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Objectives for Essays and Presentations

Essay topics, by design, are more complex than prompts at a forum because essays should result from reconsiderations of a work after a re-reading (or re-watching of a drama or movie), sometimes repeated re-reading for different purposes for a short story or poem (or repeated re-listenings for a song), and often research about the work and the writer.

  • Students should demonstrate their ability to interpret literary works beyond obvious considerations of the ideas in a work by considering why the work is well made.
  • Students should demonstrate their ability to write and speak well supported interpretations of a literary work by
    • making reasonable claims (usually in topic sentences--stated or implied--that control one or two paragraphs at a time)
    • linking all claims to one dominant perspective on a work
    • developing each major claim with references to the work, quotations from it, and explanations of how each reference or quotation pertains to their dominant perspective (thesis)
    • possibly illustrating the validity of their perspective by contrasting the work with other literary works
    • using varied and grammatical sentence structures (this often takes some revising--or a lot of prior practice)
    • using technical terms appropriately
    • controlling the basics by keeping straight the characters' names or happenings in the work, keeping  the "speaker" separate from the "author," not confusing a "short story" with a "poem" or "play"
    • taking special care with openings (avoiding routine and formulaic openings) and endings of essays (not just stopping with the last bit of evidence but deliberately wrapping up an essay by re-considering their thesis in light of the evidence they've reviewed in their essays and setting an appropriate mood for an ending

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