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PARAGRAPH ASSIGNMENT 1
Prepare To Be Confused
The major difference between expository writing (composition and essays) and creative writing
(stories, poems, etc.) is in their motivation: expository writing aims to explain what the writer has
already explored, and creative writing explores what the writer cannot explain. Because of this, the
two forms of writing use two very different methods to communicate ideas. The language of
exposition is clear, precise, interpretive and academic. The language of creative writing is often
ambiguous, evasive, impressionistic, and figurative. The one style of writing where these two most
often meet is creative nonfiction, and the most common form of creative nonfiction in college writing
is the personal narrative essay.
Write a single personal narrative paragraph (NOT a multiple paragraph essay!) of approximately
500 words that describes and tells a brief story about something you were confused by as you were
living it or experiencing it, but which, now that you're looking back on it with a more mature
perspective, you understand more clearly. Use one of the following ("A" or "B") as an inspirational
model (you do not need to quote or reference either of these authors in your paragraph):
Sister Helen Mrosla's "All the Good Things" (The Langan Reader, page 640)
Dunya Mikhail's "The Prisoner" (The War Works Hard, page 9)
The goal of your writing should not be to explain everything you now know, but rather to transport
your readers in their imagination to the experience of what you remember. That means, you must
use descriptive detail appealing to all five senses, narration to tell us what happened, a figurative
language (similes, metaphors, style, and tone in usage) to build a point of view. Once finished, the
if your choices are successful, your paragraph will imply the significance of your experience without
the need to tell readers explicitly in a topic assertion or a conclusion. In fact, avoid the temptation to
"sum up" the meaning in the final sentence(s) of the paragraph.
The memory you select for this assignment can be a happy one or an unhappy one; its importance
to you personally can be small or great. In fact, quite often it's not the grandiose experiences that,
upon reflection, hold the greatest significance to us later in life: the white lie; the unexpected
expression of mirth; the confused look on a loved one's face; the snapped pencil--these can be
moments that, like the tip of an iceberg, can later have a much larger impact on us than they at first
seemed. Use this assignment as a process to explore that impact, rather than merely summarize it.
Rely on your memory of specific details to setting, appearance, sounds, voices, mood, and feeling,
and include the best of these in your paragraph as description and support.
Sister Helen Mrosla's story, "All the Good Things" (available in John Langan's English Skills With
Readings, and on the course website) is an apt example of how a real-life story becomes, in
hindsight, a cautionary tale about the importance of showing one another support, love, and
affection. Consider how the internet chain-letter that explained the significance of Mrosla's memoir
detracts from her story's power--how it cheapened Mrosla's meaning. Study the specific details,
dialogue, description, and impressions the author writes to imply her meaning, and start compiling
and inventing your own story with similar techniques.
If you are drawing inspiration from Dunya Mikhail's poem, "The Prisoner," then study the way
Mikhail creates a point of view in her poem that communicates a mother's confusion about her son's
imprisonment: what facts does Mikhail conceal from the reader until the very end, and what
impressions does she describe instead. What words, sensory details, or ideas included in the
poem help to put us into the confused point of view of the mother? Begin compiling and inventing
your own story using techniques similar to Mikhail's.
Remember, this is a personal story, so take this as a rare opportunity to utilize the techniques of
descriptive-narrative writing in your paragraph. You are permitted to use the pronoun "I," but the
following should also be apparent in the final draft of your paragraph:
sensory description: taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight (avoid making your
descriptive writing too dependent on “sight”)
story structure: a beginning, middle, and end; introduction, rising action,
characterization: at least a single character that stands out as central to the story;
figurative language and tone: similes and metaphors; imagery; language creating mood.
Be creative! Try to enjoy the writing process in this assignment.
Try not to widen the focus of the assignment to be about more than one specific experience,
regardless of whether it is one in a larger pattern of experiences or a larger episode in your life.
Otherwise, the story becomes too general, too complicated, too long.
Be aware that this is a paragraph assignment only. This is not an essay assignment. Be specific, so
that your choice of examples and the details will also be specific. This is how you will keep the
writing contained to a single paragraph (albeit a longer paragraph than you might be accustomed to
writing). Least of all, do not write your paragraph with a long introduction.
Topic Selection: Monday, February 20 (Week 4)
Working Draft: Monday, February 25 (Week 5)
(with a Proofreading List attached to the draft)
Final Draft: Monday, March 4 (Week 6),
submitted in a two-pocket folder with a completed Proofreading List
[DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL MARCH 06]
Definition of Terms
What's a Working Draft?
On the due date of a working draft, bring 2 copies of your paragraph (one for your peer editors to
read, and one for the instructor). You won’t need to bring a two-pocket folder until the final draft is
due, but stapling your materials together is appreciated. Your working draft should be reasonably
complete insofar as you have attempted to work through the entire narrative-descriptive paragraph,
start to finish. Drafts that are obviously incomplete won’t be credited, and they won't inspire the kind
of input for which peer editing sessions are meant.
What's a Proofreading List?
A proofreading list is an editing checklist to which you add (or take away) issues of grammar,
punctuation, style, sentence structure, and paragraph development over the course of your
semester. The function of a Proofreading List is to help you edit—or, proofread—your work before
your submit it for a grade. Your proofreading list may use as a template the last page of your
Diagnostic Grammar Test (administered on the second day of class). It should list 1) five major
areas of improvement in your writing you are working on, 2) where in Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s
Reference you are looking for help, and 3) what strategies you are employing to help you
understand, avoid, and/or proofreading for these problems.
What's Due On the Final Due Date?
Submit a printed copy of the final draft in a plain, paper two-pocket folder. Include in the pocket
folder all prewriting, peer editing, previous drafts, and a revised and completed proofreading list.
(Do not submit the proofreading worksheet included in the printed version of this assignment
prompt in lieu of a formal proofreading list.)
Paragraphing (use of support and development; detail of content)
Writing (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, vocabulary)
Topic Point (Topic Assertion)
The topic point makes a complex assertion that forecasts a sophisticated and organized paragraph
of development. Both, its ideas and its arguments, are detailed and may be provocative as well;
also, it uses complex or compound-complex sentence structure.
The topic point introduces a limited version of the topic and a claim or attitude about it, and includes
a statement about why the claim can or should be considered.
The topic point adequately introduces a limited version of the topic and a claim or attitude about it,
but only minimally, with only a simple assertion. Frequently, it uses simple or simplistic compound
The topic point may be problematic in one of the following ways: it is missing either a limited
version of the topic or a claim or attitude about it; it aspires to be no more than a claim of fact. Also,
its location in the paragraph may be inappropriate.
A topic point is missing altogether.
Paragraph Development (use of support and development; detail of content)
Development of all four of the remaining stages in the paragraph is detailed and well organized,
with good transitions. Its ideas and explanations may, be exceptionally sophisticated.
A "B" paragraph may demonstrate some unfamiliarity or awkwardness with one or more stages of
development, even though its ideas may demonstrate good critical thinking skills and good detail.
An average paragraph will include minimal development for each required stage of development
and/or may have inadequate transitions. Also, it may suffer from minor problems of organization.
A "D" score is indicates one or more stages of paragraph development is deficient or absent. It may
suffer from pronounced disorganization and/or missing transitions.
A grade of "F" usually indicates serious incoherency. The paragraph may demonstrate failure to
recognize patterns of development or may altogether lack a topic appropriate for this assignment.
Writing and Mechanics (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, vocabulary)
The writing excels in its command of grammar, proofreading skills, accurate use of vocabulary
appropriate for parts of speech and context, complex- and compound-complex sentence structure,
style and tone, and a precise use of MLA document design.
The writing shows generally good command of mechanics and grammar with some minor mistakes.
It may use better vocabulary and diction but falter at times in its usage and tone. It may contain
minor errors of MLA style document design.
Writing abilities may show an average command of mechanics, grammar and sentence structure,
but with one or two major mistakes suggesting a need for better proofreading. Vocabulary may
show some awkwardness in usage but understanding in parts of speech.
More serious deficiencies in writing may include repeated major errors of sentence structure and
grammar, simplistic vocabulary, and frequently repeated minor errors. These patterns of error belie
deeper misunderstanding, not just poor proofreading.
A failing grade in Writing and Mechanics may indicate the writer's neglect for matters of style and
document design altogether. The patterns of writing error may be severe enough to warrant
additional outside help. In some cases, an "F" may suggest a serious lack of proficiency in English
as a second language.
For each of the following in the process of writing this paper, one-third of a letter grade will be
removed from the essay's final grade:
failure to submit a typed or computer printed Working Draft (reasonably complete) on the due
failure to participate in peer editing of Working Drafts on the assigned date (during classroom
failure to submit the peer editing sheets and edited working drafts in the same folder with the
failure to revise the Final Draft using comments and corrections from the Working Draft and
peer editing sheets
For each day that the final draft of the assignment is delivered late (including the day on which it is
due), one-third of a letter grade will be additional removed from the essay's final grade. The latest
submission date for any late paper is the next class period, after which time the essay will not be