Writing Informative/Explanatory Essays

Writing Informative/Explanatory Essays
Writing Informative/Explanatory Essays by Secondary Solutions

The following comes from our revised Essay Architect Writing System. Be sure to check it out!

Informative/Explanatory Essays

An Informative/Explanatory essay teaches or informs your reader about a subject. This type of essay can explain how something works, how to perform a task, the steps in a procedure, or why something is the way it is.  Ultimately, the reader should have a better understanding of the subject after reading your paper.

Key Prompt Words: explain, explore, show, detail, define, demonstrate, tell why, talk about, write why

Purpose

  • To explain, inform, teach, or clarify a topic to the reader

Important Aspects

  • Audience
    • Assume that the reader knows nothing about this topic, but don’t detail every single step in such minute detail that you bore your reader.
    • Task
      • Be sure you are clear about your goal for your essay; are you
        • identifying the parts of an object?
        • communicating the steps of a process?
        • explaining the characteristics of something?

To set up an Informative/Explanatory Essay, consider the following outlines:

  1. Introduction
  2. Part #1
  3. Part #2
  4. Part #3
  5. Conclusion
  1. Introduction
  2. Step #1
  3. Step #2
  4. Step #3
  5. Conclusion
  1. Introduction
  2. Characteristic #1
  3. Characteristic #2
  4. Characteristic #3
  5. Conclusion

Organizing Informative/Explanatory Essays

Informative/Explanatory Writing:

  1. Teaches the reader something new, or gives the reader a new way of looking at a subject
  2. Can explain how something works, how to perform a task, the steps in a procedure, or why something is the way it is.

Goal of Informative/Explanatory Writing:

To examine or clarify a subject by teaching about or informing the reader of the parts, processes, or steps of a subject.

Most Important Aspects of Informative/Explanatory Writing:

  • Must strive to teach the reader something new in an interesting and well-defined manner
  • Must be able to clearly delineate the steps of the task or process, or
  • Must show a clear definition of and distinction between the parts of a subject

Beyond the Obvious

  • It is important that you go beyond the obvious to teach your reader something new, HOWEVER, you must not skip or gloss over important steps of a process—even if you think it is easy or it is obvious to you!

Example of Informative/Explanatory Prompt:

Detail the steps you would need to take in planning a great birthday party for one of your friends.

Informative/Explanatory Thesis

Remember that in an Informative/Explanatory essay, you are explaining or teaching something to your audience.  For Informative/Explanatory thesis statements, be sure to tell your audience what you are going to explain to them.

For Example:

            Topic: How to make homemade ice cream.

Informative/Explanatory Thesis:  Homemade ice cream is a delicious and refreshing treat that can be made in just a few simple steps.

Let’s test this thesis.

  1. Does this thesis offer a position or opinion?

The opinion that homemade ice cream is “delicious and refreshing” and can be made with just a few “simple” steps can be argued.  Your reader may not know how easy it is, and will read the essay to see just how “simple” it is to make homemade ice cream.  This positive opinion draws the reader in, as he/she wants to learn about this easy process.

  1. Is the topic of the essay mentioned?

It is important to remember that the goal is to explain how to do something, and the thesis mentions that the reader will learn how to make ice cream.

Of course, you know that this thesis is just a simple thesis.  If we want to write a “better” thesis statement, our thesis statement might look something like this:

With just a simple homemade ice cream machine, a few ingredients, and some patience, making delicious and refreshing homemade ice cream is a snap.

Some effective bridges, or transition words, to use when writing an Informative/Explanatory essay are those that indicate a succession or process:

about
after
afterward
afterwards
as soon as
at
at least
at the same time
at the time
before
before long
during
earlier
finally
first
for example
for instance
immediately
in fact
in support of this
last
later
meanwhile
next
second
simultaneously
since
soon
subsequently
then
thereafter
third
till
until
when
while

Please note: This material is Copyright 2012 Secondary Solutions.  No part of this article/post may be reproduced, transmitted, translated or stored, in any form, including digitally or electronically, without the express written permission of Secondary Solutions.

40 Things You Must Have in Your School Survival Kit!

sos must haves
Are you ready to survive the school year?  Compiled by a bunch of veteran teachers, here’s a list of items you should not start school without!

Here’s our Practical Teacher Survival Kit…the first 30 were featured last year…check out the list for new additions!

  1. Some kind of crate or storage box to keep everything in
  2. Advil or other headache medicine
  3. Ice Pack (so kids don’t have to leave your class to go to the office)
  4. Band-Aids (for the same reason)
  5. Throat Lozenges (remember, you talk a lot throughout the day and those kids are germ-mongers)
  6. Tampons (for you and students)
  7. Deodorant (it’s not just the kids who can get “funky”)
  8. Hair bands or hair clip
  9. Chocolate (need I say more?)
  10. A lightweight sweater (for those times when you can’t control the A/C)
  11. Safety pins (in case of wardrobe malfunction)
  12. Gas-X (for “those” times)
  13. Chewable Pepto-Bismol
  14. Tums
  15. Flashlight (emergencies)
  16. Screwdriver (the kind that can be switched from phillips to flat-head)
  17. Box of Kleenex
  18. Jar of coins (for those days when you or a student forgets lunch or lunch money)
  19. Granola bars
  20. Hand sanitizer (keep out of view of students, unless you are willing to share)
  21. Water
  22. Hand lotion
  23. Brush and hairspray
  24. Latex gloves (for taking care of student emergencies)
  25. Blister band-aids or moleskin
  26. Mouthwash, Listerine strips, or Altoids
  27. Chapstick or other lip stuff (I like Burt’s Bees)
  28. Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
  29. Candy, stickers (for primary), homework passes or other reward for students who surprise you by being/doing something great!
  30. A binder or file full of filler activities (for those times when you are caught off-guard with an extra five minutes in class)
  31. Floss or individual flossers
  32. Toothpicks
  33. Microwave popcorn (a great snack when you can’t leave your desk for lunch)
  34. Tea (Green tea is good for the soul, and apparently helps curb hunger)
  35. Cup a Soup…good for when you forget your lunch, or when a student does
  36. Glitter Germ-X! Have everyone, including the teacher, shake hands with everyone. Notice how the “germs” spread!
  37. Fresh fruit or veggies (of course, they perish, so don’t keep them forever ;))
  38. Dried fruit (an alternative to the fresh version)
  39. Disposable heat compress for a sore back or neck (i.e. Thermacare Wraps)
  40. A few $15 Starbucks gift cards (for when you forget a colleague’s birthday)

Have other ideas? Let’s keep on adding!  I would love to hear your recommendations.

25 Bellringer, “Do Now,” or Early Finisher Ideas to Start Your Year off Right!

bellringer-imageLooking for a few new ideas to get next year started off right?  Need some ideas that are not just Daily Oral Language?

There is much debate on whether a warm-up activity should be related only to previous lessons or to help introduce the day’s material, or whether a warm-up can be totally unrelated to the students’ curriculum.  I am of the mind that if you don’t have your students engaged and ready to learn, you can’t teach the curriculum anyway, so I always liked to do warm ups I thought my kids would like.  The choice is yours.  Either way, the idea is not to take up too much of the class time, but to get students’ brains moving, focused, and ready to learn!

I have decided to put together a compilation of my favorite bellringer (do-now’s) or warm-up activities to help get your kids focused and ready for class.  I recommend having students keep a journal (such as a composition book dedicated ONLY to your class) that you check randomly so that you know that they are doing their bellringer; these need to be activities that can be done independently (unless you deliberately want them to work together) and very brief (unless it is leading into or related to your day’s lesson).  They can also be related to a participation grade or a citizenship grade, so I recommend gathering a few every week to be sure that kids are staying on task.  Be sure that they know you will not be grading them all–but that you will be choosing to grade them randomly.  This should keep them all on their toes.  Don’t worry about making comments or “grading” per se.  Simply assign a point or a “plus” or checkmark that they know you have checked their work.  You DON’T want to create more grading work for yourself, so keep it simple.  These can also be used as exit slips, for early finishers, and most are great to keep on hand for extra credit or makeup opportunities in a pinch.

Finally, try to keep these to the first five minutes of class (unless specified otherwise).  Students won’t want to miss out on their daily participation grade, so it encourages them to be on time!

Here are some of my favorite warm-up activities for starting class:

  1. Respond to an interesting or thought-provoking quote (try BrainyQuote.com or The Quotations Page for ideas)
  2. Give students a brainteaser, puzzle, or riddle to solve (try NEIHS Kid’s Pages or BrainDen.com.)
  3. Word of the Day – have dictionaries on hand and have students give definition, part of speech, 1 synonym, 1 antonym, root word or see my own Word of the Day program.
  4. Play a song that uses figurative language and have students try to find as many examples as they can of the figurative language, then identify the type. Tracee Orman has a free activity for “Firework” by Katy Perry that kids would love!
  5. Give students a brief poem to analyze for one specific element, such as figurative language, symbolism, repetition, alliteration, etc.  Have them write their 1-2 paragraph response in their journal.
  6. Give students one or two elements of a story, for example a character and a setting, and have them freewrite a short story (with the 5 W’s) using your prompt.  Make it fun…for example, Cinderella in the Hunger Games, or use a character from a novel they are studying…Gatsby in the Star Wars.
  7. Give students a word or sentence and have them see how many words they can make out of that word or sentence.  Winner gets a prize.
  8. Image or piece of art- write about what is happening in the image or piece of art (there are some great ones on this Pinterest board)
  9. Mystery Picture – give students a very odd or interesting picture; have them give you the who, what, why, when and how of the picture (here is a website with a bunch here–but be sure to screen them for appropriateness before posting)
  10. Have students explain a proverb, idiom, or analogy.
  11. Have students illustrate a scene from the novel you are currently studying.
  12. Display a cartoon strip (captions missing) on an overhead or whiteboard and have students write the dialogue for the cartoon.  These can get really funny…have them share!
  13. Have students create 5 original sentences using either metaphor, simile, personification, alliteration, hyperbole, assonance, onomatopoeia, etc. They can write one sentence for each, or you can have them write 5 sentences using metaphors one day, 5 sentences using similes the next, etc.
  14. Have students respond to a political cartoon.
  15. A brief video from YouTube or TeacherTube – especially one that relates to the work you’ve been doing in class (i.e.historical context), then have them journal or discuss their response to the video
  16. Pre-made BRIEF worksheets/handouts…a TON for free on TeachersPayTeachers that would be great for this type of thing (I recommend Margaret Whisnant’s Freebies…here is her Pinterest board of them)
  17. 10 minutes of free reading (books, magazines, articles, etc.)
  18. Have students come up with 3-5 questions based on the previous day’s lesson, then discuss/answer. This is a good way to assess comprehension levels.
  19. Give students a list of 5-10 interesting words that they must use in a poem or quick story.
  20. Plastic Eggs (give each student a different question to answer hidden in an egg; sometimes even put a candy in them as a surprise)
  21. Questions or journal prompts about current events.
  22. Have students respond to a startling statistic.
  23. Give students a brief crossword or Sudoku puzzle to solve.
  24. Stretch – Give students a few minutes to walk around, stretch, and get some of their energy out.  Depending upon when your class falls, students may have been sitting for hours, less the time it took to walk to class.
  25. Have baggies with 5-10 cards from a game like MindTrap, Trivial Pursuit, or Trivial Pursuit for Kids.  Let them quiz themselves on what they know, or if it is for a bellringer, have groups compete, answering 5 questions.  Winning team gets a prize.

I am sure there are a ton more ideas out there!  I would love to hear what you do!

Tips for Writing and Organizing Descriptive Essays

The following comes from our revised Essay Architect Writing System.

Tips for Writing Descriptive Essays
Tips for Writing Descriptive Essays

In a Descriptive essay, your task is to describe something to your audience, allowing the reader to fully experience the object, event, or situation.  Sensory details, figurative language, and powerful vocabulary can create an image in the reader’s mind, enhancing his or her understanding and appreciation of the topic. This is one of the few essays in which the use of “I” may be acceptable.

Key Prompt Words: describe, illustrate, reveal, show, detail, tell about

Purpose

  • To use descriptive and powerful language in order to create an image in the reader’s mind

Important Aspects

Using Detailed, Specific, and Illustrative Descriptions

  • Describing what is seen, heard, touched, tasted, and smelled
  • Describing the way things are seen from your (or a narrator’s) perspective
  • Comparing the ordinary to the extraordinary

To set up a Descriptive Essay, consider whether you would like to focus on an objective or a subjective description.

  • An objective description describes how something looks, feels, tastes, etc.
    • When describing your favorite outfit, you would focus on the fabric, colors, color combinations, fit, etc.
  • A subjectivedescription describes how you feel towards or about the topic
    • When describing your favorite outfit, you would focus on how you feel (confident, comfortable, stylish, chic, thin, etc.) and why, when wearing that outfit.

Ways to Enhance the Reader’s Experience

  • Show, don’t tell (sensory images of touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight)
  • Figurative language (metaphors, similes, hyperbole, understatement, irony)
  • Active verbs (avoid says, did, had, went, are, etc. and use descriptive verbs: sneaked, whispered, snub, coddle, etc.)


Organizing Descriptive Essays

Descriptive Writing:

  1. Describes something to your audience, allowing the reader to fully experience the object, event, or situation.
  2. Uses sensory details, figurative language, and powerful vocabulary to create an image in the reader’s mind
  3. May use the first person “I” perspective

Goal of Descriptive Writing:

To use details and images to help your audience create a mental picture of what you are writing about.

Example of a Descriptive Prompt:

Describe the worst job you have ever had to do.

Descriptive Thesis

Remember that Descriptive essays describe something in detail.  Your Descriptive thesis should introduce your reader to the details they will read about in your paper.

For Example:

Topic:  Describe your favorite vacation spot.

Descriptive Thesis: The sights, sounds, and smells of the beach make this sandy destination my favorite vacation spot in the world.

Let’s test this thesis.

  1. Does the thesis offer an opinion or specific personal point of view?

Testing a thesis for this type of essay is tricky.  The opinion or position for this type of essay comes mostly with the fact that it is YOUR OPINION that these sights, sounds, and smells make the beach a “favorite” vacation spot.  In other words, someone else may feel that it is the surfing that makes the beach a favorite spot; another person may feel that the beach is boring, and prefer skiing in the mountains. 

  1. Does the thesis mention the topic of the essay?

YES, the topic of favorite vacation spot is mentioned in the thesis.

Of course, you know that this thesis is just a simple thesis.  If we want to write a “better” thesis statement, our thesis statement might look something like this:

The bright hot sun, the sounds of birds circling overhead, and the salty, briny smells of the beach make this sandy destination my favorite vacation spot in the world.

For a FREEBIE to help students learn descriptive writing, try this Show, Don’t Tell activity.

Thanks for stopping by!

Please note: This material is Copyright 2012 Secondary Solutions.  No part of this article/post may be reproduced, transmitted, translated or stored, in any form, including digitally or electronically, without the express written permission of Secondary Solutions.

Implementing an Effective “Word of the Day” Program

Have you ever considered a Word of the Day program?  I used a Word of the Day (WOD) for several years to help my students (A) focus at the beginning of class (as we completed the WOD during the first 5 minutes),  B) improve their vocabulary, and C) grow their decoding skills by learning the meaning of hundreds of affixes and root word meanings.

For my WOD program, I used this Advanced SAT Word list.  The words need not be SAT caliber, however.  Here are 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know and 100 Words Every High School Freshman Should Know and  100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

I chose a word from the list each day and had a special section of my white board labeled “WOD.”  I gave them a new word each day, and students were responsible for immediately walking into class, grabbing a dictionary (dictionaries with complete Etymologies are essential…see note below) and their WOD notebooks (a simple composition book works well for this), and sitting down in the first five minutes of class to complete their work.  This gave me time to complete roll and other housekeeping, and it immediately focused the students on work.  If they were three minutes late for class, they had the remaining two minutes to finish.  If they did not finish, they were responsible for completing it at a later time. If they miss it–they miss out on the points.

Scoring
I would randomly choose names to collect and score the books every few days or so.  If their name was called and either they did not have their WOD book or it was not complete, they received zero participation points for the check–quick and easy.  Do not worry about grading the information itself after you have made sure that students actually know what they are supposed to be doing.  Simply give a check mark and your initials or some stamp so that they know you are “watching” them, then mark a check or points in your gradebook.  Keep randomly choosing students’ names…this will keep them on their toes, as they won’t know when you will be checking theirs.  I also recommend collecting some students’ books more than once, just to be sure they are continuing to do the work.

Preparation
Before you can just let students loose with a word, a dictionary, and a set of tasks, you must teach students the important skill of using a dictionary.  I have a handout on Using a Dictionary that helps students learn the parts of a dictionary entry.  You will need to take your students through, step by step, on how to find each element for their entries.  You’d be surprised how little students know about using a dictionary.

*A word about dictionaries:  You must have dictionaries with etymology (word origin).  I had to buy my own, since the only ones our school had were compact, paperback versions with only one or two definitions–and no etymology to speak of.  I went to several local thrift stores to gather the big suckers–the hard bound, real, old-fashioned dictionaries with real words and a real cover.  Many were old and dilapidated, but I never ran into a problem of a student not being able to find a word!*

The Activity
So, what do the students actually do once you have gone over how to use a dictionary?  After writing down the WOD, students look up the word in the dictionary, and are responsible for finding and writing down in their journal the following:

  1. Part of Speech
  2. First Two Definitions of the Word (if given)
  3. Base of the Word
  4. Affixes
  5. Simple Root and Meaning
  6. Origin and Meaning of further Roots, including the country of origin (if given)
  7. Other Forms of the Word
  8. Word in an Original Sentence

Sounds pretty easy, right?  Here is a sample entry:

WOD: dynamic

  1. adjective
  2. (a) characterized by effective energy or action; (b) vigorously active or forceful
  3. dynamic
  4. none
  5. dyna-, meaning “power”
  6. From the Greek dýnamis, meaning “power,” from dýnasthai, meaning “to be able”
  7. dynamite, dynamically, undynamic, nondynamic
  8. Lacy’s dynamic personality won her the position of ASB president.

Once students know where to find their information, they become little detectives, trying to search out the answers.  They begin to see similarities between words… “Ah!  Dynamic is related to dynamite!  I see (and now will remember) the connection!”  Occasionally, you may run into a problem in which there is some discrepancy between word origins or meanings.  Use this to teach the all-important lesson on how words evolve, and how certain words’ origins may not be able to be verified–or they may have started in more than one place!

You may want to further hold students responsible for their information by having a quiz on the words every week.  I do not suggest quizzing them on the intricacies of the word, i.e. the Greek spelling, or even the meaning of these very old root words, but I would quiz them on the definitions and possibly the general meaning of the root (i.e. the first definition of dynamic and that the root dyna- means “power.”)

If you are interested in further word studies, stay tuned as I will eventually share my “Root of the Day” program that I used with my honors kids…that one’s a doozie!

Teach well!  And thanks for stopping by!

-Kristen

7 Essential Procedures to Teach the First Week of School

7 ProceduresBack to School is just around the corner.  For some, it has already started! Can you believe it?  Didn’t summer JUST START?  While we would like to continue sipping our margarita poolside, we have to pay the bills, of course. One of the first things to cover when returning back to school are classroom procedures and rules.  Making sure your students know how your classroom works is an important start to making sure your classroom runs like a well-oiled machine all year long.

Here are some important procedures to make sure you cover the first week of school.  Don’t be afraid to model these for the students rather than just reading a list.  They will remember more if you or a student actually goes through the procedure to demonstrate it!

1) How to enter the classroom.  Think about how long it takes you to get your class settled and finally ready to jump into work.  3 minutes?  5 minutes? 10 minutes?  Add that time up, and you lose hours and hours of instructional time.  With limited amount of time to teach, and a seemingly endless amount of content to cover, it is essential to get things moving as quickly as possible. I always expected my students to be seated and ready to work by the time the bell rang.  It may be harsh, but if students were up out of their seats (even if they were in the room), I considered that a tardy.  Be sure to let your students know what you consider a tardy, and how they should enter your classroom.  My students were held to a higher discipline in my classroom, and knew what to expect.  Because of that, once the bell rang, students were already sitting, working on their bellringer activity while I took attendance.

2) Have a “bellringer” activity.  Help students get focused fast. Be sure to show them that this activity is expected to take place immediately after the bell rings.  Since you have reinforced that they need to be in their seat when the bell rings, they can get started on this work right away.  Give them a writing prompt, a Word of the Day (I had an entire journal system that my students had to complete each day for the Word of the Day–I’ll share that sometime), a brain teaser, a one or two question quiz –anything to get them working and focused while you take roll and take care of the minor housekeeping you need to do.  This shouldn’t take more than 3-4 minutes to complete.  Students can either keep a notebook that you randomly monitor, or they can turn this work in daily, or you can make it so that this is not an assessed activity. I had students work in a journal that they kept and would randomly collect these, skim them for completion (don’t spend a lot of your time with this) and kept track of how well they worked during this time and whether or not they were doing the work.  I based part of their participation points off of this work.  For some ideas, be sure to visit my post on 25 Bellringer, “Do Now” or Early Finisher Ideas

3) When to use the restroom.  I gave away 3 bathroom passes to each student at the beginning of each semester.  Just run off these easy passes in a bright color, cut out, and give three to each student.  This worked well for me because I was clear that they could use these passes anytime they wanted…but they had to use them wisely.  They could use a pass to run to their locker to get their homework, to run and get a water from the vending machine, or even to actually use the bathroom, but they only had three per semester!  Make students responsible for their passes.  I also gave extra credit points for each pass that they turned in at the end of each semester.  Students can get clever with these, so I highly recommend using a color paper that cannot be easily copied.  I also recommend stamping or otherwise marking the backs of the paper before you cut these out so that your passes have that unique mark on the back of them.  I’ve got the bathroom passes I used for free in my TPT store here.

texting in class4) Use of electronic devices/cell phones.  Your cell phone and electronic device policy may be set in stone, but if you were anything like my school, it was up to the individual teacher to regulate and enforce.  Let them know when they can have the device on, whether it needs to be on vibrate, and when they can actually use the device (i.e. cell phone in emergency only, no electronic devices at ALL during a quiz or test, etc.).  Make sure students know that when you catch them using their phone, you will take it from them.  I gave them a warning first.  Upon the second infraction, I took the phone away for the rest of the day, and they had to come back to my classroom to retrieve it at the end of the day.  Upon the third infraction, I took the phone, and called a parent or guardian to have the student explain why we were calling.  Upon the 4th infraction, I required a parent or guardian to pick up the phone from me personally.

5) Turning in work/retrieving graded work.  Be sure to have a place set aside for students to turn in their work.  I used to have drawers like these, with two drawers set aside for each class. I would add labels like “Period One – IN” on the left and “Period One – OUT” on the right, and they would turn in and collect work there.  Be sure to explain WHEN they must turn in their homework.  I required students to turn in their homework immediately upon entering the classroom, and collected them from the box while students started on the bellringer.  Be sure to collect before the bellringer, so you don’t have students attempting to use this time to rush through and try to complete their homework so that they don’t get a zero.

6) Turning in late work.  Do you take late work?  Be sure to address whether or not you accept late work, how many points you will dock the grade, and just how late you will accept the assignment.  Think also about whether you will accept late work for big projects, but not for homework or classwork, or visa-versa.  Can they turn in the work 5 minutes late?  Can they turn in the work next day for partial credit?  Can they turn in work by the end of the semester?  (I don’t recommend this, by the way.  Giving students until the end of the semester will make your life miserable just before grading.)

7) Class rules and participation.  Do you have class rules?  How to treat each other, how to work in groups, getting up our of your seat, talking out of turn, etc.  I found just a simple set was pretty clear: 1) Treat everyone with respect, 2) Be responsible.  Pretty self explanatory, we always talked about what each rule entailed, including respecting yourself and others, and bringing necessary materials to class each day (responsible). It is important that students know from the get-go that they are expected to participate in class.  It is also important to let them know whether you require them to raise their hands to speak, or whether they can respectfully interrupt.

Do you have any other essential classroom procedures?  What do you recommend that I left off this list? Please share!

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

The following comes from our revised Essay Architect Writing System, which is due out Fall 2012!  Be sure to like us on Facebook to be notified when the book is released.

Please note: This material is Copyright 2012 Secondary Solutions.  No part of this article/post may be reproduced, transmitted, translated or stored, in any form, including digitally or electronically, without the express written permission of Secondary Solutions.

Compare and Contrast essays are used to examine two or more subjects and the similarities and/or differences between them.  The task of this type of essay is to clarify something unknown by analyzing it next to something with which the reader is familiar.  Like the cause and effect essay, it is important that your thesis statement clearly states whether you will be comparing (giving similarities), contrasting (showing differences), or sometimes, both.

Key Prompt Words: compare, contrast, show differences, show similarities, differentiate, show a connection between

Purpose

  • To reveal similarities and/or differences between two things

Important Aspects

  • Know Your Purpose
    • Are you comparing (finding similarities)?
    • Are you contrasting (finding differences)?
    • Are you doing both?
  • Be sure your thesis clearly states whether you are comparing, contrasting, or both, and gives a sneak “peek” into the points you make in your paper.
    • The thesis is your opinion and can be argued because you chose those 2-3 points of comparison or contrast to explore in your essay.  In other words, someone else could disagree with your claim that those are the main or most important points to mention in your essay.

There are many ways to set up a five-paragraph Compare and Contrast Essay; here are four models:

NOTE: Make new paragraphs to avoid very long paragraphs if necessary.  No one should fault you for having more than five paragraphs, but you will be counted down for having fewer than five.

  1. Introduction
  2. Minor Similarities
  3. Minor Differences
  4. Focus on One Major Similarity OR One Major Difference
  5. Conclusion
  1. Introduction
  2. Major Similarity
  3. Major Difference
  4. 3-4 Minor Similarities/ Differences
  5. Conclusion

Contrast Only:

  1. Introduction
  2. Difference #1
  3. Difference #2
  4. Difference #3
  5. Conclusion

Compare Only:

  1. Introduction
  2. Similarity #1
  3. Similarity #2
  4. Similarity #3
  5. Conclusion

 

Organizing Compare/Contrast Essays

Compare/Contrast Writing:

  1. Explores the similarities, differences, or both, of a subject
  2. Gives examples, quotes, or arguments to support the major similarities/differences
  3. Sticks with either similarities/differences (sometimes, both) throughout

Goal of Compare/Contrast Writing:

To examine two or more subjects and the similarities and/or differences between them.  The task of this type of essay is to clarify something unknown by analyzing it next to something with which the reader is familiar.

Most Important Aspects of Compare/Contrast Writing:

Knowing Whether to Compare or Contrast

  • Must be able to interpret the essay prompt to know what it’s asking of you
  • Must show a clear line of differences or similarities
  • Must provide specific logical evidence to prove the similarities or differences

Beyond the Obvious

  • It is important that you go beyond the obvious to compare and contrast; your essay should be enlightening and effective, not merely a summary or description of items

Example of Compare/Contrast Prompt:

Prompt for both compare AND contrast: The theme of revenge is common in many of Shakespeare’s plays. Explore the theme of revenge, and consider how it is treated in two of Shakespeare’s plays.

Prompt to compare: There is saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Find the similarities between life when you were in kindergarten and your life today.

Prompt to contrast: Using the two texts we’ve studied, contrast how differently each of the protagonist women are treated by their families and society in general.

Compare/Contrast Thesis

Remember that in a Compare/Contrast paper, you showing the MAJOR similarities and/or differences between a subject.  Your thesis statement must clearly state whether you will be comparing, contrasting, or both.

For Example:

Topic: Compare and contrast entering junior high and high school.

Simple Compare/Contrast Thesis:  While there are several similarities between entering junior high and high school, the differences are stark—and even shocking—to students.

To test whether this thesis actually qualifies as a Compare/Contrast thesis, we need to check two things:

  1. Does the thesis address whether the essay will cover similarities, differences, or both? 

Both similarities and differences are mentioned, but it looks as if the emphasis will be placed on differences.  That is okay, as long as both are addressed according to the prompt.

  1. Does the thesis mention the topic of the essay?

YES, the topic – similarities and differences of entering junior high versus high school is mentioned.

Of course, you know that this thesis is just a simple thesis.  If we want to write a “better” thesis statement, our thesis statement might look something like this:

While both junior high and high school begin with new faces and lost students looking for their classrooms, the shock of being a small fish in a big pond and the overwhelming feeling of drowning in homework is common as one enters the intimidating world of high school.

See also Argumentative Essays and Cause and Effect Essays

How to Write and Organize a Cause and Effect Essay

Please note: This material is Copyright 2012 Secondary Solutions.  No part of this article/post may be reproduced, transmitted, translated or stored, in any form, including digitally or electronically, without the express written permission of Secondary Solutions.

Writing Cause/Effect Essays

Cause and Effect essays explore why things happen (causes) and what happens as a result (effects). These essays give reasons and explanations for behaviors, events, or circumstances. It is important that your presentation is factual and believable, and that in your thesis statement you explain whether you will be discussing causes, effects, or sometimes both.

Key Prompt Words: identify, show, give reasons, show the causes of, give the effects of, etc.

Purpose

  • Present the causes or the effects of the issue—or rarely, both causes and effects

Important Aspects

  • Know your Purpose
    • It is important to distinguish between causes and effects when writing a cause or effect paper. To determine the effects, ask “What happened?”  To determine the causes, ask yourself “Why did this happen?”
  • Avoid first person pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my”
  • DO NOT SAY: “I believe that the gun control issue is way out of hand.”
  • SAY: “Lack of gun control has caused thousands of deaths in the United States alone.”

 

Take a look at the following simple scenario:

Because you didn’t study, you failed your final exam.

Ask yourself:  What happened?  Why did this happen?

What happened? (EFFECT) – you failed your final exam

Why did this happen? (CAUSE) – because you didn’t study

Sometimes many effects can result from a single cause, or many causes contribute to a single effect.  These can often be a chain reaction.

 

Take a look at the following chain-reaction scenario (with an emphasis on effects):

Because you did not study, you failed the final exam, failed your Government class, were short credits, and were not able to graduate with the rest of your class.

What happened? (EFFECTS) – you failed your final exam, failed your Government class, were short credits, were not able to graduate with the rest of your class

Why did this happen? (CAUSE) – because you didn’t study

The chain reaction can work the other way, giving several causes to one effect.

 

Take a look at the following scenario (with an emphasis on causes):

Because you decided to go out on a school night, locked your keys in the car, had to call a tow truck, got home after 3:00am and were too tired to study, you failed your final exam.

What happened? (EFFECT) – you failed your final exam

Why did this happen? (CAUSES) – because you decided to go out on a school night, locked your keys in the car, had to call a tow truck, got home after 3:00am, and were too tired to study

To set up a Cause/Effect Essay, consider the following outlines:

  1. Introduction
  2. Effect #1 (with reasons and explanations)
  3. Effect #2 (with reasons and explanations)
  4. Effect #3 (with reasons and explanations)
  5. Conclusion
  1. Introduction
  2. Cause #1 (with reasons and explanations)
  3. Cause #2 (with reasons and explanations)
  4. Cause #3 (with reasons and explanations)
  5. Conclusion

 

Organizing Cause/Effect Essays

Cause/Effect Essays:

  1. Explore the reasons, outcomes, or both, of a subject
  2. Give examples, quotes, or arguments to support causes/effects
  3. Stick with either causes or effects (sometimes, both) throughout

Goal of Cause/Effect Writing:

To introduce to your reader the causes or effects (reasons, results, or explanations) for behaviors, events, or circumstances.

Most Important Aspects of Cause/Effect Writing:

Relationship

  • Must clearly state the connection and relationship of causes or effects
  • Must be able to decide between the causes or effects that are major, or contributing (often, immediate) factors, and those that are minor, or supporting (often, residual) factors
  • Must be strongly supported with logical reasoning

Purpose

  • Decide whether you are trying to inform or persuade your audience.Choose appropriate wording to reflect your purpose.

Example of a Cause and Effect Essay Prompt:

More and more studies are supporting the idea that teens do not get nearly enough sleep.  Researchers feel that lack of sleep can cause major problems for teens, both immediate and long-term.  In a well–written essay, explore either the causes of lack of sleep for teens, or the effects, both immediate and long-term, that poor sleep habits have on teens today.

When writing a Cause/Effect Essay, be sure to use bridges to help your transition from cause to cause or effect to effect.  The following are some examples of good cause/effect transition words:

accordingly
as a result of
because
because of
brought about
caused by
consequently
due to
for the reason
if…then
in effect
is responsible for
leads to
otherwise
since
so
therefore
thus
when
whenever

Cause/Effect Thesis:

Remember that for a Cause/Effect paper, you are either explaining the causes or the effects of something, and in rare cases, both.  Your thesis statement must state 1) whether you are looking at the causes or the effects, and 2) your position on the causes or the effects.

For Example:

Topic: Gun control in the United States

Cause/Effect Thesis: Lack of gun control has caused thousands of deaths in the United States alone.

Let’s test this thesis. 1) Is it an opinion or position, and 2) Is the topic mentioned?

  1. Yes; it is an opinion that gun control is to blame for thousands of deaths in the United States.  Some people would disagree, stating that the problem is not gun control, but irresponsible people who get their hands on guns who are the problem.
  2. Yes; the topic of gun control in the United States specifically is mentioned.

Of course, you know that this thesis is just a simple thesis.  If we want to write a “better” thesis statement, our thesis statement might look something like this:

Lax gun control laws, irresponsible gun owners, and an underground black market have caused thousands of gun-related deaths in the United States alone.

Please note: This material is Copyright 2012 Secondary Solutions.  No part of this article/post may be reproduced, transmitted, translated or stored, in any form, including digitally or electronically, without the express written permission of Secondary Solutions.

How to Write and Organize Persuasive Essays

Wow!  I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted.  Things have been so busy here at Secondary Solutions, as we’ve just unveiled our sister site, Elementary Solutions!  If you teach anywhere between grades 3 and 6, you’ll want to be sure to keep an eye on this site for some fabulous new products coming soon!

Since it’s been a while since I have written some quality items for this blog, I have decided to post some essay writing tips.  This is a teaser for what’s to come in our newly revised Essay Architect Writing System, due out this fall!  Be sure to become a FAN of our Facebook page to keep tabs on when we release this new guide.

Today, we’ll focus on Argumentative/Persuasive Essays:

Argumentative or Persuasive essays require you to win the reader over to your way of thinking.  To write an argumentative/persuasive essay, you must not only know your audience and what they may or may not know about your topic, but you must also effectively anticipate and effectively refute any arguments the opposition may raise.

Key Prompt Words: argue, persuade, justify, prove, defend, rationalize, convince

Purpose: Win the reader over to your side or your way of thinking

Important Aspects

Audience

  • Who will be reading your essay?
  • What do they generally think/feel about the topic?
  • What is the best way to appeal to and convince this audience?
  • What level of language is best for this audience?

Know Your Opposition

  • How can you defend your arguments against anything the opposition presents?
  • How well do you anticipate any questions or confusion about the topic?

There are several ways you can reach your audience effectively.  These techniques, recognized by Aristotle more than two thousand years ago are called rhetoric, and include:

  • Logical appeal: (logos): sensible arguments that are widely accepted by your audience
    • facts, statistics, personal experience, expert opinion, etc.
  • Ethical appeal (ethos):arguments based upon morals and values of a culture that ask the audience to do what is “right” according to what that culture deems correct; also called an “appeal to character”
    • the writer strives to appear knowledgeable, educated, credible, trustworthy, and fair towards the subject
    • the writer tries to make the audience do what is “right”
  • Emotional appeals (pathos):arguments which appeal to the audience’s emotions
    • the writer aims to connect with his audience in some way
    • the argument strives to appeal to the audience’s sense of fear, pity, needs, desires, and sympathies

Organizing the Argumentative/Persuasive Essay

Persuasive Writing:

  1. Takes a strong, solid position
  2. Gives reasons to support position
  3. Considers opposing viewpoints

**Note:  While you must acknowledge or consider opposing viewpoints, it is crucial that you pick one side and stick to it—you cannot be “wishy-washy” in persuasive writing!

Goal of Persuasive Writing:

To convince your reader to take your side of the argument by providing contrasting evidence and/or by pointing out mistakes and inconsistencies in the logic of the opposite view.

Most Important Aspects of Persuasive Writing:

Position

  • Decide your position (which side you are on)
  • Must be arguable/debatable (every argument has two sides)
  • Must provide specific logical—not emotional—evidence to support your position

While these look like opinions (and they may be) your argument must rely heavily on facts—facts that can be argued

Audience

  • Decide your audience:  Who will be reading your essay? How do they feel about the topic? What is the best way to convince your audience?  What tone/diction is appropriate for this audience? Are they going to be difficult to convince, or are they “on the fence” and generally going to be easy to convince?
  • Be VERY careful not to be sarcastic, insulting, or overly dramatic (emotional)

This can hurt your argument and make the reader want to take the other side just because they don’t like how you speak to them!

Opposing Viewpoints

  • You MUST know the argument of the opposite viewpoint
  • You MUST acknowledge the views of the opposition
  • You MUST provide contrasting evidence and/or inconsistencies and flaws in the opposition’s views

In sum, you must acknowledge, then dispute the argument.  You must acknowledge that the argument has two sides, but crush the opposition by providing overwhelming evidence to prove that your side is RIGHT!

Example of Persuasive Prompt:

Many people feel that television and movie violence has a negative effect on society.  Do you agree or disagree?  Take a stance on the subject of violence in television and movies, supporting your argument with details and examples.

Argumentative/Persuasive Thesis:

Remember that in an Argumentative/Persuasive paper, you are trying to win the reader over to your side.  Your thesis statement must state which side you are on in the argument being presented.

For Example:

Topic: Should smoking be made illegal?

Simple Argumentative/Persuasive Thesis:  Smoking is a highly dangerous habit that should be made illegal.

To test whether this thesis actually qualifies as an Argumentative/Persuasive thesis, we need to check two things:

1. Does the thesis reflect an opinion or position?

YES, It is an opinion that smoking is a “highly dangerous habit that should be made illegal.”  In other words, there would be people who totally disagree with this statement and believe that smoking should remain legal.Does the thesis mention the topic of the essay?

2. YES, the topic –the legal issue of smoking—has been mentioned.

Of course, you know that this thesis is just a simple thesis.  If we want to write a “better” thesis statement, our thesis statement might look something like this:

Smoking is a highly dangerous habit that is addictive, deadly, and filthy, and therefore, should be made illegal.

This material is Copyright Secondary Solutions.  All rights reserved.