ticket booth, then the lobby, and finally the theater. Similarly, you might describe a place from right to left or from inside to outside. Darnell Henderson, writing about the benefits of school gardens, could describe the garden’s plantings from front to back or left to right, for example.
Visualize spatial organization by picturing your subject in your mind or by sketching it. “Look” at your subject systematically — from top to bottom, inside to outside, front to back. Cut it into imaginary sections or pieces and describe each piece. Here are two possible options for visualizing an essay that uses spatial order:
"The items from the left side of the graphic organizer are numbered here for clarity. Items bulleted here are on the right and are linked by arrows. They are attached to the numbered items by lines. From left to right: 1. Introduction (Bullet) Thesis 2. Body (Bullet)Left Section (Bullet) Middle Section (Bullet) Right Section 3. Conclusion (Bullet) Final Paragraph From top to bottom: 1. Introduction (Bullet) Thesis 2. Body (Bullet) Top part (Bullet) Middle Part (Bullet) Bottom Part 3. Conclusion (Bullet) Final Paragraph "
WORKING WITH SPATIAL ORDER
Alone or with a classmate, identify one thesis statement listed below that could be supported by means of spatial organization. Explain how you would use spatial order to support this thesis.
1. Our family’s yearly hiking trip provides us with a much-needed opportunity to renew family ties.
2. The Civic Theatre of Allentown’s set for Tennessee Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Desire was simple yet striking and effective.
3. Although a pond in winter may seem frozen and lifeless, this appearance is deceptive.
4. A clear study space can cut down on time-wasting distractions.
ESSAY IN PROGRESS 1
Choose one of the following activities:
1. Using the thesis statement and evidence you gathered for the Essay in Progress activities in Chapter 5, choose a method for organizing your essay.
2. Choose one of the following narrowed topics:
a. Positive or negative experiences with computers
b. Stricter (or more lenient) regulations for teenage drivers
c. Factors that account for the popularity of action films
d. Safety in public high schools
e. Advantages or disadvantages of driverless cars
Then, using the steps in Graphic Organizer 7.1, prewrite to produce ideas, develop a thesis, and generate evidence to support the thesis. Next, choose a method for organizing your essay (from most-to-least/least-to-most, chronological, or spatial order). Explain briefly how you will use that method of organization.
Prepare an Outline or a Graphic Organizer
After you have written a thesis statement and chosen a method of organization, take a few minutes to create an outline or graphic organizer of the essay’s main points in the order you plan to discuss them. This is especially important when your essay is long or complex. Outlining or drawing a graphic organizer can help you see how ideas fit together and may reveal places where you need to add supporting information.
There are two types of outlines: informal and formal. An informal (or scratch) outline uses key words and phrases to list main points and subpoints. Below is an informal outline of Darnell Henderson’s essay later in this chapter. Recall that Henderson chose to use the most-to-least-important method of organization.
Sample Informal Outline
Thesis In a time when children are constantly plugged into the virtual world, working in school gardens can help them develop social-emotional skills, learn by doing, and make positive connections to the natural world.
Paragraph 1 Introduction
Paragraph 2 Students benefit from face-to-face communication.
✵ — Screens keep students apart and focus students inward.
✵ — Gardens offer physical space in which students can interact.
✵ — Research shows students who garden have better communication skills.
Paragraph 3 Gardening provides opportunities for hands-on learning.
✵ — Experiential learning involves learning by doing, such as when students learn to calculate the surface area of the garden and when they learn about plant growth cycles through a year of gardening.
✵ — Experiential learning makes learning direct and exciting.
Paragraph 4 Working outdoors improves students’ well-being.
✵ — Research demonstrates time outside lowers stress, improves concentration, and gives sense of calm.
✵ — Time outside is antidote for digital addiction.
Formal outlines use Roman numerals (I, II), capital letters (A, B), Arabic numbers (1, 2), lowercase letters (a, b) and indentation to designate levels of importance. Formal outlines fall into two categories:
✵ Sentence outlines use complete sentences.
✵ Topic outlines use only key words and phrases.
Here is a sample topic outline that a student wrote for an essay for her interpersonal communication class:
Sample Formal (Topic) Outline
✵ First Topic
o First Subtopic
§ First Detail
§ Second Detail
§ Detail or Example
§ Detail or Example
o Second Topic
§ First Detail
§ Second Detail
I. Types of listening
1. Involves the listener responding to the speaker
2. Has expressive quality
a. Maintain eye contact
b. Express feelings using facial expressions
1. Involves the listener listening without talking or responding
2. Allows speaker to develop his or her thoughts without interruption
All items at the same level should be equally important, explain or support the topic or subtopic under which they are placed, and be grammatically parallel.
For more on parallel structure, see Chapter 9.
I. Dietary Problems
A. Consuming too much fat
B. High refined-sugar consumption
I. Dietary Problems
A. Consuming too much fat
B. Consuming too much refined sugar
If your instructor allows, you can use both phrases and sentences within an outline, as long as you do so consistently. You might write all subtopics (designated by capital letters A, B, and so on) as sentences and all supporting details (designated by 1, 2, and so on) as phrases, for instance.
Preparing a graphic organizer
Think of a graphic organizer as an outline in visual form. Graphic Organizer 7.3 shows the graphic organizer that Darnell Henderson created for his essay. Notice that it follows the most-to-least important method of organization, as did his informal outline shown earlier.
To learn more about creating a graphic organizer, see Chapter 2.
GRAPHIC ORGANIZER 7.3 Sample Graphic Organizer
"Items numbered here are listed vertically on the left on the graphic organizer. Each component is explained and has additional details. 1. Title: Screens to Gardens: An Antidote to Digital Overload 2. Introduction: Thesis: In a time when children are constantly plugged into the virtual world, working in school gardens can help them develop social-emotional skills, learn by doing, and make positive connections to the natural world. 3. Body Paragraphs: 3a. Gardening facilitates interpersonal communication. (Bullet)Screens separate students. (Bullet)Gardens provide physical space for interaction. (Bullet) Research confirms positive effects of gardening on communication skills. 3b. Gardening facilitates hands-on learning. (Bullet)Experiential learning is learning by doing. (Bullet)Examples: surface area of garden, plant growth cycles. 3c. Working outdoors improves students’ well-being. (Bullet)Time outdoors lowers stress, improves concentration, and gives sense of calm. (Bullet)Outdoor time is an antidote to digital addiction. 4. Conclusion: School gardens are a valuable teaching tool and encourage student well-being and curiosity. "
Whether you use an outline or a graphic organizer, begin by putting your working thesis statement at the top of a page and listing your main points below. Leave plenty of space between main points. While you are filling in details that support one main point, you will often think of details or examples to use in support of a different one. As these details or examples occur to you, jot them down under or next to the appropriate main point on your outline or graphic organizer.
ESSAY IN PROGRESS 2
For the topic you chose in Essay in Progress 1, prepare an outline or draw a graphic organizer to show your essay’s organizational plan.
Write Your Introduction, Conclusion, and Title
When you write an essay, you don’t have to start with the title and introduction and write straight through to the end. Some students prefer to write the body of the essay first and then return to the introduction. (Often your true thesis emerges only in the conclusion.) Others prefer to write a tentative introduction as a way of getting started. Some students think of a title before they start writing; others find it easier to add a title when the essay is finished. Regardless of when you write them, the introduction, conclusion, and title are important components of a well-written essay.
Write a Strong Introduction
Introductions often start with a fairly general statement of the topic and narrow their focus until they reach the thesis statement at the end of the paragraph. However you begin, your readers should be able to form an expectation of what the essay will be about from this section. Because the introduction creates a first, and often lasting, impression, take the time to get it right.
An effective introduction should
✵ establish your topic and indicate your focus, approach, and point of view
✵ set the tone of your essay — how you “sound” to your readers and what relationship you have with them
✵ interest your readers and provide any background information they may need
✵ present your thesis statement
For more about tone, see “Analyze the Author’s Tone” (Chapter 3) and “Are Your Tone and Level of Diction Appropriate?” (Chapter 9).
Notice how each of the two sample introductions that follow, both on sexual harassment, creates an entirely different impression and set of expectations.
"Introduction 1 Sexual harassment has received a great deal of attention in recent years. From the highest offices of government and the military to factories in small towns, sexual harassment cases have been tried in court and publicized on national television for all Americans to witness. This focus on sexual harassment has been, in and of itself, a good and necessary thing. However, when a first-grade boy makes national headlines because he kissed a little girl of the same age and is accused of “sexual harassment,” the American public needs to take a serious look at the definition of sexual harassment. In the above passage, words and phrases such as “in court,” “on national television,” “in and of itself, a good and necessary thing,” “However,” and “sexual harassment” set the tone, which is reasonable yet with mild sense of disbelief. The statement “when a first-grade boy makes national headlines because he kissed a little girl of the same age” engages readers and provides background while grabbing readers’ attention with provocative example. The statement “the American public needs to take a serious look at the definition of sexual harassment.” is the thesis that prepares readers for an essay that examines definitions of sexual harassment and perhaps offers one. Introduction 2 Sexual harassment in the workplace seems to happen with alarming frequency. As a woman who works part time in a male-dominated office, I have witnessed at least six incidents of sexual harassment aimed at me and my female colleagues on various occasions during the past three months alone. For example, in one incident, a male coworker repeatedly made kissing sounds whenever I passed his desk, even after I explained that his actions made me uncomfortable. A female coworker was invited to dinner several times by her male supervisor; each time she refused. The last time she refused, he made a veiled threat: “You obviously aren’t happy working with me. Perhaps a transfer is in order.” These incidents were not isolated, did not happen to only one woman, and were initiated by more than one man. My colleagues and I are not the only victims. Sexual harassment is on the rise and will continue to increase unless women speak out against it loudly and to a receptive audience. In the above passage, words and phrases such as “alarming frequency,” “witnessed at least six incidents,” and “during the past three months alone” set the tone, which is outraged and angry. The part “For example, in one incident, a male coworker repeatedly made kissing sounds whenever I passed his desk, even after I explained that his actions made me uncomfortable. A female coworker was invited to dinner several times by her male supervisor; each time she refused. The last time she refused, he made a veiled threat: ’You obviously aren’t happy working with me. Perhaps a transfer is in order.’” engages readers and provides background with specific, distressing examples. The statement “Sexual harassment is on the rise and will continue to increase unless women speak out against it loudly and to a receptive audience.” is the thesis that prepares readers for an essay that suggests ways women can speak out against sexual harassment. "
An introduction can be difficult to write. If you have trouble, return to it later, once you have written the body of your essay. As you draft, you may think of a better way to grab your readers, set your tone, and establish your focus.
The following suggestions for writing a strong introduction will help you capture your readers’ interest:
1. Ask a provocative or disturbing question, or pose a series of related questions to direct readers’ attention to your key points.
Should health insurance companies pay for more than one stay in a drug rehabilitation center? Should insurance continue to pay for rehab services when patients consistently put themselves back into danger by using drugs again?
2. Begin with a dramatic or engaging anecdote or an example that is relevant to your thesis.
The penal system sometimes protects the rights of the criminal instead of those of the victim. For example, during a rape trial, the defense attorney can question the victim about his or her sexual history, but the prosecuting attorney is forbidden by law to mention that the defendant was charged with rape in a previous trial. In fact, if the prosecution even hints at the defendant’s sexual history, the defense can request a mistrial.
3. Offer a quotation that illustrates or emphasizes your thesis.
As Indira Gandhi once said, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” This truism is important to remember whenever people communicate with one another but particularly when they are attempting to resolve a conflict. Both parties need to agree that there is a problem and then agree to listen to each other with an open mind. Shaking hands is a productive way to begin working toward a resolution.
4. Cite a little-known fact or shocking statistic.
Recent research has shown that the color pink has a calming effect on people. In fact, a prison detention center in western New York was recently painted pink to make prisoners more controllable in the days following their arrest.
5. State a commonly held misconception, and correct this misconception in your thesis.
Many people have the mistaken notion that social media platforms offer users protection against contact from fake sites. In fact, although most platforms offer some protections, they do not protect users against many scams and bogus contacts.
6. Describe a hypothetical situation.
Suppose you were in a serious car accident and became unconscious. Suppose further that you slipped into a coma, with little hope for recovery. Unless you had a prewritten health-care proxy that designated someone familiar with your wishes to act on your behalf, your fate would be left in the hands of doctors who knew nothing about you or your preferences for treatment.
7. Compare your topic with one that is familiar or of special interest to your readers.
The process a researcher uses to locate a specific piece of information in the library is similar to the process an investigator follows in tracking a criminal; both pose a series of questions and follow clues to answer them.
Write an Effective Conclusion
Write a conclusion that brings your essay to a satisfying close. For most essays, your conclusion should reaffirm your thesis without directly restating it. For lengthy essays, you may want to summarize your main points. Shorter essays can be ended more memorably and forcefully by using one of the following suggestions:
1. Take your readers beyond the scope and time frame of your essay.
For now, then, the present system of community policing seems to be working in reducing crime and increasing citizen satisfaction with police services. In the future, however, it may be necessary to form stronger partnerships with community leaders to monitor and reduce high-tension situations.
2. Remind readers of the relevance of the issue or suggest why your thesis is important.
As stated earlier, research has shown that the seat-belt law has saved thousands of lives. These lives would almost certainly have been lost had this law not been enacted.
3. Offer a recommendation or urge your readers to take action.
To convince the local cable company to eliminate pornographic material, concerned citizens should organize, contact their local cable station, and threaten to cancel their subscriptions.
4. Discuss broader implications not fully addressed in the essay (but do not introduce a completely new issue).
When fair-minded people consider whether the FBI should be allowed to tap private phone lines, the issue inevitably leads them to the larger issue of First Amendment rights.
5. Conclude with a fact, quotation, anecdote, or example that emphasizes your thesis.
The next time you are tempted to send a strongly worded text, consider this fact: Your friends and your enemies can forward those messages, with unforeseen consequences to you.
Introductions and Conclusions: Common Mistakes to Avoid
In your introduction, don’t …
In your conclusion, don’t …
make an announcement. Avoid opening comments such as “I am writing to explain …” or “This essay will discuss …”
make an announcement or restate your thesis directly. Statements like “In my essay I have shown …” are dull and mechanical.
prolong your introduction unnecessarily. An introduction that is longer than two paragraphs will probably sound long-winded and make your readers impatient.
introduce major points or supporting evidence. Reasons and evidence that support your thesis belong in the body of your essay.
discourage your readers from continuing. Statements such as “This process may seem complicated, but …” may make your readers apprehensive.
apologize or weaken your stance. Do not say, for example, “Although I am only twenty-one, …” or back down after criticizing someone by saying “After all, she’s only human.”
use a casual, overly familiar, or chatty tone, especially in academic writing. Openings such as “You’ll never in a million years believe what happened …” are generally not appropriate for college essays.
use standard phrases. Don’t use phrases such as “To sum up,” “In conclusion,” or “It can be seen, then.” They are routine and tiresome.
Write a Good Title
The title of your essay should indicate your topic and prepare readers for what follows. Titles such as “Baseball Fans” or “Gun Control,” which just indicate the topic, provide readers with little information or incentive to continue reading.
"The given title is ""Why State Lotteries Are an Unfair Tax on the Poor."" The following are identified in the above title: ""Why"" suggests a cause-effect analysis. ""State Lotteries"" is identified as the topic. ""Unfair"" suggests an argument. ""Unfair Tax on the Poor"" is identified as the position. "
For other writing situations — depending on your purpose, audience, point of view, genre, and medium — your title may be direct, informative, witty, intriguing, or a combination of these. The following suggestions will help you write effective titles.
✵ Ask a question that your essay answers.
Who Plays the Lottery?
✵ Use alliteration. Repeating initial sounds often produces a catchy title.
Lotteries: Dreaming about Dollars
✵ Use a play on words or a catchy or humorous expression. This technique may work well for less formal essays.
Playing to Lose
✵ Use a brief quotation. You will likely need to mention the quotation in your essay and indicate there who said it and where.
The Lottery: “A Surtax on Desperation”?
For more on writing situations, see Chapter 4.
For each of the following essays, suggest a title. Use each of the above suggestions at least once.
1. An essay explaining tenants’ legal rights
2. An essay opposing drug testing on animals
3. An essay on the causes and effects of road rage
4. An essay comparing fitness routines
5. An essay discussing the right to vote in America
Academic Writing: Introductions, Conclusions, and Titles
Because academic writing follows a consistent format, introductions, conclusions, and titles likewise have standard features. An introduction, which often is more than one paragraph, typically has the following four parts:
1. Identification of the topic
2. Review of key findings by other researchers and where they fell short or left a gap
3. Explanation of the need for the writer’s research, how it extends the research of others, or how it fills gaps
4. Presentation of the thesis, which explains the purpose of the paper
Since academic writers are addressing other scholars in their field, they generally do not try to grab interest with a snappy anecdote or a compelling quotation. They assume that their readers will be interested in where their research fits into a broader program, so they use a factual, informative tone in the introduction and throughout the paper.
A conclusion, which again may extend beyond a single paragraph, typically has the following four parts:
1. Affirmation of the thesis
2. Synthesis and discussion of findings: what the writer’s findings mean, how they compare with other research projects in the same area, how the writer’s research builds on or goes beyond previous research
3. Limitations of the writer’s research: what the research did not prove
4. Areas for further study
The conclusion often tells readers why the research was important and why it matters; consequently, the conclusion is often worth reading before reading the entire paper.
A title in an academic essay is intended to be factual and descriptive of the paper’s contents. Think of it as a succinct summary of the main point of the paper. It tells readers exactly what to expect in the paper. It is not intended to be cute, catchy, or humorous.
EVALUATING INTRODUCTIONS, CONCLUSIONS, AND TITLES
The following student essay by Darnell Henderson on school gardens as an antidote to digital overload was written using Graphic Organizer 7.3, earlier in this chapter. Read the essay and answer the questions that follow.
From Screens to Gardens: An Antidote to Digital Overload
The paragraphs in the essay are numbered 1 through 5.
Paragraph 1: Today, children spend more time than ever indoors on computers, game consoles, and smart phones, raising concerns about digital and social media addiction and the problems they cause: shorter attention spans, depression, and even difficulty sleeping (Feiler). To counter this digital overload, many schools are embracing school gardens. School gardens help youngsters overcome the toxic effects of too much screen time by providing
(The sentence continues on the next page.)
The essay continues from the previous page as follows.
Paragraph 1: students with opportunities to learn from the world around them. In a time when children are constantly plugged into the virtual world, working in school gardens can help them develop social-emotional skills, learn by doing, and make positive connections to the natural world.
Paragraph 2: Where screens often serve to separate children from their peers and draw their focus into virtual relationships, gardens provide a space where students can work together on the physical task of growing food. Studies show that students who participate in garden programs have better interpersonal and cooperative skills, as well as a better self-understanding (“Benefits”). Taking responsibility as a group for the well-being of living plants makes students communicate with one another and solve problems together, thereby building important social skills, as well.
Paragraph 3: Gardening also provides an opportunity for hands-on learning. The garden connects readily to most school subjects through practical everyday lessons. Experiential learning, or “learning by doing,” is a teaching strategy often used to help children engage more with new knowledge by having to put it to use (Hausburg and Gudenkauf). Children often learn how to calculate surface area from a textbook, but seeing a garden before them and being asked to calculate how much space there is to grow tomatoes, peppers, or corn creates a richer understanding of that mathematical concept. Growing plants from seed to flowering and fruiting stage and then eating those different plant parts is a science class taken to the next level. For schools, gardens represent a valuable opportunity to reinforce many curriculum standards with firsthand experience, making learning more direct and exciting.
Paragraph 4: Problem-solving in real life contexts improves such social skills, but doing so outdoors amplifies the effect on children’s well-being. Imagine a group of children bent over desks under fluorescent lights at equally spaced desks versus crouched around a garden, hands in the soil, sun on their shoulders. Research supports that time in nature helps children lower their stress, strengthen their ability to focus, and maintain a sense of calm (Suttie). Time outside is an antidote to the effects of digital addiction, and incorporating it into the school day creates a better environment for learning and teaching alike.
Paragraph 5: Technology is by no means essentially harmful to kids or their learning. Used the right way, it can be another effective teaching tool in schools.
(The essay continues on the next page.)
“The essay continues from the previous page as follows.
Paragraph 5: But when technology overuse at home leaves children scatterbrained, disinterested, and disconnected from the world around them, school gardens can bring back their sense of wonder and community. School is ultimately a place for growth, and school gardens can grow not only food, but also healthy, curious young people. As children come of age in an era of increasing distance from the natural and even the physical world, gardens have become a more valuable teaching tool than ever before.
“Benefits of School-Based Community Gardens: A Compilation of Research Findings.” Slow Food U S A, n.d., w w w dot slow food u s a dot org slash contents slash s download slash 3591 slash file slash Benefits hyphen of hyphen School hyphen Gardens hyphen Denver hyphen Urban hyphen Gardens dot p d f. Accessed 17 July 2019.
Feiler, Bruce. “When Tech Is a Problem Child.” The New York Times, 19 Nov. 2016, w w w dot n y times dot com slash 2016 slash 11 slash 20 slash fashion slash children hyphen technology hyphen limits hyphen smartphones dot h t m l.
Hausburg, Taylor, and Sarah Gudenkauf. “Getting Started with Experiential Learning.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 17 Apr. 2019, w w w dot edutopia dot org slash article slash getting hyphen started hyphen experiential hyphen learning.
Suttie, Jill. “The Surprising Benefits of Teaching a Class Outside.” Greater Good Magazine, The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, 14 May 2018, greater good dot Berkeley dot edu slash article slash item slash the underscore surprising underscore benefits underscore of underscore teaching underscore a underscore class underscore outside.
Analyzing the Writer’s Technique
1. Assess Henderson’s introduction: How effectively does it prepare the reader for the balance of the essay? Does it capture your interest as a reader? Why or why not?
2. Highlight Henderson’s thesis statement. What angle on the topic does it offer?
3. What method(s) does Henderson use to arrange his details logically within paragraphs?
4. Assess Henderson’s conclusion. Does it effectively draw his essay to a close? Why or why not?
5. Assess Henderson’s title. Does it provide you with enough incentive to want to keep reading (assuming that the fact that it was assigned is not sufficient)? How could you change it to make it more compelling to you and your classmates?
ESSAY IN PROGRESS 3
Using the outline or graphic organizer you created in Essay in Progress 2, write a first draft of your essay.
HOW WRITERS READ
Seeing a reading assignment as a whole, rather than as a series of individual sentences and paragraphs, makes it easier to recall and make sense of what you just read. Use these strategies to get the most out of what you read:
✵ Activate your prior knowledge, establish an intent to remember, and prepare your brain to learn by previewing the essay, reading the headnote, brainstorming to discover what you already know about the topic, and reading the questions or assignments that follow the essay.
✵ Read actively and critically by highlighting key ideas and making notes in the margins about your questions and reactions, analyzing how the essay is organized, and assessing the author’s purpose and perspective on the topic. (This may require you to reread the selection.)
✵ Reinforce and extend your learning by drawing a graphic organizer or outlining the selection (this will confirm your understanding and consolidate your memory) and devising critical questions that will help you analyze the author’s language, assess the evidence he or she provides, recognize assumptions or omissions, and synthesize the author’s ideas with your own.
The Threats of Surveillance (Draft)
The first draft of an essay by Latrisha Wilson follows. Wilson used her freewriting (Chapter 4) and her working thesis (Chapter 5) as the basis for her draft, adding details that she came up with by doing additional brainstorming. Because she was writing a first draft, Wilson did not worry about correcting the errors in grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. (You will see an excerpt from her revised draft and her final draft in Chapter 8, and an excerpt that shows Wilson’s final editing and proofreading in Chapter 9.)
The paragraphs in the draft are numbered 1 through 5.
Paragraph 1: There are plenty of new ways to talk to friends and family. We can communicate by talking on our iPhones, but there are dangers there. Our conversations can be recorded, and the GPS function on the phone allows our whereabouts to be tracked. We can chat on Skype, Gmail, Facebook message, and read each other’s Twitter or Blog posts. And then there are security cameras that record our every move. These new digital technologies are incredibly useful; however, they also come at a hidden cost.
Paragraph 2: Surveillance can refer to a thrilling activity, like the kind of spying on foreign terrorists that goes on in James Bond movies. Bond used high-tech devices and gadgetry to carry out his missions. But the truth is that most spying is done by surveillance computers. And then there is surveillance using drones. Edward Snowden bounced around for weeks from one airport to another, and lived for a while in the Moscow airport, eating who knows what and sleeping who knows where. The N S A seems to be able to do whatever it wants without having to answer to anyone or suffer any consequences. But we can’t say the same for whistleblowers. Just look what they did to Chelsea Manning! The U S government aggressively pursued Snowden. The N S A is more and more aggressively protecting its own secrecy, by punishing whistleblowers, and lying to Congress and, it seems as if they are more concerned about themselves than the people they are spying on.
Paragraph 3: The N S A isn’t the only organization to be spying on us. You got companies like Google and other companies doing it to. The next time you pull up your Gmail account, go to your inbox and click on a message. Do you see all those advertisements to the right of your inbox? There directly related to the message you are reading. (I wish my mom “Happy Birthday!” and now I see ads for places to buy birthday hats. This creepy connection is because Google is a major online marketing business, and it automatically scans all of our e-mails for keywords and phrases all at the same time. Companies are paying Google tons of money to record our search histories and pore over our personal messages. Spokesmen for Google reassure us that only computers, no human beings, are reading our e-mails.
(The draft continues on the next page.)
The draft continues from the previous page as follows.
Paragraph 4: Google and other corporations could do more do inform it’s users about privacy concerns. How much personal information are we giving away when we make an account with G-mail, Facebook, or Netflix? What kind of controls keep employees at this companies from accessing our viewing histories, profiles, or private communications? Its never easy to tell. The terms are long legal documents written in a lingo your everyday person doesn’t want to bother to decipher. We just check a box.
Paragraph 5: Well, what’s the big deal? I have nothing to hide from neither the government nor companies like Google and Facebook. Neither do I, I would say in response. But I don’t like the idea of having people I don’t know constantly looking over my shoulder. When I’m writing a Facebook message to my boyfriend, do I need to worry about getting blackmailed by some Facebook employee, who got bored on a break and decided to do some browsing? Less and less is there any kind of privacy, online or in real life.
Analyzing the First Draft
1. Title and Introduction Evaluate Wilson’s title and introduction.
2. Thesis Evaluate Wilson’s thesis statement.
3. Support Does Wilson provide adequate details in her essay? If not, which paragraphs need more detail? What additional information might she include?
4. Organization How does Wilson organize her ideas?
5. Conclusion Evaluate the conclusion.
Using the template in Graphic Organizer 7.3 as a model, work with two or three of your classmates to create a graphic organizer for the article “Black Men and Public Space” in Chapter 6. Then come up with an alternate title (one that will spark your readers’ interest). Be prepared to share your title and explain why your group chose it.