Reading and writing handbook

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Analyze the Author’s Purpose

Different types of materials are written with different purposes in mind. For example, a textbook is written to teach students information about a subject. The purpose of a technical manual is to teach someone how to use something, like a computer. A newspaper editorial might be written to persuade the reader to accept a particular point of view. A writer’s purpose influences how the material is presented. Sometimes an author states his or her purpose directly. More often, the purpose is only suggested, and you must use clues to identify the author’s purpose.

Distinguish Between Facts and Opinions

It’s important when reading informational text to read actively and to distinguish between fact and opinion. A fact can be proven or disproven. An opinion cannot-it is someone’s personal view-point or evaluation. For example, the editorial pages in a newspaper offer opinions on topics that are currently in the news. You need to read with an eye for bias and faulty logic.

Identify Evidence

Before you accept an author’s conclusion, you need to make sure that the author has based the conclusion on enough evidence and on the right kind of evidence. An author may present a series of facts to support a claim, but the facts may not tell the whole story.

Evaluate Credibility

Whenever you read informational texts you need to assess the credibility of the author. This is especially true of sites you may visit on the Internet. All Internet sources are not equally reliable. Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating the credibility of text.

Is the source written/created by a respected individual, publisher, organization, or discussion group?

Does the sources author include his or her name as well as credentials and the sources he or she used to write the material?

Is the information balanced or biased?

Can you verify the information using two other sources?

Is there a date telling when the source was written or last updated?

Narrative Essays

Writing that tells a story about a personal experience

  1. Select and narrow your topic- A narrative is a story. In social studies, it might be a narrative about how an event affected you and your family.

  2. Gather details- Brainstorm a list of details you would like to include in you narrative.

  3. Write a first draft- Start by writing a simple opening sentence that conveys the main idea of your essay. Continue by writing a colorful story that has interesting details. Write a conclusion that sums up the significance of the event or situation described in your essay.

  4. Revise and proofread- Check to make sure you have not begun too many sentences with the word I. Replace general words with more colorful ones.

Persuasive Essays

Writing that supports an opinion or position

  1. Select and narrow your topic- Choose a topic that provokes an argument and has at least two sides. Choose a side. Decide which argument will appeal most to your audience and persuade them to understand your point of view.

  2. Gather evidence- Create a chart that states your position at the top and then lists the pros and cons for your position below, in two columns. Predict and address the strongest arguments against your stand.

  3. Write a first draft- Write a strong thesis statement that clearly states your position. Continue by presenting the strongest arguments in favor of your position and acknowledging and refuting opposing arguments.

  4. Revise and proofread- Check to make sure you have made a logical argument and that you have not oversimplified the argument.

Expository Essays

Writing that explains a process, and compares and contrasts, explains causes and effects, or explores solutions to a problem.

  1. Identify and narrow your topic- Expository writing is writing that explains something in detail. It might explain the similarities and differences between two or more subjects (compare and contrast). It might explain how one event causes another (cause and effect). Or it might explain a problem and describe a solution.

  2. Gather evidence- Create a graphic organizer that identifies details to include in your essay.

  3. Write your first draft- Write a topic sentence and then organize the essay around your similarities and differences, causes and effects, or problem and solutions. Be sure to include convincing details, facts and examples.

  4. Revise and proofread

Research Papers

Writing that presents research about your topic

  1. Narrow your topic- Choose a topic you’re interested in and make sure that it is not too broad. For example, instead of writing a report on Panama, write about the construction of the Panama Canal.

  2. Acquire information- Locate several sources of information about the topic from the library or the Internet. For each resource, create a source index card. Then take notes using an index card for each detail or subtopic. On the card, note which source the information was taken from. Use quotation marks when you copy the exact words from a source.

  3. Make an outline- Use an outline to decide how to organize your report. Sort your index cards into the same order.

  4. Write the first draft- Write an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Leave plenty of space between the lines so you can go back and add details that you may have left out.

  5. Revise and proofread- Be sure to include transition words between sentences and paragraphs. Here are some examples: To show contrast-however, although, despite. To point a reason- since, because, if. To signal a conclusion- therefore, consequently, so, then.

Evaluating Your Writing

  1. Purpose: Excellent writing achieves purpose-to inform, persuade, or provide historical interpretation very well.

  2. Organization: Develops ideas in a very clear and logical way

  3. Elaboration: Explains all ideas with facts and details

  4. Use of Language: Uses excellent vocabulary and sentence structure with no errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation

*** To receive the full amount of points on the essay section of all assessments you must achieve all of the previous objectives

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