This I believe Project Time: Three and a half periods – 50 minutes each, half period is roughly 25 minutes Setting



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This I Believe Project

Time: Three and a half periods – 50 minutes each, half period is roughly 25 minutes

Setting: 10th grade classroom with 30 students. One student has a visual impairment, one has a hearing impairment, and another has a learning disability. Students have just finished reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Theory:

  1. In this project, I have used some of the philosophies from Jim Burke’s The English Teacher’s Companion. I found that many of his ideas not only explore the text itself, but also allows the students to create comparisons with the outside world; this will help them better synthesize and understand the meaningfulness of the material. This project in particular will help make students feel a part of the community. Because NPR is such a widely known and highly regarded radio station, and the fact that thousands of people have submitted their “This I Believe” essays to NPR all over the world, students will feel that they have a connection to something significant. In addition, because it is on the Internet, it has even further relation to students’ lives because nowadays high schoolers spend a lot of time using technology and media. Burke stresses, “Participation in these learning communities can be intensely motivating for students to read more, write more, and ultimately think more” (355). Students can connect to “This I Believe” and feel a part of the community. Students want their voices to be heard. This is the perfect opportunity for students to showcase their identities.

  2. Students have just finished reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. They now know about Junior’s life and how he struggles between being a Native American in an all-white community and the issues that occur on the reservation. Students should have an idea about life on the reservation, Junior’s experience in Reardan, the all-white high school, and the issues he faces in both environments as he transitions from a reservation school to a white school. The teacher will use students’ knowledge of Junior’s beliefs to compare to their own individual beliefs and experiences. On this project, students will be using The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie as a reference, but also using NPR’s “This I Believe” website to explore other people’s beliefs and experiences. Because we are focusing on identity and society, it is important for students to develop their own identities, especially when they are going through this developmental and social stage in their lives.

  3. Students will use NPR’s “This I Believe” website to listen and read people’s stories. They will reference back to Junior’s beliefs, values, and experiences in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie to compare his story to their own stories.

  4. This will be the final project of using The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian portion of the unit. After completing this project, students will be able to understand the issues such as racism, bullying, alcoholism, social class, and experiences that can affect one’s identity. However, because Junior wants a better life, he knows that he must not get sucked into the life on the reservation for which so many of his people are destined. Instead, he must find his own way to succeed. He uses his experiences and beliefs to form new ideas and perspectives about people. Students already have the knowledge of stereotypical Native Americans, Junior’s experiences and perspectives, and the idea of identity to form their own value system in this activity and carry onto the next book the class reads.


Objectives

  1. Students will use the themes of the book, Junior’s experiences, and their prior knowledge of identity in order to come up with their own ideas about identity.

  2. Students will complete different activities and worksheets in order to brainstorm ideas for their personal essays.

  3. Students will use technology and creativity in order to represent their ideas, beliefs, and attitudes about their personal philosophies.


Materials

  • Laptops with Internet access

  • NPR – “This I Believe” website

  • Things I Have Learned About Life worksheet

  • Thesis worksheet

  • Free Writing prompt sheet

  • PowerPoint

  • Writing Notebooks

  • Print out of the audio essay

  • Pen/Pencils

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


Preparation

The teacher will prepare by printing out all of the worksheets ahead of time and neatly arrange them on the table at the front of the class so they are ready to be handed out when the time comes. The teacher will also pull up the NPR website so she is ready to have students listen while they read along. On the second day of the project, the teach will have all the previous materials including extra pencils, loose leaf papers, and an organizing worksheet to help students along with the writing process. On the third day, the teacher will have already either scheduled time in the computer lab for two days or have checked out the portable laptops for two days. In this case, the teacher has checked out the laptops for two days so students can work in the classroom and time will not be taken away from walking to the computer lab and back.


Procedure

Day One – What is a personal essay?

  1. Before class. The teacher will do the preparations above. She will also write the directions to the introduction class activity on the board. The teacher will be at the door, asking students to pick up a worksheet on a specific table as they enter the classroom.

    1. Directions: Complete the worksheet and write your one-sentence on the strip of paper your picked up. Then, write in your journals the meaning of that one sentence and how it relates to you. Use experiences and beliefs to support your sentence.

  2. 3 min. The teacher will introduce the activity by reading the directions on the board and on the worksheet. She will present an example she did before class about Junior. (On the strip, it said, “If you're good at it, and you love it, and it helps you navigate the river of the world, then it can't be wrong”).

  3. 10 min. Students will complete the activity and write in their notebooks. The teacher will ask the students to volunteer then collect their strips of paper to later pin on the bulletin board in the room.

  4. 10 min. Tell the class that they will be creating their personal philosophies to showcase a significant part of their identities and connect the assignment to Junior’s life. Pull up the “This I Believe” story and handout the worksheet so they can follow along while listening to the audio.

    1. Afterwards, talk about the significance of the piece—What moments really struck you as empowering? What did you like about it? How is the format set up?

  5. 2 min. A “This I Believe” essay is a personal essay. Show the following graphic organizer to help students understand basic differences between a personal essay, which is focused on a belief or insight about life that is significant to the writer, and the two other forms of personal writing: the personal narrative and the memoir.

    Personal Essay

    Focused on belief or insight about life that is significant to the writer

    Personal Narrative

    Focused on a significant event

    Personal Memoir

    Focused on a significant relationship between the writer and a person, place, or object

  6. 2 min. Explain that a personal essay often combines elements of both the narrative and the memoir since an insight about life or a personal belief is usually based upon both experiences and relationships that have taught the writer what individual values are most important. Talk about how in Junior’s life, he used specific events from his life and specific stories about his relationships with Rowdy or his grandmother, etc to come to his philosophy.

  7. 3 min. On the PowerPoint, there will be one slide talking about specific points to a personal paper:

Personal Essay

Communicates the significance of a central idea or insight that has a deep personal meaning to the writer

Purpose is more reflective, although the tone may sound persuasive

Development of the piece is based upon the writer’s personal experiences or anecdotes

Written in first person; more conversational or entertaining in style

Appears in an essay format

More subjective in tone (talks about only your point of view or opinion)

Rarely requires documentation

More informal in tone, language, and subject matter




  1. 15 min. Handout the next worksheet of writing prompts and ask students to free write their ideas about one prompt or, if they already have a prompt in mind, encourage them to come up with their own and write about that.




  • Most of us have been in a situation where we made a promise that for one reason or another we were unable to keep. When were you disappointed because someone made you a promise that they failed to keep? Or when did you break a promise that you made to someone else?

  • All of us are works in progress with a long way to go before we reach our full potential. In what skill or area are you still working to make progress?

  • Our society uses the word hero in many different ways. How do you define hero, and who is a hero in your life?

  • We all tend to judge people by their appearances, even though looks can be deceiving. Have you every prejudged someone incorrectly based on their appearance or has someone ever prejudged you unfairly based on how you look?

  • Everyone has problems or challenges to overcome. What obstacles are you proud to have faced and conquered?

  • There is a famous quote: “To error is human, to forgive is divine.” When did you feel divine because you were able to forgive someone for his/her mistake? When did someone act divine by forgiving you when you were wrong?




  1. 5 min. Ask students to stop writing and review homework for tomorrow: You will be starting to write your own personal philosophies or “This I Believe” essays. Come to class with a topic to write about and fill out the organizer so you have an outline to start writing tomorrow. Also, read or listen to different “This I Believe” essays to get an idea of what kinds of strategies to use to make the essay interesting and to get ideas about topics.


Day Two

  1. Before class. The teacher will lay out extra loose leaf paper, idea-starter sheets, extra organizer sheets, pencils, juicy detail sheets, and effective conclusions worksheets.

  2. 10 min. The teacher will discuss what the class will be working on today (writing in their graphic organizer if they already haven’t done so and/or starting to write their rough drafts of their essays). Explain to writers that they will need a powerful hook to get any reader’s attention. The lead is the doorway through which a writer welcomes and orients readers to the idea. Urge writers to avoid beginning an essay with the statement “This I Believe.” Encourage them instead to try using at least two of the following strategies as more effective leads. Then they can choose the better opening with the help of a peer or teacher listener. If students are allowed to compose just one lead, they will not see or hear the impact that a different strategy can make on their writing. Examples include:

    • Question: “When was the last time you went without a meal?”

    • Quotation: (from someone famous or from someone significant in your life)

      1. Be careful were the last words my father said to me each time a left the house.”

    • Strong Statement: (that your essay will either support or dispute)

      1. “If you eat enough cabbage, you’ll never get cancer.”

    • Metaphor: “The starlings in my back garden are the small boys in the playground, impressing each other with their new found swear words. The crows all belong to the same biker gang. You need to know their secret sign to join their club.”

    • Description: (of a person or setting) “Michael once mowed the lawns around Municipal hall wearing a frilly apron, high heels, and nylons, with a pillow stuffed under his sweater so he looked pregnant. And it wasn’t even Halloween.”

 Also, allow them to review the other sheets such as personal tips to add audience appeal. Review the key points of the sheets and remind them that they are there for ideas to make the essay/philosophy fun and appealing.

  1. 35 min. Students will use class time to complete graphic organizers and/or dive into writing their papers. If they are done early, they should make sure they look at the rubric to follow all guidelines. In addition, they should use their peer editing sheets to exchange papers with another editor. Once they have finished, they should go back revise their papers.

  2. 5 min. Before class ends, ask students to stop what they are working on and review the homework: If you haven’t finished your essay in class, finish it at home. Then, ask a parent, sibling, friend, or come early tomorrow morning to ask me to revise your paper. All in all, come to class tomorrow prepared to type your essay on a glog.


Day Three

  1. Before class. The teacher will have checked out the laptops from the computer lab for the day. As the students file into the classroom, the teacher will tell them to take out their papers and start either where they left off from yesterday if they haven’t done the homework, or sit quietly until further instruction.

  2. 5 min. Introduce activity for today: Once I have seen that you have finished your paper, I will go around the room with a stamp to mark it off. That is your cue to get a laptop and go to Glogster.com and start creating your glog. Register a new account or log in to your preexisting account. Play with different features and use the text boxes, tools, pictures, etc. to make it interesting. However, only use the special features AFTER you have typed everything out.

  3. 40 min. Students will be typing their essays. Type the essay and make your “This I Believe” piece fun and creative using the different pictures, adding links and changing the background to reflect who you are and your story.

  4. 5 min. Announce to the class that they should write down the link to their glog on the rubric and hand in the rubric. That notifies me that they have completed the assignment. Remind them that tomorrow they will be presenting their glogs to the class. Tell them that if anyone does not have the essay done, they should complete it at home.



Day Four (half period)

  1. Before class. The teacher will make sure that Glogster.com is pulled up and ready for students to login and share.

  2. 20 min. Students will share their glogs. The teacher will offer the audience to ask questions.


Discussion Questions

  • What do you think Junior’s “This I Believe” essay would be like? What do you think he’d talk about? What do you think his philosophy could be?

  • Was it difficult to discuss some subject matter that was important to you?

  • What do the shapes and pictures mean in your glog?

  • How does your essay compare to those on ThisIBelieve.org?

  • Why do you think so many people wrote essays about what they believe? How do their stories or your peers’ stories impact your beliefs?


Bilingual/ESL and Englishes Accommodations

Spanish: Students will be allowed to use an electronic translator or Spanish/English dictionary to look up words or phrases they do not understand. However, the teacher will encourage students to use English, allotting them extra time to complete the narrative or glog at home. In addition, I will discourage the use of online Spanish/English translators because most of the time, they do not translate words or sentences correctly. This activity in general is accommodating to ESL students because it allows students to be creative and informal in their writing. However, there will be some challenges to make it creative. The teacher will suggest students to read “A Priceless Lesson in Humility” by Felipe Morales while listening as well. The students should read/listen to it over and over to gain understanding. This piece will help them relate to their culture and understand the meaning as well as the different components to the structure.

African American English: The teacher will encourage students to use the graphic organizers and read through the different worksheets to get suggestion on how to use the strategies to make the essay interesting. In addition, she will encourage the students to look up different “This I Believe” essays on their own to look at the language, the format, the different elements they use (such as experiences, metaphors, quotes, and lessons) to get an idea of what to include in their final pieces.
Special Education Accommodations

Specific Learning Disabilities means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations, including such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. [105 ILCS 5/14-1.03(a)] (http://www.isbe.state.il.us/spec-ed/html/categories.htm)

For students with learning disabilities, it may be difficult for them to understand the various essays online. Luckily, there are many informal and formal essays and authors that vary in different ages. Suggest, “Teaching a Bad Dog New Tricks” by David Buetow of Chicago. He discusses life with his new dog and how his whole personality changed. The article comes with the audio version, which will help students that are stuck on words glide through the article smoothly.



Hearing Impairment means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness.

For the student with the hearing impairment, the teacher needs to make sure she constantly speaks loudly/audibly at all times. However, because most of the work is done online or has the physical words on the webquest and paper, she will have an easier time using her visual capabilities rather than her relying on her weak audio capabilities. In addition, if necessary, she could listen to the audio as well as reading along (or just read the article). This activity will help her have fun and it is very accommodating for her.



Visual Impairment means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

For the student with the visual impairment, he may have difficulty constructing the glog. Therefore, he can record his voice if necessary online, using a tape recorder (the teacher has one), or in the computer lab using iTunes and working with the lab assistant. Moreover, this activity is accommodating to the student because there are many audio versions of the article online that are very clear in quality.


Assessment

Students will be assessed according to their completion and thoroughness of each of the steps: 1) the completion of the in-class activities, 2) the graphic organizer, 3) the peer editing sheet, 4) the rough draft, and 5) the glog. The graphic organizer allows students to organize their ideas and will make it easier for them to write their papers. The rough draft needs to be stamped and turned in with a completed peer-editing sheet. Finally, the students need to type their glogs online and use their creativity skills to use the different features to reflect their essays and their identities. Within the glog, students will need to use the three elements of the personal paper: the focus on belief or insight about life that is significant to the writer, the focus on a significant event, and the focus on a significant relationship between the writer and a person, place, or object. The students must also include a strong conclusion, a clear overall purpose or philosophy, sensory detail along with specific detail when describing the experiences, and be at least 350 words (more is absolutely acceptable). Students will receive many suggestion sheets and the rubric so they know what exactly is expected from them.


Extension Ideas

  • Students could record their essays instead or in addition to creating a glog.

  • Students could create a glog/This I Believe essay for a character in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

  • The class could do more pre-writing activities such as reviewing different philosophies or ideas that people might believe and play a Four Corners-type of game (the teacher reads philosophies out loud such as “an eye for an eye…” and the student go to which ever corner they agree with – either Agree, Disagree, or Somewhat Agree and explain to the class why they feel that way and respond to others’ decisions).

  • Students could create a scrapbook page with a photo from the experience or event that they discuss in their essays.

  • As a class, we could create a collage of our different personal statements or philosophies to put outside the door or hang in the classroom for the remainder of the year.

  • With parents’ approval, submit the students’ essays to NPR!


Source of Activity

I would like to thank Edison Middle School’s Mary Biddle for introducing “This I Believe” to me and to her classroom. She came up with the idea to have her students create glogs instead of just essays. This makes the activity, and writing in general, fun and relatable. In addition, I would like to thank NPR not only for being a great radio station, but for providing educator links that would help teachers use “This I Believe” in their classroom as well. Furthermore, I would like to thank the individual authors of the “This I Believe” essays because they allowed their stories to be heard, no matter how much hesitation they might have had about writing or recording their voices.


Resources and References

Burke, Jim. The English Teacher’s Companion: A Complete Guide to Classroom, Curriculum, and the Profession. 3 Ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2008.


Glogster.com
Illinois State Board of Education: Illinois Learning Standards. 2009. Illinois State Board of Education. 23 September 2010. http://www.isbe.net/ils/ela/standards.htm
Illinois State Board of Education: Special Education Categories. 2009. Illinois State Board of Education. 23 September 2010. http://www.isbe.state.il.us/spec-ed/html/categories.htm
“This I Believe in the Classroom.” ThisIBelieve.org/educators.
Illinois State English Language Arts Goals:

STATE GOAL 1: Read with understanding and fluency.

1.C.4d Summarize and make generalizations from content and relate them to the purpose of the material.

Students will read and listen to the essays online to get an idea of the format, style, and language the authors use to convey their overall philosophies and meanings. Students will use their knowledge and observation from reading the essays to apply the methods to their own essays.


STATE GOAL 2: Read and understand literature representative of various societies, eras and ideas.

2.A.4d Describe the influence of the author’s language structure and word choice to convey the author’s viewpoint.

Students will analyze various authors’ literary techniques and language structure to understand its effectiveness and meaning of the overall purpose. Students will demonstrate that they understand by using similar techniques in their own essays.


STATE GOAL 3: Write to communicate for a variety of purposes.

3.A.4 Use standard English to edit docu­ments for clarity, subject/verb agreement, adverb and adjective agreement and verb tense; proofread for spelling, capitalization and punctuation; and ensure that documents are formatted in final form for submission and/or publication.

Students will conduct peer editing with one of their classmates, a sibling, parent, or teacher using the peer-editing sheet. Students will proofread their work to ensure it is ready for publication. The teacher will stamp approved rough drafts that are ready to be typed and finalized.


STATE GOAL 4: Listen and speak effectively in a variety of situations.

4.A.4b Apply listening skills in practical settings (e.g., classroom note taking, inter­personal conflict situations, giving and receiving directions, evaluating persuasive messages).

Students will listen to the teacher’s directions throughout the three and a half day period by completing the various pre-writing activities and the organizers and tip sheets in the packet of papers that the teacher has distributed.


STATE GOAL 5: Use the language arts to acquire, assess and communicate information.

5.A.4a Demonstrate a knowledge of strategies needed to prepare a credible research report (e.g., notes, planning sheets).

Students must complete the pre-writing activities, graphic organizer, and peer-editing form in order to plan an effective paper and receive full credit.



Reflection

I believe that this project will go along smoothly. However, I could have allotted more time for students to brainstorm philosophies and ideas significant to their lives. By allowing them to do different activities and use different sources of media, they could have come up with different, and perhaps more important and creative, philosophies to their lives. In addition, instead of having students pick up different worksheets everyday, I could combine all the sheets into one large packet so they will not misplace any important papers.


Things I Have Learned About Life

Personal essays are based on ideas—insights we’ve learned based on life experiences. Junior learned from his experiences to believe that he could have a better life and still keep his culture in his heart.


Directions: Read the insights expressed by others, and then compose a sentence that expresses one thing you’ve learned about life and write it on the strip of paper provided. Then, free write about your sentence and include an example or experience that you have had that supports why you think this way.
1. I’ve learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what they are doing and wave back. – Age 9

2. I’ve learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering someone else up.

– Age 14

3. I’ve learned that although it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my parents are strict with me.

– Age 15

4. I’ve learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it. – Age 39

5. I’ve learned that there are people who love you dearly but just don’t know how to show it.

– Age 42

6. I’ve learned that you can make someone’s day by simply sending them a little note. – Age 44

7. I’ve learned that the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his or her need to cast blame on others. – Age 46

8. I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. – Age 48

9. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die. – Age 53

10. I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. – Age 58

11. I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. – Age 62

12. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision.

– Age 66

13. I’ve learned that it pays to believe in miracles. And to tell the truth, I’ve seen several. – Age 75

14. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. – Age 82

15. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch—holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. – Age 85

16. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. – Age 92


The Personal Essay Components

A personal essay often combines elements of both the narrative and the memoir since an insight about life or a personal belief is usually based upon both experiences and relationships that have taught the writer what individual values are most important.




Personal Essay

Focused on belief or insight about life that is significant to the writer

Personal Narrative

Focused on a significant event

Personal Memoir

Focused on a significant relationship between the writer and a person, place, or object

Look at the table below. We can see that the elements of a personal essay, or a “This I Believe” essay are different from the formal, academic papers (also known as Transactive Writing). For your personal essay, keep in mind these components; they will help you write the paper in a more informal way.


*However, just because it’s more of an “informal” paper, it doesn’t mean you use the same type of language or spelling you use online, on Facebook or IM, or with your friends (unless specifically used in dialogue).


Personal Essay

Transactive Writing

Communicates the significance of a central idea or insight that has a deep personal meaning to the writer

Conveys info to a reader who knows less than the writer; may attempt to persuade a reader to take a particular action or believe a certain way

Purpose is more reflective, although the tone may sound persuasive

Purpose is more persuasive, an attempt to convince others to agree with the writer’s position

Development of the piece is based upon the writer’s personal experiences or anecdotes

Development of the piece is based upon research from credible sources (like newspaper articles, books, etc)

Written in first person; more conversational or entertaining in style

Written in third person; more issue-driven and formal or academic in style

Appears in an essay format

Appears in a real-world form such as a letter, an editorial, or a feature article

More subjective in tone (talks about only your point of view or opinion)

More objective in tone (talks about both sides of issues)

Rarely requires documentation

Often requires documentation

More informal in tone, language, and subject matter

More formal in tone, language, and topic selection

Personal Writing Prompts

Directions: Free write your ideas about one prompt or, if you already have a prompt in mind, write about that in your Writing Notebooks. Make sure that the answer to the question is at least one paragraph (5 sentences) long and try to use examples and experiences to support your answer.


  • Most of us have been in a situation where we made a promise that for one reason or another we were unable to keep. When were you disappointed because someone made you a promise that they failed to keep? Or when did you break a promise that you made to someone else?



  • All of us are works in progress with a long way to go before we reach our full potential. In what skill or area are you still working to make progress?



  • Our society uses the word hero in many different ways. How do you define hero, and who is a hero in your life?



  • We all tend to judge people by their appearances, even though looks can be deceiving. Have you every prejudged someone incorrectly based on their appearance or has someone ever prejudged you unfairly based on how you look?



  • Everyone has problems or challenges to overcome. What obstacles are you proud to have faced and conquered?



  • There is a famous quote: “To error is human, to forgive is divine.” When did you feel divine because you were able to forgive someone for his/her mistake? When did someone act divine by forgiving you when you were wrong?

Get Your Reader’s ATTENTION!

In your essay, you will need a powerful hook to get your reader’s attention so he/she will want to continue reading your essay. The lead is the doorway through which a writer welcomes and orients readers to the idea. Avoid beginning an essay with the statement “This I Believe.” Try using at least two of the following strategies as more effective leads. Then you can choose the better opening with the help of a peer or teacher listener.




  • Question: “When was the last time you went without a meal?”




  • Quotation: (from someone famous or from someone significant in your life)

    • Be careful were the last words my father said to me each time a left the house.”




  • Strong Statement: (that your essay will either support or dispute)

    • “If you eat enough cabbage, you’ll never get cancer.”




  • Metaphor: “The starlings in my back garden are the small boys in the playground, impressing each other with their new found swear words. The crows all belong to the same biker gang. You need to know their secret sign to join their club.”




  • Description: (of a person or setting) “Michael once mowed the lawns around Municipal hall wearing a frilly apron, high heels, and nylons, with a pillow stuffed under his sweater so he looked pregnant. And it wasn’t even Halloween.”

Tips To Add Audience Appeal To Personal Essays

1. Be sure your essay is about something you care strongly enough about to elaborate and wax eloquent or passionate about it. Readers want to know what you know, feel what you feel, and understand exactly where you’re coming from.

2. While the idea for the essay must be personal, make the frame big enough to allow your reader to find parallels between your experience and theirs. Give readers the opportunity to say, “Ah! Yes, I’ve never been there or done that, but I can relate to what the author is talking about.” Even if readers have not been on a mission trip to Africa, the effective writer must draw in an audience to show a more universal implication of a very personal experience or belief.

3. If you are writing about a small personal occurrence, put your idea in a context that gives the reader insight to both the small moment and the wider perspective. Think of your essay as a camera lens. You might start by describing a fine detail (a specific moment in the narrative), then opens up the lens to take in the wide view (the general/global backdrop), then close the piece by narrowing back to the fine detail.

4. Use details to draw the reader in. Be specific and avoid using abstract expressions and phrases such as “the best day of my life” or “I’d never known greater grief” to describe emotions of love or loss. Make the emotions real and immediate by noting specifics and details that draw the reader into your experience.

5. Employ all the senses to convey your ideas to the reader: sight, sound, taste, touch, and hearing.

6. Make sure that beyond all the idea development, your readers can summarize the MAIN IDEA that you BELIEVE. You should not have to hit the readers over the head with a summary statement such as “What I am trying to say...” or “What I really mean is...” In fact, such a closing is almost insulting or an indication that you fear you have danced around the belief without making it crystal clear. You must aim to leave the readers clear and satisfied—whether they agree with what you believe or not. Sometimes a brief echo of the opening is the most satisfying clincher to bring a personal essay full circle.

Name: ____________________________________ Date: ________________________________



Graphic Organizer

Personal Statement/Philosophy: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Why do you believe in this statement? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Name an experience that you had that would support the statement:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What does this say about yourself or your personality? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

After your experience, how have you come to the conclusion that this should be your statement? How did you change, if at all? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How has the event effected your relationship with a person, place, or object? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How does your statement apply to you today? (How you view yourself & society)

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



Graphic Organizer II

Attention Grabber: Feelings Before Experience:



Feelings During Experience:



Feelings After Experience:


Final Thoughts/Conclusion




*Attention Grabber: Look at the ATTENTION sheet for ideas!

*Remember to use sensory details when describing your feelings

*In your Final Thoughts, what is your conclusion about everything that is happened? Reflect on your ideas.




Peer-Editing Checklist
Writer’s Name:

Date & Period:

Writer’s Statement:
Use your RED PEN to make corrections. Remember, this paper is a work in progress.

You are not done writing! Look for ways to improve what you’ve already written.


Check off each step if it has been completed.
_____ 1. Read the paper backwards, one sentence at a time. Check for spelling errors.

Use a dictionary, a friend, or a spell checker to find the correct spelling.

_____ 2. Check to make sure toy capitalized proper nouns and the first word of each sentence.

_____ 3. Indent each of your paragraphs.

_____ 4. Every sentence should have end punctuation.

_____ 5. Check your commas. Are they only used for compound sentences, a list of items, an introductory word or phrase, direct address, setting off interruptions, separating adjectives, or in dates? Do you need to add commas? Make sure you do not have commas separating complete sentences (that creates a run-on sentence).

_____ 6. Apostrophes are used only for contractions and to show ownership.

_____ 7. The use of more complex punctuation (dashes, hyphens, semi-colons, parentheses, etc.) is done correctly.

_____ 8. Have you used commonly mixed pairs of words correctly? Check these: they’re/their/there, your/you’re, it’s/its, a/an, to/too/two, are/our/hour, and others.

_____ 9. Read the paper backwards one sentence at a time. Check for sentence fragments and run-ons and correct them.

_____ 10. Did you stay in present tense (such as is, am, do, take, know, etc.) or past tense (such as was, were, did, took, knew, etc.) throughout the entire paper?

_____ 11. Did you stay in first person (I, me, my, we, us, our) or third person (he, him, she, her, they, them, their) throughout the entire paper?

_____ 12. Was there adequate use of specific details and sensory details? Were the details clear and relevant to the statement?

_____ 13. Is the overall purpose/philosophy clear?

_____ 14. Does the conclusion make you go, “Wow!” “Cool!” “I never thought about it that way,” or any other similar reaction?
Other suggestions for the overall content of the piece:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



This I Believe Grading Rubric – Glog

Name: ________________________________________________



CATEGORY

5

3

2

1

Focus on Topic (Content)

There is one clear, well-focused topic. Main idea stands out and is supported by detailed information.

Main idea is clear but the supporting information is general.

Main idea is somewhat clear but there is a need for more supporting information.

The main idea is not clear. There is a seemingly random collection of information.

Support for Topic (Content)

Relevant, telling, quality details give the reader important information that goes beyond the obvious or predictable.

Supporting details and information are relevant, but one key issue or portion of the storyline is unsupported.

Supporting details and information are relevant, but several key issues or portions of the storyline are unsupported.

Supporting details and information are typically unclear or not related to the topic.

Adding Personality (Voice)

The writer seems to be writing from knowledge or experience. The author has taken the ideas and made them "his own."

The writer seems to be drawing on knowledge or experience, but there is some lack of ownership of the topic.

The writer relates some of his own knowledge or experience, but it adds nothing to the discussion of the topic.

The writer has not tried to transform the information in a personal way. The ideas and the way they are expressed seem to belong to someone else.

Grammar & Spelling (Conventions)

Writer makes no errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Writer makes 1-2 errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Writer makes 3-4 errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Writer makes more than 4 errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Conclusion (Organization)

The conclusion is strong and leaves the reader with a feeling that they understand what the writer is "getting at."

The conclusion is recognizable and ties up almost all the loose ends.

The conclusion is recognizable, but does not tie up several loose ends.

There is no clear conclusion, the paper just ends.

Flow & Rhythm (Sentence Fluency)

All sentences sound natural and are easy-on-the-ear when read aloud. Each sentence is clear and has an obvious emphasis.

Almost all sentences sound natural and are easy-on-the-ear when read aloud, but 1 or 2 are stiff and awkward or difficult to understand.

Most sentences sound natural and are easy-on-the-ear when read aloud, but several are stiff and awkward or are difficult to understand.

The sentences are difficult to read aloud because they sound awkward, are distractingly repetitive, or difficult to understand.

Glog Creativity

Glog uses a variety of colors and pictures or images that reflects the individual or theme of the essay.

Glog uses some colors and pictures and somewhat reflects the theme of the essay.

Glog uses minimal color and pictures and does not reflect the theme of the essay.

Glog has no color or is not completed.


Total: ______________ / 35

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