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Essay Structure Review: A Personal Writing Workshop


Essay Structure Review: A Personal Writing Workshop ENG 131 By Sue Stindt How to complete this workshop Thank you for participating in Essay Structure Review. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Essay Structure Review: A Personal Writing Workshop

Essay Structure Review A Personal Writing
  • ENG 131
  • By Sue Stindt

  • How to complete this workshop
  • Thank you for participating in Essay Structure
    Review. This workshop is intended to help you
    develop and improve organization and structure in
    your personal (and informative) essays and to
    apply those skills to academic writing across the
    curriculum. This workshop is a tutorial and
    requires your participation.
  • To receive full credit for this two-hour
  • Scroll through the slides one by one
  • Read the information thoroughly, giving each
    point thought and consideration. Unlike other
    workshops, the workshop activity, here, comes at
    the end. The information on the discussion slides
    is crucial to successfully completing the
    assignment and will be used as evaluation
    criteria. At the very end is a final reflection
    for you to complete.
  • Complete all of the activity and the reflection.
    You do not have to complete this workshop in one
    sitting. You can work through it at your own
    pace as time allows.
  • Turn your work in to your instructor for credit
    when finished

In the world around us, most manmade
structures and objects have a purpose or a
function. If we analyze the structures, we
realize that the design and parts support the
Structure and Function (or Purpose)Questions for
Thought and Analysis
  • What is the purpose of a windmill?
  • What are the parts of a windmill?
  • How do these parts support its purpose?

Structure and Function (or Purpose)
  • What is the purpose of a lighthouse?
  • What are the parts of a lighthouse?
  • How do these parts support its purpose?

Essays need structure, too
Any coherent, meaningful piece of writing must
have a clear purpose and solid organization and
The Structure or Parts of the Essay Support its
An essay writer must have a reason or purpose for
telling a personal story or writing about an
experience or character. A writer must make
meaning of his or her life experience. Meaning is
sometimes revealed as, or even after, the writer
writes about a life experience. Using this
strategy, the writer may jump right into the
story, without a formal introduction. But, the
writer must then focus on clearly weaving the
theme or meaning into the essay, reinforcing it
in the revision process.
An essay must convey meaning or purpose by
organizing the details of the essay around a
theme, a universal experience, or an abstract
The theme is the relevant idea what the story,
event, or character mean to the writer and what
readers can learn from the essay. The theme
should be woven throughout the story or essay it
should be evident in each section of its
structure beginning, middle and end. The theme
or meaning should emphasize the authors view or
interpretation of a lesson learned, an insight,
an understanding, or an abstract idea connected
to the event, experience or relationship of the
character to the writer.
Theme, Meaning or Purpose
A personal essay must have a theme or meaning, a
purpose for sharing the story or personal
To convey meaning, a writer must
  • Discuss an abstract idea (the beauty of love, the
    harshness of learning justice, the rewards of
    hard work, the disillusionment of love, the
    satisfaction of justice, coping with failure
    despite hard work) that is essential to (that
    fits) his or her story
  • Convey a lesson learned (I now know thatWhat
    this experience made me realize isThis
    experience gave me an understanding of)
  • Share his or her perspective of a universal
    experience (peer pressure, first kiss, coping
    with stress, the loss of a loved one, learning
    the hard way)
  • See the workshop Writing with Meaning for many
    more techniques and ideas for developing meaning.

The process of constructing an essay includes
defining the purpose for a piece (the central
idea), crafting a structure for it, and creating
the connections. An essay is made of three main
sections and smaller parts. The form or design
and structure of sections, paragraphs, sentences,
and words support the essays meaning or
purpose. An essay has three large sections--the
introduction (beginning), body (middle), and
conclusion (end)-- made of smaller
parts--paragraphs, sentences, transitions, and
details, for example. This is true of any
academic essay, personal or expository, for
English class or any other class.
After choosing the story (plot) an essay writer
Introduce the meaning, purpose or theme in the
introduction Weave the theme or idea throughout
the body of the essay. All the sub-stories and
details contained in the story must support the
main or revelant idea. A story generally
builds to a peak or climax near the end of the
body. Re-focus, re-assess, expand on, or discuss
the theme or idea in the conclusion
Photo http//
Lets take a closer look at the STRUCTURE of an
essay by examining the parts
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Transition Sentences

The Introduction
The introduction is often called the lead. A
good lead must have a hook or a grabber a
strong statement that grabs the readers
attention or pulls readers in.
Most importantly, an introductory paragraph must
define the essays meaning or theme. The purpose
of the essay must be clear.
A lead may be one single paragraph or may extend
to several paragraphs.
Source http//
The Introduction
  • A solid introduction will
  • Arouse the readers interest
  • Set the scene--provide background or context
  • Reveal tension or conflict
  • Interpret an experience (briefly)
  • Identify the theme or idea that the writer will

The Body
The body consists of the bulk of the story, the
paragraphs that tell the story and develop the
theme through examples and detailed experiences
that build upon each other. The details a
writer includes are often called the supporting
details, details that support the theme or main
idea, details that are relevant to the
story. The final body paragraph should contain
the most poignant information, reaching a peak
or a climax.
The Conclusion
A conclusion widens the lens and wraps up the
essay (draws everything together) without
summarizing or repeating what has already been
written. A conclusion resolves the tension or
conflict. A conclusion discusses, re-frames
(puts in perspective) or reflects on the
universal theme, idea or life lesson. A
conclusion lets the reader know what the writer
knows now that he/she didnt know then
(before the experience).
Transition Sentences
  • A writer must create connections between
    paragraphs. As you already know, the first
    sentence of a paragraph is the topic sentence,
    which guides the content of the entire paragraph.
    The last sentence of each paragraph is just as
    important. It is a transition sentence and must
    urge readers on to the following paragraph.

Transition Sentences
  • The last sentence of each section of the
    essaythe introduction, body and conclusion has
    a special role
  • The last or near last sentence of the
    introduction should reveal the theme.
  • The last or near last sentence of the body
    should be the climax or peak of your story.
  • The last or near last sentence of the conclusion
    should reflect on the meaning.

A Final Pointer
The ideal essay expands beyond the writerto show
readers how they might apply what the author
learned or to show readers how they might
connect to the writers experiences by
acknowledging similar experiences. I like to
tell students, This essay is bigger than you.
And ask them, What can others learn from your
experience? How can readers identify with your
piece? I urge students to, Connect to your
readers (show and tell) through your essays.
If a writer does the above smoothly and subtly,
then he or she will have a terrific essay.
Sample Essay
Read the essay that follows. Read critically,
as described in Chapter 2 of your textbook.
Focus your attention on the structure, the
content of each section, the transition
sentences, and most of all, the meaning.
A Sample Essay Source of Sample Essay
The Introduction
Just six days into army basic training, three
hundred and fifty unsuspecting soldier trainees
are headed for the gas chamber after lunch. I
didnt eat. I am better off having an empty
stomach anyway. It wouldnt be the first time
this week that I would revisit the previous meal
during some so called training exercise. I
believe the term training exercise means see if
you can make them puke in drill sergeant
language. Just yesterday, my battle buddy,
thats what you call the person you share your
bunk with, had to drink two full canteens of
water then log roll down a fifty foot hill
outside our barracks as a training exercise. She
threw up and Im not sure what type of training
she got out of that experience. We are
definitely learning quickly that we are not in
charge. The gas chamber is just another training
exercise. The proper care and usage of a gas
mask is very important if you ever find yourself
in an area less friendly than Fort Leonard Wood,
Missouri. Unfortunately, we are learning the
important stuff after we learn hose important gas
masks arethe hard way. (theme relevant idea)
First Body Paragraph Topic/Transition
Sentence Outside the gas chamber, we are all
standing in one single file line that extends
three hundred and fifty people long from a door
that holds my destiny. Development of ideas
related to the topic sentence This soldier
worm-wiggled with a type of nervousness many of
us have never experienced before. They wont let
me die. I figure if I keep repeating these words
to myself the trembling fear surging through my
body in tempo with my heartbeat would being to
subside, but it doesnt. In groups of four, the
drill sergeant sends us to our fate. Ive had
nightmares of dying in combat but none of them
ever involved friendly fire of this kind. They
wont let me die, I think again, and again. I
begin to shiver, not because I am cold, but
because I can no longer register any more
comprehendible fears. I cant run away, some
poor schmuck had tried that three days ago and
was caught and thrown in jail. I cant pretend I
am sick, that hasnt worked for anyone so far. I
have to do it. Eventually one has to face her
fears. My time is today, in approximately eight
minutes. End Sentence
I will become a new person, alive or dead.
Second Body Paragraph Topic/Transition Sentence
The soldier-worm wriggles toward the destiny
door sooner than I would like, but I am filled
with new confidence. Development of ideas
related to the topic sentence (Signpost question
addressed-- evidence of responsibility)
Two-hundred soldiers have gone before me, now it
is my turn. Bring it on. I approach the door
and begin to cough. We are instructed to put on
our gas masks and enter. I seal the mask around
my sweating face and take one last deep, long
breath and enter the small building. With my
eyes closed, I take three steps forward and bump
into the person in front of me. I open my eyes
quickly while still holding my breath. The room
is very small and perfectly square with only what
looks like a drain on the floor in front of us.
It is spewing a fog that has filled the room.
There is an observation window that spans across
one corner of the room.. End sentence What a
cruel way to spend your days, watching poor
trainees gag in a fog of fears.
Continuing Body Paragraphs Topic/Transition
sentence A voice comes from the control window
instructing us to unmask. Development of ideas
related to the topic sentence (Signpost question
addressed-- accomplishment) The time has come.
I obey the command given by the voice from above
and take one last quick breath and lose the
safety of my gas mask. At first I dont notice a
thing. Then it hits me, the feeling of drowning
in midair. I can breathe in, but nothing is
leaving my lungs. A feeling of fullness burns
like wildfire in my chest. Each breath gets
shorter and shorter, quicker and more painful.
All four of us in the gagging haze have to say
our name, rank and serial number. Producing
words is unthinkable, but I get to go
first. Private First Class Sara Luciani,
366924321, sir. The words sputter from my lips.
I cant hear anything else. Three more names
follow mine, but I can only concentrate on the
feeling of the world getting smaller around me.
Im getting dizzy from the lack of oxygen. My
nose is running like a faucet. My skin is
burning almost as painfully as my lungs now. I
cant see anything around me. I think Im going
blind. I want to scream, but I cant breathe.
Oh God, please dont let me die. He cant hear
me either. The others finally cough the words we
need to hear and out the door we go on the
opposite side of the room from the entry. I
cant see anything because my eyes are burning
from the crystals that float in the gas. When I
rub my eyes it feels like grinding glass shards
into my retinas. My nose is still running
profusely, my skin still burns, my lungs are
still paralyzed. They wont let me die, I tell
myself as I flap my arms like a bird to force the
air back into my lungs. End sentenceAfter a
few minutes in the fresh air I slowly retain my
eyesight and air returns to my lungs, but my skin
will itch and burn for a few more hours.
Conclusion Widen the lens beyond the topic at
hand and tie up the essay They didnt let me
die, not that day or any of the days in the
remaining thirteen weeks of training I endured at
that dreadful place. That afternoon we learned
the proper way to care for, assemble, wear and
store an army issued gas mask. I would go on to
learn hand to hand combat, marksmanship with a
variety of firearms, bayonet fighting, drill and
ceremony, and the proper way to fold my socks,
all the skills I needed to be a good soldier.
But I also learned courage, honesty, and
integrity. Mostly, I learned to be brave. What
doesnt kill you really does make you stronger.
Before the gas chamber I didnt think you could
teach people things like bravery and courage.
Now I know you can. I spent the following six
years as an active duty soldier. I was promoted
five times, stationed in three countries, five
states, and went through two more advanced
training schools. After becoming a veteran of
two foreign wars as a combat field medic, I still
remember exactly where I was on August 4, 1997.
ActivityA Critical Reading Workshop
  • Print a copy of your personal narrative.
  • In the left margin, bracket each section intro,
    body, conclusion and label them.
  • Review the contents of each part. Is there a
    hook? Is the theme or idea clear? Does the
    introduction make your peers want to read on? Do
    you reflect at the end? Is your theme developed
    throughout? Use the slides as guides. Make
    additions or revisions.
  • Circle the sentence in the intro that declares
    your theme and label it.
  • Double underline the hook in your lead or intro.
  • Underline the sentences that discuss or return to
    the theme in the body of your piece.
  • Place a squiggly line under the sentences that
    discuss or reflect on the theme in your
  • Check your topic sentencesin a word or two (in
    the margins) summarize the topic of each
  • Check your topic and transition sentences write
    a brief comment near each explaining why that
    sentence (the first) makes readers want to
    continue or how it (the last of each paragraph)
    smoothly connects to the next paragraph.
  • Place a star at the start of any sentence that
    you think will help readers connect to your topic
    or ideas.

The Final Steps
While critically reading your essay, you probably
noticed weak spots and areas that need
development. Maybe you noticed editing errors.
Revise and make corrections. Note those changes
by writing a brief paragraph about what you
changed, added, deleted and why, or by
highlighting the changes in your essay. Hand in
your essay, the one with all the markings on it
and the revised copy if you made revisions and
corrections. Credit for this workshop is based
on completing the above (this slide and previous)
and the reflective evaluation on the next slide.
Workshop Evaluation
  Essay Structure Review A WORKSHOP OF THE JCC
you have spent some time in this workshop, answer
the following questions What new ideas were
presented or what ideas were useful reminders
(since this should be a review for most
students)?? What information or strategies did
you find most helpful and why? What do you want
to learn more about? How will you use specific
information presented here to revise and edit
your upcoming papers?   This evaluation, along
with your activities from this workshop serve to
verify that you completed the workshop Essay
Structure Review. Please include this evaluation
along with the work from the activity in this
workshop and turn in to your writing instructor
as proof of completion.