The 20 Minute Essay



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The 20 Minute Essay
Twenty minute essays are REHERSALS for timed writing tests. They help you practice several needed skills:


  • Analyze an essay prompt to determine what it requires you to do in order to write an appropriate essay.

  • Take a position on a subject, write a clear thesis statement expressing your position, and generate specific and concrete examples to defend your position (show, don’t tell, remember?).

  • Plan and write under the pressure of a strict time limit. (If you can write an effective essay in twenty minutes, think what you can do when you have no time pressures!)

This is as easy as 1, 2, 3!




  1. PLAN (for 5 minutes AT LEAST!)

    1. Carefully study the wording of the question or statement. Annotate it!

    2. Break the question into its natural parts (use punctuation and paragraphing to help you). What are the key words or phrases that you need to respond to?

    3. Take a position and STICK WITH IT even if other possibilities come to mind.

    4. Create a rough outline. Check the outline against the question. Does it cover everything?

  2. WRITE

    1. State your thesis:

      1. Take a stance (I agree…/I disagree with…”)

      2. Add a generalization or opinion (because…”)

    2. Prove/defend/explain your thesis

      1. Present specific, concrete examples

      2. Explain your examples and show their relationship to your thesis.

  3. PROOFREAD (last 2 minutes)




    1. Sentence fragments

    2. Run-on sentences

    3. Subject-verb agreement

    4. Pronoun reference

    5. Tense consistency

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95% of all student errors

HOLISTIC SCORING GUIDE

20 MINUTE ESSAYS
General Directions:

Reward the essays for what they do well. A poorly written essay should earn a score no higher than a 3.





5

This score is for essays which provide an easily understood thesis statement which directly relates to the assignment. The examples selected to defend the thesis are well chosen, fully developed, and clearly connected to the thesis. The paper is well organized and free of significant mechanical errors. The paper demonstrates a strong command of language and style.

4

The four paper, like the five, has a clear thesis statement which is appropriate for the assignment. The examples should be apt but may not be a fully developed as those in the five paper. The examples are clearly connected to the thesis. The four paper is basically free of mechanical errors and is clearly written although it may lack the freshness of language and stylistic vigor of a five paper.

3

On the whole, these essays adequately fulfill the assignment. The thesis statement is clear and the examples are appropriate. They are clearly written. These essays have one or more of the following weaknesses:

  • The examples are thin, either in number or in development.

  • The examples are not clearly connected to the thesis.

  • The essay is superficial in its treatment of the question.

2

These essays have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • They have no thesis statement.

  • They provide no specific examples to defend the thesis but instead attempt development through repeated generalizations.

  • One of the examples contradicts the thesis.

  • Mechanical errors prevent easy comprehension.

1

This score is for essays that mention the subject briefly but fail to develop it in any way.

20 Minute Essay

Peer Evaluation Form



Component

Evaluation Comments

Score

1-5


Title

Engaging?







Introduction

Clear? Interesting?







Thesis statement

Clear? Interesting? Connects to prompt?







Example

Clear? Concrete? Specific? Appropriate for thesis? Connected to thesis?







Example

Clear? Concrete? Specific? Appropriate for thesis? Connected to thesis?







Example

Clear? Concrete? Specific? Appropriate for thesis? Connected to thesis?







Example

Clear? Concrete? Specific? Appropriate for thesis? Connected to thesis?







Conclusion

Clear? Strong? Connected to what came before?






20 Minute Essay


“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow.”

-Mary Tyler Moore


Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion. Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

20 Minute Essay


“Things do not change. We change.”

-Henry David Thoreau


Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion. Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

20 Minute Essay


“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.”

-Carol Burnett


Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion. Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

The 20 Minute Essay


“A human being can alter his life by altering his mind.”

-William James


Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion. Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

The 20 Minute Essay


“Fear always springs from ignorance.”

-Emerson
Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion. Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.


20 Minute Essay
The public will believe anything so long as it is not founded in truth.”

-Edith Sitwell


Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion. Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

20 Minute Essay


“The impossible is often the untried.”

-Jim Goodwin


Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion. Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.


© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


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