College Writing Tips

Dear Teachers: Welcome Back

Christmas Break is over and you’re somewhat devastated, am I right?

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The break was not long enough and all that grading/curriculum planning you told yourself you were going to get done is still sitting in the back of your car.

You’re not alone, but it is time to get back in the groove of things, so wake up! Here are some of my tips to help get you through this upcoming semester:

  1. Get Up Early and Prep for each day. (I can already hear the communal groan). This tip is especially helpful for college professors. I know it may sound tipping to wing your lecture if you’ve written it before, but get up 20 minutes earlier and refresh yourself on the content. Your students will thank you.
  2. Every Sunday night, make sure you are fully prepped for the upcoming week. While morning refreshers are nice, it is better to be fully prepared in case you do not have the time.
  3. Grade immediately! As soon as those essays (or tests) start coming in, start grading them! Do not, I repeat DO NOT, put off grading. It will severely bite you in the rear end at the end of the semester.
  4. Have a Clear and Concise Rubric that you share with the class. This will not only give them direction on what to aim for in their essays, but it will make grading easier on you. In my opinion, no teacher should grade off a “gut-feeling.” Essays can only be graded evenly when being graded against the same scale.
  5. Plan easier lessons during the semester where there is less assignments. This provides breaks for both your students and yourself. During these times, go have fun! (Or more realistically, catch up on the grading that you keep putting off).

There you have it, my five “Welcome Back” tips for professors and teachers alike!

I wish you all the best!

 

College Writing Tips

Dear College Students: Take a Breath

Take a breath.

Like many of you, I, too, returned to college classes this week. Unlike many of you, I return as a professor and not a student. However, as I was still a student in January of 2017, I feel that I am uniquely qualified to comment on both sides of the coin as both former student and current professor.

I am sure that many of you are already overwhelmed. The syllabus is filled to the brim with assignments that you have no understanding of and due dates that seem impossible to meet. The professor seems aloof and you are pretty sure that they are just waiting for a chance to fail you. They do not care if you have a thousand other things going on at home, because their class is the most important. There is no way you will ever get through another semester . . .

Now, before your thoughts continue down this train of thought (a train I’ve ridden in the past), let me remind you:

Take a breath.

Of course the syllabus seems overwhelming, it’s an entire semester’s worth of work shoved into 8-10 pages.

Maybe your professor does such (sorry, those exist too), but more than likely, your professor does care about your success. And if they don’t, don’t let their attitude affect you. (Easier said than done right?) Find that one professor who does care and ask them question, even about other classes. Odds are, if they can, they are willing to help you.

There IS a way you will get through this semester, just like you did the last, and just like you will the next. ONE. STEP. AT. A. TIME. And one breath at a time.

Do not let this first week undermine your confidence. You can do this!

Poetry

Graduates

Seniors strut through

High school office

Smiling at those they

Are leaving behind

Exuding arrogance

Shared equally with ignorance

On their way out

Out of their high schools

Out of their towns

Out of their pre-conceived prisons

To enter into–

Become a part of–

To mix and intertwine

With the “real” world

A world better than

The world they left behind

A world that will understand

Command, demand their untapped

Brilliance.

©KaylaAnnAuthor

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

College Writing Tips

College Writing Tip: Thesis Statement- What? How? Why? (Part Three)

Thesis Statements can be tricky, but they are not impossible!

This is Part Three of my three-post series talking all about those wonderful Thesis Statements. Regardless of the type of essay, I have three questions that you can (and should) ask whenever you start formulating your thesis statement.

What? How? Why?

Today we are going to look at the Argument Essay Thesis Statement and how my three questions apply to its development.

Argument Essay

This essay is clearly categorized as an argument (See the title of the essay). In this type of essay, you have to be arguing something, therefore it must include an opinion. Many students will jump on to hot-button topics like: abortion, immigration, trump, gun laws, etc. However, due to the corrosive atmosphere caused by such topics in classes, I always encourage my students to find a different topic. I have read papers by students who argue about: poaching, physical education, sexual misconduct in advertisement, driving laws, and drinking laws. Really the possibilities for argument topics are endless.

To begin your argument thesis you must first ask: WHAT am I going to argue?

  • Let’s stick with the world of writing shall we? Perhaps I might argue that traditional publishing is better than self-publishing. (Not necessarily my personal opinion, but for the sake of the argument. . .)
  • There, now I have a very clear opinion, but that is not enough.

Next, I must ask: HOW will I support my opinion? HOW will I address the counter-argument?

  • Indeed, in the argument essay, there are always two HOW questions. You cannot have a good argument without addressing the opposing opinion.
  • These questions drive me to think of criteria on which I will base my opinion. Some common factors included in publishing are: cost, marketing, ownership, ease of production, etc.
  • I might argue that traditional publishing is easier for the author because they do not have to pay the upfront costs of production, they have help with marketing, and they are given credibility.
  • But I would also need to address the opposing ideas that authors lose primary ownership with traditional publishing houses and they do not earn all of the profit.

Lastly, I have to address: WHY is this topic important? WHY am I writing about it?

  • This topic is important for all authors who are wanting to weigh their options. While this point will be clarified toward the end of the essay, it is helpful to hint at this in the thesis.

Argument Essay Thesis – here is the thesis combining all three of my questions.

Although self-publishing enables authors to maintain full ownership of and profit from their works, authors of any caliber should first consider publishing traditionally because publishing houses can assist with production costs, marketing ideas, and attribute credibility to the work itself.

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You know the drill! It’s your turn to try. Pick any topic that you have an opinion on and argue it with a well-thought out thesis based on what, how, and why!

 

©KaylaAnnAuthor

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

College Writing Tips

College Writing Tip: Go to Class

This might seem a little redundant right?

Well let me tell you a story. When I was substituting at my local high school, one of my senior students told me, “I can’t wait to go to college, it’s gonna be so much better than this place!”

I responded, “You’re right, it will be better, but it is also going to be harder. No one is going to force you to go to class, no one is going to care if you show up or not.”

“Awesome! Then I’ll actually have freedom!”

“That’s true, you will have freedom. You’ll have the freedom to not take your classes seriously, you’ll have the freedom to skip, and you’ll have the freedom to fail subjects that you are more than capable of passing.”

Of course, in true senior fashion, this student shrugged off my warning, but I do hope that they will come to remember it. This semester, I had a student miss over 50% of my class. When it came to the end of the semester and he was failing, he could not understand why regardless of how much I stressed class attendance and participation.

According to CSION PR Newswire (read full article here) students skip class for the following reasons:

This data—consisting of nearly 1.1 million tweets—provided Class120 with an unprecedented look into why students skip class, with five primary reasons becoming clear:

  • Hanging with Friends: 37 percent of the Twitter posts referenced skipping class to spend more time with their friends.

  • Too Tired: 32 percent of students tweeted that they were sleeping or too tired to go to class.

  • Recreation: 17 percent of students indicated a specific recreational event or activity that took precedence over attending class. There were a vast number of specific events mentioned, including sports, watching television and playing video games.

  • Studying: 11 percent of students mentioned being too busy with other school work to attend class.

  • Weather: three percent of students’ posts cited the weather—whether too beautiful or too unpleasant—as the reason they skipped.

As a professor and a teacher, I really do get it. Sometimes going to class sucks, there are days when I would rather be at the beach, or Disneyland, or sleeping, or working on my books, but it is my job to teach and it is the student’s job to attend.

I encourage every student out there to attend classes regularly! You really have no idea what you miss when you miss repeatedly.

Attending is a HUGE part of Succeeding! – KaylaAnn

©KaylaAnnAuthor

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

College Writing Tips

College Writing Tip: Thesis Statement- What? How? Why? (Part Two)

Thesis Statements can be tricky, but they are not impossible!

This is Part Two of my three-post series talking all about those wonderful Thesis Statements. This mini-series contains three separate posts about how to craft a thesis statement for your main three essays in composition courses. Indeed, regardless of the type of essay, I have three questions that you can (and should) ask whenever you start formulating your thesis statement.

What? How? Why?

Today we are going to look at the Literary Essay Thesis Statement and how my three questions apply to its development.

Literary Essay

A Literary Essay looks at a piece of literature, either a short story, a poem, or a book and attempts to understand it in new ways. Often times, students will look at themes, symbolism, motifs, and other literary devices to help decode secret meanings. Think of it as you are the detective and you’re trying to solve the meaning of this piece of literature by putting together all the clues.

For our example, we are going to look at the Grimm’s fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel.”

First, we must ask: WHAT? In a literary analysis there are often all types of “what”. What symbols are present in the story? What is the overarching theme? What images are repeating? What is the author trying to say?

  • For “Hansel and Gretel” I chose this question. What is with the predominate symbol or image throughout the story? Then it hit me, FOOD! I mean, have you read “Hansel and Gretel” lately? Food is EVERYWHERE!
    • See what I did there? I made an observation (food is everywhere) and turned it into my first question (What are the Grimm Brothers doing with the food?)
  • So here is my answer to my first question: The Grimm Brothers use the imagery of food throughout their story.

Secondly, we must ask: HOW? In Literary Analysis, the how is often referring to how the author is incorporating imagery or symbols, how the author is supporting the overarching theme, etc.

  • So, my question is this: How are the Grimm Brothers using the image of food or the action of eating?
  • Answer: The stepmother’s own greediness concerning food. The witch’s house in intentionally created out of various sugary desserts. The witch herself greedily devours children.

Lastly, we must ask: WHY? Why are the authors using these specifics symbols, these particular images, this key theme throughout? What is their point?

  • So, my question is this: Why do the Grimm brothers associate food with these various characters or actions?
  • Answer: The repetitious insertion of food within the narrative serves as a cautionary warning to children to avoid gluttony and greed.

Finally, it is time to put together our WHAT, HOW, and WHY to form our thesis statement.

In “Hansel & Gretel,” written by the Grimm Brothers, food is a reoccurring motif used throughout the story to symbolize the dangers of gluttony and greed as seen through the step-mother’s abandonment of her children, the imagery of the witch’s house, and the witch herself.

And there you have it: a completed thesis statement for a Literary Analysis Essay! This thesis statement is clearly arguable (stating that the food is more than just food) and it provides the layout for the essay (first we will look at the step-mother, then the witch’s house, then the witch herself).

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Choose your favorite fairy tale, or a poem, or even a book and ask yourself WHAT, HOW, and WHY. Like before, I would love to read what you come up with!

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©KaylaAnnAuthor

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

College Writing Tips

College Writing Tip: Thesis Statement- What? How? Why? (Part One)

Thesis Statements can be tricky, but they are not impossible! Therefore, I am going to do a mini-series of post all about the thesis statement (can you tell I’m a nerd?). This mini-series will contain three separate posts about how to craft a thesis statement for your main three essays (Evaluation, Literary, and Argument) in composition courses. Indeed, regardless of the type of essay, I have three questions that you can (and should) ask whenever you start formulating your thesis statement.

What? How? Why?

Today we are going to look at the Evaluation Essay Thesis Statement and how my three questions apply to its development.

Evaluation Essay

The Evaluation Essay is (you guessed it) where you evaluate something. To evaluate really means to judge something based on a certain set of credentials. The easiest example of this is using a movie because we all evaluate movies the moment we finish watching them. Either we loved it, hated it, or we are somewhere in between.

I encourage you to do this exercise with me! Think about a movie that is your absolute favorite or a movie that you completely hate. Have one in mind?

Now, ask yourself: WHAT is the movie that you have chosen and what is your opinion?

  • For example, I will choose Love Never Dies. My opinion is that the movie fails as a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.

Next, ask yourself: HOW can I support my opinion? (It’s usually crucial to choose at least three criteria to support your opinion)

  • Love Never Dies fails as a sequel because 1) it strays from realistic characterization, 2) there are plot holes between the two movies 3) the ending is unsatisfactory
  • BONUS! Add in a counter-argument that you will either concede to (agree with) or rebut (disagree with). My counter-argument: The music was fantastic!

Lastly, ask yourself: WHY is this important? Why should someone care? Why are you writing this essay? (and no the answer cannot be because your horrible, mean teacher forced you to). This question often verges on the “so-what,” which is one of the most difficult things to address so don’t feel to bad if this seems weird to you.

  • This evaluation should influence how people view the movie if they have already seen it and perhaps challenge their own opinions.
  • In some essays the so-what is more obvious, but in others its more of a motivating factor to keep in the back of your mind.

Finally, it is time to craft the thesis! We have answered all our questions now it is time to put it all together, be sure to include the what, the how, and (try to hint) at the why.

Here is my finished Evaluative Thesis Statement:

While the music within Love Never Dies is undeniably impeccable, the sequel for The Phantom of the Opera is ultimately a failure as it strays from realistic and consistent characterization, there are multiple plot holes between the two films, and the open-ended nature of the resolution is unsatisfactory at best.

There you have it folks, a clear, arguable Evaluative Thesis Statement that clearly demonstrates the layout for my essay.

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Pick a movie, any movie and show me what you got! I’m a nerd, remember? I would love to read your Thesis Statements and see how you answer: HOW, WHAT, and WHY.

Happy Writing!

©KaylaAnnAuthor

© KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and KaylaAnnAuthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

College Writing Tips

College Writing Tip: Essay Introduction

Hey guys! Today I am going over that pesky opening paragraph known as the Introduction!

Are you in a college writing course (or even a High School English class)? Do you hate writing introductions? Do you not know where to start? Well, hopefully I can help!

First, you have to know your topic and the genre of your essay. Are you writing an informative essay, an argumentative essay, an evaluation essay? These will influence how you write. However, no matter what essay you are writing you will need these three elements! Let’s stick with evaluation today. I’m going to do a movie evaluation of The Greatest Showman.

Every introduction needs to begin with a HOOK.

  • A hook can be: a question, a statistic, a rhetorical question, a quote, anything that catches the readers attention and mentions your chosen topic.
  • Here are a couple of examples of a Hook for The Greatest Showman:
    • Statistic – While Rotten Tomatoes gave The Greatest Showman a 55% of the Tomatometer, they conceded that 88% of audiences loved it.
    • Quote – “This is brave. This is bruise. This is me.” These lyrics aptly describe the movie in which they premiered; The Greatest Showman is brave and relatable for many audience members.

Next comes the BRIDGE

  • The bridge should contain background information, bring your reader up to speed on what you are discussing and it should be flavored with your opinion.
  • Here is my sample bridge:
    • The Greatest Showman debuted in 2018 as a whimsical interpretation of the real life of P.T. Barnum. Incredible actors such as Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, and Zendaya play key characters and transform a simple movie into a wonderful musical for the whole family. The movie, while at times straying from historical accuracy, depicts Barnum’s struggles in creating the circus. Barnum, a man with little money, attempts to create wondrous illusions that will bring in crowds and support his family. However, the circus is only the beginning of the story.

Finally, you have to have the THESIS

  • The Thesis is the most important part of the entire introduction and essay. It tells your reader exactly what your essay is about and provides a roadmap for readers. If you do not have a solid thesis, you most likely do not have a solid essay. Since I am evaluating the movie, my thesis needs to argue why The Greatest Showman is good or bad.
  • My thesis:
    • The Greatest Showman is the must-see movie of 2018 due to its impressive cinematography, memorable characters that confront historical prejudices, and beautifully crafted lyrics that will leave audience members feeling happier than they have in weeks.
  • Now, according to my thesis, we know that my body paragraphs will be split into discussing:
    • Cinematography
    • Characters
    • Songs

Here is the Introduction put together:

While Rotten Tomatoes gave The Greatest Showman a 55% of the Tomatometer, they conceded that 88% of audiences loved it. The Greatest Showman debuted in 2018 as a whimsical interpretation of the real life of P.T. Barnum. Incredible actors such as Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, and Zendaya play key characters and transform a simple movie into a wonderful musical for the whole family. The movie, while at times straying from historical accuracy, depicts Barnum’s struggles in creating the circus. Barnum, a man with little money, attempts to create wondrous illusions that will bring in crowds and support his family. However, the circus is only the beginning of the story. The Greatest Showman is the must-see movie of 2018 due to its impressive cinematography, memorable characters that confront historical prejudices, and beautifully crafted lyrics that will leave audience members feeling happier than they have in weeks.

There you have it, the three crucial keys to crafting a competent Introduction!

Blogs / Life

First Semester of Teaching – Told Through GIFS

Whelp, that is it! After turning in my grades, I have successfully completed teaching my first semester at the college, undergraduate level!

And let me tell you, it was quite the roller coaster ride, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, and even one startling loop-de-loop! I think the only way I can adequately describe what it was like is through GIFs, so enjoy my journey as told through GIFs.

Week One is filled with excitement for both the teacher and the students. Students are well-behaved and the teacher is ready to go!

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That First Month is really all about finding your groove. Who are you as a teacher and what do your students need from you? Some days you go home thinking “I totally nailed it!” Other days, you kinda feel like this:

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By the time you hit the Second Month, you finally feel like you’ve got it all figured out and things are going pretty well!

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However, it’s about that Third Month where you start to hit bumps in the roller coaster as students just kind of stop showing up.

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Thanking God that there is a Spring Break in the Spring Semester!

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Lastly there’s that Final Fourth Month which is pretty rough, you’ve got students who missed the first half of the semester and they keep asking about material that you covered weeks ago. . .

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Finals Week

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That’s pretty much how the semester goes, but regardless of the hardships I love teaching! My favorite moment this year was when a student came up to me after the last class and said,

I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed this class a lot better than the one I took last semester. You’re a great teacher and actually made the class interesting.

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Seriously though, I will never forget that.

Oh and just for fun because I also did some substituting at a local high school and really, all I need is one gif to explain how those days go.

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College Writing Tips, Writing Tips

Organization & a New Category!

Hey Everyone!

So yesterday, I talked a lot about organization and how it is so important for your own blogs! This week, I am re-organizing the categories under the “Writing Tips” tab on my main menu to include: Writing Tips, Blogging Tips, and now . . .

College Writing Tips!

As an English professor at a local university, it astounds me how many students come into my classroom woefully behind other students in their academic preparedness. There are a lot of basic writing tips and tricks that college students will find helpful in writing those essays and papers (for their English classes and beyond!).

Are you a student in high school or college right now? Do you want help on how to write the perfect paper? What topics are you interested in hearing me write about? What questions do you have for me?

Be sure to leave a comment below!

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