Building your portfolio speaking and Listening Workshop

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Speaking and Listening Workshop

Try It Out

Imagine you're interviewing your favorite sports, music, or film idol. Write down a list of ten questions, none of which can be answered with a simple yes or no.

Try It Out

Team up with a classmate, and come up with a situation in which an interviewer and a subject have opposing points of view (a dog hater interviews the director of the humane society; a vegetarian interviews the owner of a cattle ranch). Then, act out two versions of the interview. In the first version the interview is tense and hostile, full of insults, interruptions, and accusations. In the second the interview is polite and constructive, and the interviewer refrains from directly expressing a point of view. What did you learn from the two scenarios?


Interviews-conversations in which one person asks questions to obtain information-are more common than you might think. You've probably been interviewed-by a teacher, the school nurse, or a neighbor wanting you to baby-sit or mow the lawn.

Sometime you may need to conduct an interview yourself. Here's how to get off to a good start.

Preparing for the Interview

A good interviewer is well prepared. Before you take out your pencil and note pad, follow these steps:

Research your topic. If your interview focuses on a topic-kayaking, say-go to the library and find out all you can about it. The more you know, the better your questions will be.

Know your subject. If your interview focuses on the ideas and life of the person you're interviewing (your subject), see if any newspaper or magazine articles have been written about him or her. If your subject is a writer, read her latest book; if he's an architect, go see-or find a picture of-a building he designed.

Make a list of questions. Ask obvious questions rather than pretend you know the answer. Don't ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Avoid questions that might influence your subject, like "You hate losing, don't you?"

Set up a time and place for the interview. Choose a place that's comfortable and familiar to your subject-interview a horse trainer at her ranch or a chemistry teacher in his lab. Be on time.

Conducting the Interview

You're seated across from your subject, pencil poised. How do you make the most of your opportunity? Follow these guidelines:

Set the ground rules. If you want to tape-record the interview, ask your subject's permission before you begin. If you plan to quote your subject's exact words in a newspaper article or in an essay, you must ask permission to do that, too.


Be courteous and patient. Allow your subject plenty of time to answer your questions. Try not to interrupt. Respect the person's ideas and opinions, even if you disagree.

Listen carefully. Don't rush on to your next question. If you're confused, ask for an explanation. If an answer reminds you of a related question, ask it-even if it isn't on your list.

Focus on your subject, not on yourself. Avoid getting off on tangents, such as "Something like that happened to me...."

Wrap things up. A good interview is leisurely but doesn't go on forever. Know when to stop. You can always phone later to check a fact or ask a final question. Be sure to thank your subject.

Following Up the Interview

Your notebook is filled, and your mind is bursting with ideas. How do you get your thoughts in order? Follow these steps:

Review your notes. As soon as possible, read through your notes and make sure your information is complete and clear.

Write a summary. To make sure you understand what was said, write a summary of the main points of the interview.

Check your facts. If you can, check the spelling of all names and technical facts against another source, such as an encyclopedia.

Turning the Tables: Being Interviewed

Sometime someone may want to interview you. Here are some tips:

Stay relaxed. Listen carefully to each question before you begin your answer. If a question confuses you, ask the interviewer to reword it or repeat it. Take your time. Long, thoughtful answers are better than short, curt ones.

Be accurate. Don't exaggerate. If you're not sure of something, say so.

Keep a sense of humor.

Try It Out

Watch a television news anchor interview a subject. Pay attention to

the length of the questions

follow-up questions

how the interviewer maintains control over the interview

how the interviewer makes his or her subject feel comfortable

How can you apply what you have learned to your own interviews?



Writer’s Workshop



See Writer's Workshop 1 CD-ROM. Assignment: Firsthand Biography.


Write an essay about a real person.


To inform.


Your teacher, classmates, friends, or family.

A longer excerpt from Barrio Boy by Ernesto Galarza appears on page 125.



In a biographical sketch, you give information about a person, either someone you know or a historical figure you're interested in.

Professional Model

In this passage from his autobiography, Barrio Boy, Ernesto Galarza describes his aunt.

Dona Henriqueta was not even as tall as Dona Esther, but plumper. She had a describes his light olive complexion and a mass of aunts dark brown hair so wavy it burst when she undid her braids. She never did household chores without singing, accompanying herself by imitating a guitar that plinked and plonked between the verses of her song. Her features were good-looking, almost soft, not much like her temper. Doña Henriqueta knew about people in deep trouble, for she was one of them. But unlike most of them, she believed in rebelling against it, in resisting those who caused it. As the oldest of the four migrants from Miramar, Dona Henriqueta stood between us and Don Catarina is when he was in one of his cantankerous from. moods. She drew a line between respect, which we were expected to show, and fear, which we were not.

-from Barrio Boy by Ernesto Galarza



1. Writer's Notebook

Review the notes you made in your Writer's Notebook for this collection. Then, answer these questions:

Which of these people do I find most interesting? Why?

Which of these people would I enjoy writing about? Why?

Which of these people taught me something important? What was it?

2. Freewriting

To find more ideas, freewrite on some of these subjects:

people you think are "the most" (the most helpful, the most courageous, the most whatever)

a memorable historical figure

someone who changed your mind about something

someone whose actions made a difference

a hero whose deeds haven't been recognized

a unique athlete

Choose two or three of the people you've written about. For each person, list a personality trait you admire (for example, understanding or courage) and sum up an incident that illustrates the trait. For an example of this kind of freewriting, see the chart in the margin. Review your charts, and see which person seems to jump out at you. Which one will give you a lot to write about?

3. Why Is This Person Important?

When you've decided on your subject, ask yourself why he or she is important enough to write about. Use these questions to help put your thoughts into words:

Evaluation Criteria

A good biographical sketch

1. makes the personality of the subject come alive

2. includes concrete details of the subject's appearance, behavior, and background

3. may use dialogue to show the subject's character

4. may describe the setting

5. tells about specific incidents to illustrate the subject's character

6. shows why the subject is important to the writer


Framework for a Biographical Sketch

Introduction (captures the reader's curiosity; shows the person in action; mentions an interesting biographical detail): __________

Body (describes the person's qualities; tells a story about the person; gives biographical details): __________

Conclusion (tells what the person means to you or presents a final word picture): __________

What more than anything else draws me to this person?

What have I learned about people or life from this person?'

How has this person influenced my life or my thinking?

Why would my readers enjoy knowing this person?

Try writing two or three sentences that summarize why your subject is important to you. This summary may turn out to be the main point of your biographical sketch. It may also turn out that as you write, your opinion changes. In any case, keep this statement handy as you work on the biography.

4. Details Make It Real

Now, gather details of your subject-details of appearance, interests, accomplishments. Decide if you want to tell something about your person's background-age, birthplace, education, work. Draw a stick figure of a person like the one at the left, and fill in details in as many of the categories as you can.


1. Getting Started

Read over your Prewriting notes. Mark them up, circling points you want to use in your biographical sketch-for example, actions that reveal character and memorable traits. Include details that show what the person means to you.

As you begin to write, include everything you think is important. Don't worry too much about length or organization-you can take care of those things once you have something down on paper. Make sure, though, that you never lose sight of your statement about why this person is important to you.

2. Shaping and Organizing

Here are a few ways to organize your ideas:

Time order. You could organize your biographical sketch chronologically, following time order. Use this kind of organization, for example, if you're relating a series of events that show your subject's personality.

Physical appearance. You could start with your subject's physical appearance and then relate it to personality. Look at Ernesto Galarza's portrait of his aunt Henriqueta (page 410).


Note how her soft features contrast with her fiery spirit. Also 'look at the Student Model below. Notice that the mother's physical appearance gives us a sense of her personality.

Personality traits. You could organize your biography around your subject's personality traits, telling about specific incidents that show the traits in action. You might consider describing the most important personality trait last. With this method, called order of importance, you put your most important point either first or last.

Student Model

The following passage is from a description of the writer's mother


I hopped up onto the yellow-topped counter and gazed around the room, taking in the kitchen with all my senses . . . and finally, my mother. Small and thin, with short salt-and-pepper hair and happy laugh-lines (and the age-ones she called unattractive but I always said made her that much more beautiful), it was my mother I noticed most. When she laughed, her eyes would crinkle and she would look at you as if you were the most special person in the world. I always loved making my mother laugh, just to see her eyes-and that look.

As she cooked, delectable smells danced and flew from the lidded pots and pans, making my mouth water. I asked for "tries," and she gave me tastes and nibbles, making me long for supper.

We see the person in a setting.

Physical details give us a clear picture of the person's appearance and personality.

Description of actions helps us get to know the writer's mother.

(continued on next page)

Strategies for Elaboration

Bringing Your Person to Life

Your aim in writing a biographical sketch is to bring your person to life for your readers. To do this, try these strategies:

Quote something the person says or has said that is funny or characteristic of him or her.

Put the person in a setting that you associate with him or her. Describe the setting.

Tell what other people think of the person.

Tell what this person makes you think of. What do you associate with him or her-springtime, ballgames, walks in the park?


Language/Grammar Link


Problems with pronouns: pages 366 and 392. Homonyms: page 385.

Sentence Workshop


Revising wordy sentences: page 415.

Student Model (continued)

Some of my best times have been spent in that kitchen, watching my mother bustle about, stirring this, testing that, always smiling with her crinkly eyes, making everyone around her happy. At the end, when all was done, she would put her arms around me, and I would stand on my tiptoes so that I could fit my head on her shoulder, and then she would squeeze me a little harder and say "thank you," and I would say "thank you" right back.

Elly Henry

Camp Hill Jr./Sr. High School

Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

The writer describes more actions to give us a sense of her mother's personality.

At the end and earlier in the passage, we can feel the writer's affection for her mother.

Proofreading Tip

Read your paper backward, word by word.

3. Making the Beginning and Ending Memorable

As you shape your biography, think of ways to make the beginning and ending strong. You might begin by mentioning an unusual fact or physical detail, by telling about a funny incident, or by quoting part of a conversation.

Ending a biographical piece can be tricky. You don't want to sound obvious or dull-"My father taught me everything know"-but maybe you can find a way to show your subject's importance to you. Perhaps you can end with a description of a special moment, as the writer of the Student Model on page 413 did.

Evaluating and Revising

Look once more at your statement of why your subject is important to you. Did you say what you meant to say? Did you end up saying anything new? Could that new point be worth focusing on? Revise your writing to make it say what you want it to say.

Publishing Tip

Your subject might enjoy reading what you wrote. Consider printing and binding your biography to create a special gift.

Communications Handbook


See Proofreaders' Marks.



Sentence Workshop


Sometimes writers clutter up sentences by using more words than they really need. An overload of words doesn't make writing sound better or more impressive. Learn how to avoid wordiness in your writing and how to make every word count.

You can revise wordy sentences in at least three ways:

1. Replace a long phrase with a single word.


They reached the school corner and Roger skipped away in an eager manner from her.


"They reached the school corner and Roger skipped away eagerly from her."

-Arthur Cavanaugh, "Miss Awful" (page 373)
2. Take out that is/was, who is/was, or which is/was.


The sidewalk that was in front of school already boasted a large, jostling throng of children....


"The sidewalk in front of school already boasted a large, jostling throng of children..."

-Arthur Cavanaugh, "Miss Awful" (page 373)
3. Take out words that repeat something.


I reached over and shut off the insistent buzzing of my bedside alarm clock, which was ringing next to my bed.


"I reached over and shut off the insistent buzzing of my bedside alarm clock."

-T. Ernesto Bethancourt, "User Friendly" (page 357)
Writer's Workshop Follow-up: Revision

Take out your biographical sketch, and circle any wordy sentences. Revise these sentences to make them straightforward and concise. Look for and eliminate phrases like due to the fact that and at the point at which.

Language Handbook


See Revising Stringy Sentences and Wordy Sentences, pages 761-762.



See Language Workshop CD-ROM. Key word entry: wordiness.

Try It Out

Revise each of the following wordy sentences.

1. At the moment when she returned to her desk, her back was straighter than ever.

2. Due to the fact that she was so beautiful, people probably wondered why she was with me.

3. Harry didn't have the slightest clue as to whether or not the parrot was speaking to him.

4. My computer, which was known by the name of Louis, sent me a message.


Reading for Life

Reading a Geography Book


Imagine that you're going to visit San Antonio this summer, driving all the way from Virginia to Texas. Before you leave, you want to learn about the states you'll be traveling through. You decide to start with your geography book.


Focus your research.

Make a list of questions you want to answer.

Use the text's structure to locate information.

Skim the table of contents to see what information your textbook covers and how it is organized. Scan unit headings and chapter titles. See where you can find information on your topic.

Search the index for key words about your topic. Check general entries ("Southern states," for example) and specific entries (names of states, large cities, and physical features, such as rivers).

Look for maps that will help you locate physical features, such as mountains, as well as Use graphic features.

Look for charts, which present a lot of information in a small space.

Using the Strategies

Answer the following questions about the material above, which is from a world geography textbook.

1. Where in the table of contents would you find facts about states you'd travel through on the way from Virginia to Texas?

2. List three things that you learned about San Antonio.

3. Which state listed in the chart is the third most populous in the country?

Extending the Strategies

Where in the world would you most like to go? Use these strategies to find information on this place in your geography textbook.


Learning for Life

Conflict Resolution


Wherever people live and work together, conflicts arise. How can people resolve, or work out, differences with others and keep good relationships with them?


Do a survey to find out how people resolve differences with others.


1. With a small group of classmates, write a short survey of four or five questions about how people deal with conflict.

2. Test your survey by asking your teacher or another adult to respond to your questions. Then, make any changes that are needed in the survey.

3. Each group member will pick at least two people to interview. They might be classmates, students in other classes, friends, or neighbors.


1. Tell each person whom you are going to interview what your purpose is. Then, ask the survey questions. Don't try to write down every word of every answer. Jot down important points and just a few of the person's exact words.

2. Meet as a group and read the answers to the surveys. Do you see any patterns? Ask yourselves these questions:

What methods do people use to cooperate?

What kinds of situations cause conflicts?

What ways of resolving conflicts seem to work best?

3. As a class, discuss each group's findings. Then, decide on some general guidelines for resolving conflicts.


Choose one of these ways to present what you have learned:

1. Role-Playing

On slips of paper, write down situations involving conflict that might occur in the workplace or at school. Fold the slips of paper in half and put them in a container. Then, with a partner, pull a conflict "out of the hat" and role-play the conflict and the resolution.

2. Billboard

Create a billboard with photographs of people and comments about how they resolve conflicts. If possible, use quotations from the people you surveyed.

3. Song

With a group of classmates, write a song about resolving conflicts. Choose a music style-rock, rap, country, folk, whatever. Try to include a catchy chorus that brings home the importance of your message.


In your portfolio, write a reflection about the survey. You might use one of these starters:

I never realized it could be so hard to ...

Of all the ways to resolve conflicts, the one that appeals to me the most is ...


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