Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Brevity is the soul of desperation

I thought you might get a kick out of this email exchange I had with a student who was worried about the English final.  Let's call her name Mary, because that's her name.  The first email came at about 6 pm, but I didn't see it right away because I was finishing up some other grading.

Hi Ms. Marlowe,

I'm still kind of confused on how we should format the essay. Are we just proving different parts of the thesis statement per paragraph? Like if your statement has the ideas of identity, mutability of life, and power does each paragraph focus on one aspect? Because I know you said to treat the three ideas in the statement as one, so are just proving the same thing over and over again per paragraph? Like the intro sentence to body paragraph one would be like "We see this theme in the book Beowulf, Macbeth, and 1984..." and just prove the statement for those books and then do the same thing for body paragraph two but with different books/ poems?

Or say that the major topic were given is identity, so we have out thesis statement along the lines of surviving in the battle to maintain identity, and each paragraph has something to do with identity (like body paragraph 1 would be identity from relationships, body paragraph 2 would be identity with experiences, etc.) 

The next email came at around 9 pm.

Ok like basically what is each paragraph supposed to be focused on? Do you just reiterate the thesis over and over again? 

I tried to help her without giving too many specifics since I couldn't give away the essay question before the test.  However, I suppose this wasn't helpful enough.

Her last email came about an hour later...

So I've realized what I'm asking here is how do you write an essay.

Hey, at least she's getting straight to the point now.  I sure wish she'd asked this question at the beginning of the school year.