Analytical Writing Workshop

Ben GrossExtra Help: Monday, Room 303

Course Overview

Analytical Writing Workshop


The Analytical Writing Workshop will develop your thesis-based essay writing skills on a variety of topics from the mundane and commonplace, like jaywalking, to the deeper and more complex like the principled civil disobedience of the Civil Rights marches. The workshop will spend time crafting a variety of essays, including the persuasive essays you are expected to write for the writing portion of the SAT. We will learn how to construct arguments, outline essays based on those constructions, evaluate evidence, and fluidly integrate that evidence into your own thinking in order to create finely honed points of analysis. The writing will be not be personal in that it will not be about you and your life’s story, but at the same time can be of deep significance given the topics and issues you select.


Skills & Objectives:

        1.     Learn to use ethos, pathos, and logos to construct strong arguments.

        2.     Utilize brainstorming process to generate more dynamic ideas.

        3.     Focus and improve timed-writing ability.

        4.     Employ revision process to improve writing.


In this writing workshop, we will be crafting non-personal essays in a variety of types; this is not to say you will not be personally invested in the writing, but you, will not be the subject of your writing, instead your ideas about things will be. The semester will be broken up into 4 units, each with a type of essay at its center.


Each essay will be 4-5 pages, or 3,000-3,500 words with a total of 16-20 pages of formal, revised writing for the semester. Obviously, you will write a great deal more than this in the form of informal responses, timed in-class writes, and all the words you will write that simply will not make the cut, but in the end you will have something like 12,000-14,000 formal, polished words written.


Unit 1: Persuasive Essay.

        ·      Most of you know what a persuasive essay is, and a great many of you have written them before. The persuasive essay is exactly what you are required to write for the SAT, one where you are given a prompt, something like “can common sense be trusted and accepted, or should it be questioned?” and have to either agree or disagree with the statement using evidence from history, literature, your own life, etc. to prove your point. Persuasive essays have a set form that is supposed to be followed, one your readers will keenly look for, recognize when you have it, and wonder about when it is lacking. For our first unit, you will work on crafting a persuasive essay based on an SAT prompt. As the basis for your essay, you will use an in-class timed (as on the SAT) response that you will edit, revise, develop, and ultimately perfect.


Honors students will be required to write a second essay, this time persuading readers of the opposite of what your original essay does. This offers a fantastic opportunity to develop the rigor and depth of your analysis, and ultimately of your mind. You will learn how to effectively use ethos (ethics), pathos (emotions), and logos (logic) to persuade your audience towards your position.


Unit 2: Analytical Essay.

        ·      Just about anything can be analyzed: a cartoon, an advertisement, a painting, a poem, a novel, and a car. Much of the work of your English classes has involved looking at the written word¾in the form of poetry and prose¾to analyze its meaning, though you do the same thing in Art class, looking at white space, shape, color, and shading instead of text. We are going to look at words, obviously, and building on the work we have done crafting arguments based on ethos, pathos, and logos from our persuasive essays, we will analyze not merely the arguments of others, but how they use language and linguistic devices¾the same language and linguistic devices you just used yourself¾to add weight, often unconscious weight, to their own arguments. The analytical essay features heavily on the Advanced Placement English tests, and we will utilize their model, again crafting in-class timed writes first assessed on the AP scale, then selected one of those in-class essays to expand on, formalize, polish, and strengthen. This essay will offer you the chance to further hone your timed writing skills, something that will come in very handy in college and in life, and will help you in English class in general as many of the techniques we will focus on apply to both prose and poetry, Shakespeare and Toni Morrison.


Honors students will write an addition essay analyze not someone else’s prose, but their own from the previous persuasive essay. This will offer a unique opportunity to objectively look at your own writing, at the techniques you employ, some consciously and others unconsciously, to craft and strengthen your arguments. 


Unit 3: Compare & Contrast Essay.

        ·      You have been comparing and contrasting things since elementary school (what do you think Venn diagrams are?), and the skill is beyond important. You are often not asked to do it formally in writing, but any time you are looking at two things (systems of government, presidential candidates, a novel and film based on the novel), it helps to be able to put them down on paper in a structured argument. For your compare-contrast essay, you are going to draw on your own content knowledge to examine two distinct entities, drawing out how they are similar, how they are different, and why these similarities and differences are important. This is an opportunity to think more deeply about something you care about (basketball teams, novels, multi-tools, whatever it is), and use your developed persuasive and analytical skills to sort between them. This will also help you to develop your capacity to structure an essay as the compare-contrast essay is just about the most complex essay you can write.


Unit 4: Definition Essay.

        ·      Love, hate, peace, war, freedom, slavery, these are big words, often capital letter words (like Love instead of love) that have all sorts of ambiguity behind them. A definition essay is where you select a word like one of those above and define it. As with the other essays you will already have written, you need to use evidence to prove your definition, evidence that can take the form of personal experience, literature, or history, anything really to prove your definition. Your essay will need to consider and grapple with the definition of others, but ultimately needs to come to and support your own definition of the word. It is a good opportunity to select something you either care or wonder about and explore it. In its own way, it can be highly and deeply personal, while at the same time maintaining the distance necessary to really examine something.


Honors students will have the arduous task of selected the word that most strongly and diametrically opposes their first word (so hate if love is your first word) and define it as well, allowing a complete picture of both words and the concepts that stand behind them.


Class Structures:


All the writing workshops at IACS will feature common structures, based on college writing workshops that greatly help the writing process.


· 80 minutes of weekly writing. Of the 240 minutes of class we have a week, a full third of our time will be spent writing. Writing is a workout for your brain and hands, and just as with working out, you often hit walls and have to push through them; this sustained writing time will help you to develop your ideas and try out different ways to write your responses. Sometimes the 80 minutes will be used for in-class timed writes while other times it will be used to write and revise your own work. In college, you will regularly be asked to take multi-hour finals, not to mention the hours and hours you will have to spend up late writing, so 80 minutes of writing is a good starting point.


· Bi-Weekly formal conferences. The English department has worked very hard to keep the writing workshop classes smaller to give us time to both assess your work more closely and to conference with you as you are making your way through the writing process. It has been shown in study after study, not to mention in almost all teachers empirical experience, that giving feedback while a student is still writing is far far more effective than giving it after words (feedback after words would be the comments you get on turned in papers), so as a department, we are going to be following both our collective guts and the studies to have formal, 10-15 minute conferences that take place while you are working on your essays. You, as writers, will be required to have questions and areas of concern for me to look at so the conferences have both a focus and a goal.


· Mini-Lessons. Writing is the center of the workshops; direct instruction will take a back seat, and will be driven by the needs of the class. To that end, short (20-40 minute) mini- lessons will take the place of more formal direct instruction. If the class, as a whole, is struggling with fluidly embedding sources, we will spend time workshopping embedding, if an area of growth is closing sentences, then that will be an area of focus. The lessons will be as long and frequent as necessary, but will never monopolize a class, the writing always will.


· Peer Conferences. As much as writing is a personal activity, it is just as much about conferencing, both with your teachers and with your peers. Peer editing and revision is a skill as much as writing is, and in the workshops, we will rely heavily on peer conferences to improve your writing and your ability to improve the writing of your peers. Conferences will be done both individually (you and a single other peer working together) as well as in a groups with a few of your peers examining your writing. As with the formal teacher conferences, you will have to have questions and areas of concern for your peers to examine and address.


· Class critiques. As good as a single editor is, and as better as a small group is, nothing beats a class full of revisers. In many of your English classes you have already edited, revised, and critiqued the writing of your classmates as a class, sometimes anonymously other times knowing who’s writing you are working on, and as a department, we are going to continue this practice, routinizing and formalizing it to make it a more common and more effective practice.



Academic Honesty: Plagiarism is a serious offense in this classroom as it involves theft and dishonesty. Intellectual integrity is central to learning, so I implore you to engage in original thought and cite sources when they are used (including Sparknotes and Schmoop). Work that is plagiarized, either from a fellow student or from an online source, will receive a zero with no chance to make it up, your parent or guardian will be contacted, and the office will be notified.


Revision: Revision is central to the writing process; no one that writes professionally turns something in they have not revised themselves and had others revise for them. We will follow this same professional behavior towards the written word in class, using class time to revise what we write in order to improve ourselves as writers. Additionally, work turned in will be revisable as my feedback on it is meant to improve your abilities as a writer.


Timeliness: If a student is not able to turn in a major assignment on time, he or she must make arrangements with the teacher within 24 hours of the due date. At the discretion of individual teachers, students may be provided extra time to receive partial credit on major assignments. Make-up assignments must be submitted within 7 calendar days (1 week) from the original due date. Assignments submitted before the 7 day window will receive a lower grade in the Work Habits strand (5 points lost for every day late) but fully assessed in all other strands. Assignments turned in after the 7 day window will be graded as a zero in all strands. Late homework must be turned in by the next class.


Honors: Honor in English is an opportunity to challenge yourself and enrich your experience of the literature we will read in class. The goal of honors is to challenge you in order to advance your independence, time management, and self-direction, and to strengthen your compositional and analytical skills. It is open to all students, but there is a good deal of independent, supplemental work involved. In order to qualify for honors credit, you must:

        ·      Maintain a grade of 80 or higher in all strand areas.

        ·      Read and respond to one piece of literary criticism for each text.

        ·      Complete an honors version of each project.

        ·      Evidence the characteristics of a classroom leader, socially and academically, including: being regularly prepared for class, speaking respectfully while advancing the tone and terroir of class discussions, assist other students when appropriate, and evidence the characteristics of good scholarship in English.


The honors assessments will supplement the cumulative assessment for each unit, and will provide an opportunity to enhance your understanding of the text. Upon completion of all the honors requirements, your semester grade will be raised by 0.5 points. Should you choose to pursue honors in English and later reconsider, the honors work you do complete will be graded for extra credit, but your semester grade will receive no additional points.


Grading Policy:

Content (30%): Good writing begins with clear thinking. The content strand focuses on the meat of student writing: how clear and logical their ideas are, how well developed their details, and how well suited their words are to their task. The nature of the content strand depends strongly on the kind of writing being assessed: in a short story, content is the development of experiences, events and characters; in a thesis paper, content is the complexity of thinking, the clarity of logic and the strength of research.


Structure (30%): No single formula can help students write for all tasks. Rather, students must learn to organize their ideas according to their purpose and their audience, finding the best way to lead a reader forward. Whether writing a poem or an editorial, students must consider how to engage and orient their reader, how to guide them through the various ideas, images or actions that make up their text, and how best to conclude. Strong organization often requires careful planning or major revision as students think and rethink how best to present their ideas.


Language & Conventions (20%): Students must develop a strong grasp of the fundamental conventions of standard English for capitalization, punctuation and spelling. In addition, students work to improve their command of grammar and a rich vocabulary. Students also should know how to adjust their language, including word choice, tone and grammar, to fit their purpose and audience. The conventions of standard English are taught and assessed not in isolation but throughout the writing, revising and editing process.


Work Habits (20%): Work habits are the study skills necessary to gain mastery over the curriculum and your writing. It might take the form of writing checks, revisions of essays, and self-reflections.

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